This year’s Geneva Peace Week saw 63 events over 5 days with over 140 organisations – from Aegis Trust to World Federation of Mental Health – gather to strategize for “Building Peace in a Turbulent World”. We were there, too, to share, discuss and learn!
Our event “Preventing Violent Extremism: Strengthening a Holistic Understanding and Transformative Approach” was located in a topical and policy area that is rather emblematic of turbulence, fear and short-changed analysis, as well as their unintended consequences. With the presentation of two recent in-depth publications on a contextualised understanding of the ecology of extremism as well as a dialogue on transformative approaches to preventing violent extremism, we therefore set out to contribute to more evidence-based knowledge. Beyond false certainties (“all radicalism needs to be suppressed”, “youth are predominantly violent”, “all extremism is Islamic”), we engaged in discussions of what can be observed in concrete localities. Beyond isolated thinking in silos (or “rabbit holes”), we managed a cross-panel, cross-organisation, cross-generational and cross-country exchange which made new connections.
“This is the discussion we should be having at the UN and not just at a side event. These are the important questions to raise.”
The discussion highlighted the following needs for future peacebuilding practice and policy:
One participant said after the session that “This is the discussion we should be having at the UN and not just at a side event. These are the important questions to raise.” Besides Berghof Foundation’s Véronique Dudouet and Beatrix Austin, the panel brought together professor Lisa Schirch of Toda Peace Institute, Milicent Otieno from Local Capacities of Peace (Kenya), as well as Graeme Simpson and Ali Altiok to contribute voices from the UN Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security.
Véronique Dudouet, head of Berghof Foundation’s Conflict Transformation Research Programme also contributed – alongside Lisa Schirch and Milicent Otieno, among others – in a panel on “Integrating Human Rights, Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding to Sustain Peace”. It set out to explore how nonviolent action and peacebuilding approaches (and their respective frameworks at the policy level) can be strategically integrated to build just, sustainable peace that puts human rights at the centre. (In this setting, we rediscovered the continued relevance of a Berghof Handbook Dialogue on Human Rights and Conflict Transformation, which we published back in 2010).
The panel highlighted a number of policy and practical recommendations for the UN and its member states to encourage international support for nonviolent human rights activism for change:
The panel also discussed two new publications on this topic: the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) report Powering to Peace: Integrated Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Strategies and the US Institute of Peace action guide on Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (SNAP).