Embracing multiculturalism and diversity was the focus and the fruit of the first three-day Positive Peace workshop in South-East Asia.
Decades on from the mass killing committed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime, emerging leaders from South Asian countries met in Cambodia to celebrate peacebuilding.
In stark contrast to the indiscriminate killing of millions who strayed from the Khmer Rouge’s vision of an agrarian utopia, the first Positive Peace workshop in Cambodia focused on activating multiple visions of peace.
Participants from Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Cambodia came from backgrounds in policy building, education, social work, health care, LGBTQIA+ advocacy and social entrepreneurship.
This is the first Positive Peace workshop to incorporate such diversity in the countries attendees represented.
“Perceived differences evaporate when you sit together, share stories and harmonise with one another,” said IEP Director of Partnerships and workshop facilitator Charles Allen.
“What a poignant place for the point to be made.”
For those identifying as peacebuilders, this was an opportunity to add a new tool to their peacebuilding toolkits and enhance their work through a powerful theoretical framework and hard data.
For those coming from other social change fields, this was an opportunity to see how their work contributes to peaceful societies.
One of the key exercises asked participants to imagine one thing they would love to see in their peacebuilding work.
With their vision in mind, they worked together to map out how their vision would activate, or be activated by, each pillar of Positive Peace.
As the eight pillars of Positive Peace provide a framework for an interconnected approach to strong and prosperous communities, the pillars can be applied on small scale microcosms of society as well as on a national basis.
“It was interesting to see how all the eight pillars of Positive Peace were connected and can be practiced even in the smallest socio-economic model,” said Saiba Sahira, a Bangladeshi national working with the United Nations World Food Programme in Cox’s Bazar.
Sahira announced that her vision is to see a beauty salon open up near the world’s largest refugee settlement.
“When I thought of having a salon in Cox’s Bazaar that would serve both the international and nationals, the first concern was how the salon can bring more inclusion in the society by employing a community which is seen as neglected and unaccepted in the culture of Bangladesh.”
Sahira has identified the transgender community as a disadvantaged community in Bangladesh that could be equipped with tools to promote acceptance of the rights of others as well as high levels of human capital through skills acquisition.
“Having the transgender community employed in the salon can fight the stigma and stereotypes related to them. They will be involved in providing personal services to the men and women living in Cox’s which will bring down the social gap of interaction with them.”
The prospective salon could also encourage highly paid national and international humanitarian and other service holders in Cox’s Bazar to support the local economy, thus stimulating a flow of funds to empower citizens.
Sahira is currently workshopping her vision into a reality.
Veasna Run, project officer at the Kdei Karuna organisation, has a vision to activate reconciliation between survivors of torture in Cambodia and the perpetrators.
“It is not the way to address past conflict by using violence against each other, the best approach is to reconcile both perpetrators and survivors in order to reach the peaceful resolution in the community.”
Run has a vision for transparent free flowing information between groups with historic tension.
By engaging skilled psychologists and well-informed peacebuilders, Cambodians still suffering will be awarded the opportunity to not only find complete closure, but also to empower their community through the Positive Peace pillars.
“The vision of community for the next generation has to be focused on high level of human capital, acceptance of the rights of others and the equitable distribution of resources.”
Run’s commitment to this vision will continue to be executed in his work as a peacebuilder – the Positive Peace workshop is the lily pad he will leap from.