Since the inception of Africa Unite, grassroots informed interventions have been part of the Africa Unite practice with the youth being at the centre of the interventions. The key strategy for the human rights of social cohesion is capacity development for human rights peer educators and hosting community dialogues.
Africa Unite held the 2020 Community Conflict Mediation training on the 6th and 7th of November 2020. However, the element that sets the 2020 workshop apart from every other year is that the facilitator conducted the two-day session via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this brought a very unique aspect to the training.
As the workshop proceeded one of the initial statements were the rules of engagement in any conversation going forward, this led the participants to investigate the importance of listening and asking questions in their respective groups.
This is a very critical element of both community engagement and conflict intervention strategy. Communication is a key aspect in this process and is essential to mediation and dialogue in general as misunderstanding can fuel the stages of conflict.
As the Worksop continued the participants were asked to discuss the state of any area, community or place in conflict and to look at the elements that exist in that conflict. The participants chose to use the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the Cape Flats community of Mitchells Plain as their case studies. It was discovered that there are fundamental similarities between Mitchells Plain and the DRC and that the breakdown of social fabric is often a signifier of what is currently happening on a macro scale in a country.
Participants profiled these communities according to the factors that affect those communities and how they contribute to social ills. These factors included social, historical, political, cultural and economic factors. The participants analysed the factors from the international, national and regional spheres. Their analysis did not only state which factors affect those communities but also included some of the areas where the potential for conflict existed as a result of the state.
The training covered numerous topics that form part of the tools needed to begin the conflict intervention process. The training engaged participants about one of the critical elements of intervening or mediating any conflict which is listening to the affected parties and asking questions. Participants thoroughly discussed the importance of listening and questioning. The human rights peer educators concluded that these two are important because listening as a skill helps to deepen understanding, to remove stereotypical barriers and improving perspective. While question helps to improve interaction, clarity, eliminate assumptions, ambiguity and provide clarity and confidence. The facilitator further emphasized these tools through the Action Learning Cycle and other similar tools.
After engaging on the nature of conflict and its elements, the facilitator introduced the topic of factors that cause or make conflict more susceptible in communities through a group discussion among participants. The participants were asked to investigate the social, political, economic and cultural issues emerging in our communities. They mentioned economic issues as such as unemployment, lack of business opportunities, the lack of social development and corrupt greedy leadership are all contributing to a powder keg of social tension and conflict.
The workshop is used as a tool to raise awareness and to sensitize Human Rights Peer Educators to the nature of conflict and other characteristics of conflict. This then further increases awareness about the causes of conflict, the result of unmanaged conflict and why it is critical to develop strategies to manage and resolve conflict peacefully. All peer educators were well empowered and equipped with the necessary tools to go back into their communities and implement their training.
At the end of the workshop, the participants concluded by exchanging tools and strategies required to begin the conflict intervention process. These tools include stakeholder relationship, community profiling and analysis of communities and how to engage in the conflict prevention process. The group concluded throughout the sessions that everyone views conflict differently, based on their perceptions and experiences and that we should not allow emotion or bias to dictate how we mediate conflicts.