Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM)

Fostering community engagement for resilience and peace

29/04/2021

On Thursday 22 March 2021, the third of a series of five webinars called “Community Engagement Days” was held. Organized by the Dimitra Clubs Team of the Rural Institutions, Services and Empowerment (RISE) team of the Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division of FAO, in collaboration with the governments of Belgium and with the support of Resource Partners from  the Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM), the objective of the series is to review the achievements, potential and challenges of community engagement for empowerment approaches in rural development and humanitarian interventions.. The third webinar aimed at examining the role of community engagement approaches in strengthening resilience and facilitating peacebuilding in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. Additionally, it sought to discuss the importance of integrating such approaches in development and humanitarian programmes and strategies.

Moderated by Ms Coumba Sow, FAO Resilience Coordinator for West Africa, the opening remark was delivered by Mr Dominique Burgeon, Director of the FAO Liaison Office in Geneva and Director in Charge of the Office of Emergencies and Resilience. In his speech, Mr Burgeon discussed FAO's experience in engaging with communities to link humanitarian and development efforts and contribute to local peace processes. In his concluding remarks, he affirmed that the Dimitra Clubs are a perfect example of community engagement and the reinforcement of women’s empowerment.  He gave the concrete example of the positive influence of the Dimitra Clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic: “In Senegal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, radio programmes organized by the Dimitra Clubs played an essential role by sharing important messages on how to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The second presentation featured Ms Diane Sheinberg, Peacebuilding Officer from the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), who illustrated the lessons learned from the PBF regarding farmer-herder conflicts in the Sahel and peacebuilding responses. Ms Sheinberg affirmed that the most important lesson learned regarding peacebuilding processes is that the most successful responses are community driven and location specific. Moreover, she described the positive outcomes of FAO’s Dimitra Clubs: “Thanks to the Dimitra Clubs we are seeing how conflicts are resolved locally at the communities, with a greater participation of the community.”

The event also included a presentation by Ms Lucy Williams, Director of Programmes at International Alert, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who highlighted peacebuilding mechanisms from the bottom up through a case study about community engagement, entitled Peacebuilding in Eastern DRC. Ms Williams affirmed that “the drivers that trigger, perpetuate or escalate violent conflict are complex and cannot be reduced to merely a lack of employment opportunities.” She further illustrated how their programme is strengthening economic ties and confidence between communities across Burundi, DRC and Rwanda, by supporting women cross-border traders to become “peace ambassadors” in their communities. She explained that pandemics exacerbate conflict as they are used as additional tools to stir up conflict and division. The speaker also stressed the crucial role of community-level responses for tracking rumours and raising awareness on how viruses are spread and for building trust and credibility in health responses.

In closing, Mr Jesse Kariuki, Senior Programme Officer at Interpeace, Somalia, spoke about community engagement for resilience and peace in Somalia and Somaliland. Here, he has worked on programmes that advocate for increased community engagement in decision-making and peacebuilding processes, and used research to inform the positive roles youth and women can play in peacebuilding processes, and contribute towards the better integration of gender considerations in peacebuilding and state-building processes. Mr Kariuki affirmed that conflicts are inevitable and have the potential to tear apart a society. He stated that “Most conflicts have deep-rooted causes; peacebuilding efforts need to be a long-term commitment in order to be successful.”

With simultaneous interpretations in English, French and Spanish, the webinar gathered a turnout of nearly 130 participants. Given that the event took place on Earth Day, Ms Sow quoted UN Secretary-General António Guterres by inviting participants to commit to restoring the planet and to making peace with nature.

1. No poverty, 5. Gender equality, 17. Partnership for the goals

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