The European Union has started as a peace project and has successfully transformed a war-torn and conflict-prone continent into a global actor in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. The European Union promotes peace across the globe by addressing the root causes of conflict, contributing to creating the necessary conditions for the reconstruction of societies and supporting the recovery of affected civilians. The International Day of Peace reminds us that peace is not a given. Three projects in Ukraine, the Philippines and Niger show how local actors, with the support from the international community, can build peace.
Healing the wounds of conflict in Ukraine
The conflict in Ukraine is leaving deep physical and psychological scars in society. While the physical damage inflicted is plain to see, the psychological trauma is often hidden and forgotten. Yet, this massive trauma has long-lasting effects going beyond individual reactions and affecting societal dynamics of affected groups. To break the cycle of violence and build a peaceful future for Ukraine, the EU, together with International Alert and the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, provides psychological and social support to children. So far, 25 summer camps with a focus on peace education have helped over 3,000 children from across Ukraine cope better with their emotions when they go back home and empower them to become active agents of peace. Overcoming societal trauma from the exposure of war is a crucial step towards longer-term peacebuilding.
“We see the difference in their eyes,” explains Iryna, one of the volunteer camp leaders. “At the start, they don’t look at you, but by the end of the two weeks, they will look you in your eyes, they breathe normally and you can see the tension going away.”
Philippines: A road to peace cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war
The road to peace in the Philippines is fraught with pitfalls. Central and South-western Mindanao have witnessed five decades of fighting between islamic rebel groups of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government of the Philippines. The conflict has left the island contaminated with unexploded ordonance that puts innocent lives in danger, in particular those of civilians, refugees and returnees.
Since 2012, the EU has supported unexploded ordonance and mine surveys, risk education and clearance on Mindanao island to prepare parties to the conflict to go down the road of peace hand in hand. The comprehensive peace agreement, signed between the MILF and the government of the Philippines in 2014, was a key milestone. Its full implementation is still under way and requires many small steps by every party involved.
With the support of Fondation Suisse de Déminage (FSD) France and the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, the EU brings together the different parties to the peace process in Mindanao. Activities include the training of joint (MILF and government) peace and security teams, mine and unexploded ordonance risk educations sessions for local communities, and bringing the two sides together to clear unexploded ordnance in conflict-affected areas. The establishment of a Bangsamoro Mine Action Centre is also foreseen. These are significant steps towards increasing the mutual trust of the parties to the peace process.
Supporting the local dimension of justice to back reconciliation and dialogue in Niger
For the first time in July 2018, the city of Diffa, Niger has hosted trials against alleged ex-Boko Haram members, which previously took place in the capital, Niamey, more than 1300 km away. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Nigerien Haute Autorité à la Consolidation de la Paix, civil society organisations and the EU, victims of attacks perpetrated by the terrorist group Boko Haram in the Diffa region can now deliver their testimonials on site and see their perpetrators brought to justice.
Establishing local justice plays a major role in enhancing the dialogue and alleviating tensions between the Nigerien government, former members of Boko Haram and affected citizens across the country. It also allows for the rehabilitation and reintegration of former members of Boko Haram into Nigerien society. This paves the way to reconciliation, peace and stability in the Diffa region.
Beyond Ukraine, the Philippines and Niger, the EU works towards peace and stability in many other conflict zones. Find out more about the diversity of its actions for peace across the world.
Since its establishment by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, the International Day of Peace is celebrated each year around the world on 21 September. In 2001, the General Assembly voted to designate the day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire. It aims to strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The theme for the International Day of Peace in 2018 is “The Right to Peace – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70”, thus celebrating the 70th anniversary of this milestone document in the history of human rights.
Managed by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) provides short- and mid-term assistance on conflict prevention, crisis-response and peace-building actions around the world. There are currently around 200 projects in over 75 countries. These IcSP projects are implemented by Non-Governmental Organisations, the UN and other International Organisations, EU Member State agencies and regional and sub-regional organisations.
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