First grassroots Positive Peace workshop in rural Africa

Never before has IEP worked directly with village communities in this way.

In rural north eastern Uganda, Mount Moroto and the rugged Karamoja terrain provided the backdrop for the latest Positive Peace workshop by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

The people of the Karamoja Region are predominately pastoralists with a recent history of conflict involving intercommunity livestock raiding, a problem deepened by the spread of small arms and light weapons in the area. Peace is fragile. The illiteracy rate is at 75 per cent, matched by one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country.

In November, IEP went to the Tapac, Lopeei and Rupa counties in Karamoja to share the Positive Peace workshop with grassroots, local communities for the very first time, alongside partners The Danish Refugee Council and The Charitable Foundation.

Charlie Allen, Director of Partnerships at IEP, said that while the Positive Peace workshops have been taken to a variety of local communities around the world, never before has IEP worked directly with village communities in this way.

“When you look at our history of Positive Peace workshops, generally we have facilitated Positive Peace workshops to emerging leader groups, existing leader groups or people that have the potential for future leadership,” Mr Allen said.

“Predominantly, they’ve been attended by people with graduate or postgraduate degrees or at least attained some high school proficiency in their schooling.

“In Karamoja, we went deeper into communities in remote areas, in villages with very few resources. Powerpoint presentations were not going to work.

“We had to really think about how we communicated and in the end we used the old pen and paper.”

Mr Allen said that IEP took the workshop to a grassroots setting to introduce the concepts, and potential of the Positive Peace model, to a different group.

A flexible and culturally neutral framework, a range of actors can apply and tailor Positive Peace concepts to their environments, including everyday changemakers, national governments or local governments, elected leaders or grassroots communities.

“The Karamoja workshops were designed to introduce participants to the eight pillars of Positive Peace and the factors that create peaceful societies,” Mr Allen said.

“Participants were then asked to apply the learnings to opportunities for peace within their communities by thinking about how to use the Positive Peace framework.

“IEP Positive Peace workshops are adaptable and encourage varied approaches to practical application including bottom up, top-down or other methods.

After three workshops with more than 120 attendees, in a far removed pastoral community in Uganda, IEP broke through language and cultural barriers to find that peace is a universal and familiar concept, even in the most remote places.

“Early on in the workshops groups were asked to define peace. There were different ways of describing it, but the Tapac community’s responses struck me as significant,” Mr Allen said.

“Peace were things like “structure that people follow,” “understanding each other,” “co-existing, being together,” “unity, not divided.””

After considering the Tapac community’s definition of peace, it was clear their understanding was interchangeable with IEP’s Pillars of Positive Peace – Well-Functioning Government, Acceptance of the Rights of Others, and Good Relations with Neighbours – these concepts were instinctive to the local understanding of peace.

IEP’s Positive Peace model is a holistic approach to developing peace in any society. It not only reduces violence and the level of grievances, it also provides a model for robust human development.

Positive Peace includes eight Pillars, or socio-economic areas of progress, that IEP has identified as having a statistically significant association with negative peace, or the absence of violence or fear of violence.

Read more about our Positive peace workshops in ThailandTunisiaUganda, and Mexico.

Interested in co-hosting a Positive Peace workshop? Find out more on our website.