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Looking back at 2016 "there have been glimmers of hope..."

Signing the MoU Executive Secretary of IGAD Ambassador Mahboub Maalim (left) and LPI’s Executive Director Dr. Judith McCallum
Signing the MoU Executive Secretary of IGAD Ambassador Mahboub Maalim (left) and LPI’s Executive Director Dr. Judith McCallum

There have been glimmers of hope and exciting opportunities for the Life & Peace Institute during the year, says Judy McCallum in this reflection over her first year as Executive Director of the Life & Peace Institute.

The year 2016 has been a tough one for many people all over the world.

According to the Global Peace Index, we are further away from world peace than at any other time in the past 10 years; there are fewer countries in the world that can be considered truly “at peace”. The GPI also reports that inequality is on the rise, particularly in the least peaceful countries.

The media is filled with stories of violent extremism and conflict. Expressions of intolerance, fear and hate are increasingly given a platform.

The space for civil society to engage in advocacy for human rights and environmental protection is also shrinking around the world, with many governments resorting to heavy handed and often violent responses to dissent.

In many places, people are ending this year feeling more afraid and less optimistic than when it started.

However, there are signs of hope in the world for those who have eyes to see them. In LPI’s work of conflict transformation and peace building, we often bear witness to the power of community to work together to transform conflicts at the local, national, and even regional levels.

Our local civil society partners are working closely with governments and international partners to bring about incremental changes that will lead to greater democracy and a more peaceful future.

My first year here at LPI has been a year filled with many transitions and challenges. We work with communities where people are enduring in contexts of protracted violence, or have been forced to flee their homes because of that violence, and where corruption hampers development and exacerbates conflict.

However, there have also been exciting opportunities and glimmers of hope:

  • LPI finalised its 2017-2021 Strategy, setting the stage for our continued work with local partners in the Horn and Great Lakes regions of Africa for Conflict Transformation.
  • We had the privilege of cementing our long-standing relationship with the Inter Government Authority on Development (IGAD), by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU), committing to work closely to promote peace and human security in the Horn of Africa.
  • With our local partners in Somalia, we supported a series of successful community dialogues leading to ceasefires and peace treaties between clans in southern and central Somalia. These agreements have resulted in a reduction in inter-clan fighting, better mobility, increased trade, and the potential for displaced to return to their homes.
  • In Eastern DRC, we promoted women’s participatory leadership around land management and human security.
  • We have seen an increasing number of young people trained and participating in Sustained Dialogues in Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.

As 2016 comes to a close, our solidarity and commitment to these communities, and to our partners who work with them, has deepened.

I have been personally inspired by our local partners and their commitment to bring positive change in their countries and contexts, and to engender enduring peace and human security in their communities.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to our dedicated staff and partners. Without their exceptional drive and devotion, the work of LPI would not have been possible in 2016.

On behalf of our partners and the communities where we work, I would similarly like to express our appreciation to our valued donors for their ongoing support.

As we come to the end of 2016, when many of us celebrate what is a significant celebration of peace, hope and joy to the world, we at LPI continue to pray and work for a peaceful and brighter 2017.

Indeed, we cling onto the hope that peace and equality is possible to achieve as we stand together in solidarity in these challenging days.