In Constellating Peace, the global gathering CFP hosted this past April in Sierra Leone, one of the central purposes was to name the importance of and actually convene representatives of the “whole global system” working on peace and development. We invited people to participate and to present who were coming from communities, civil society, local government, national government and international organizations. Building on eight years of the fambul tok process in Sierra Leone that brought inclusive community groups and structures together to address conflicts and identify priorities, we found that for the work to progress meaningfully there also needed to be structures at the local and national government levels. These whole-system mechanisms, which are at the heart of the Wan Fambul National Framework, are poised to work through conflicts, identify priorities, and coordinate action and funding, without which there are large gaps that leach energy and resources.
These whole-system mechanisms are needed at all levels, but unfortunately, few exist at any level. At the international level, there is a lot of talk about inclusion. However, in practice, donors, governments and international bodies generally work in isolation. We talk about centering communities in peace and development, but there is little meaningful community involvement. This fall, CFP has been working on or contributing to opportunities to demonstrate the value of these cross-sector partnerships in making the functioning whole more visible.
At a side-event to the UN General Assembly that CFP organized in September in collaboration with the International Peace Institute and the Government of Sierra Leone, we featured the Wan Fambul National Framework. The Framework is a partnership between civil society organization, Fambul Tok, three government ministries that work on development and local governance and Catalyst for Peace in our role as international partner and former funder of the framework process. Although we were not able to bring a community representative to the event in New York, presenters shared the critical importance of community initiative and involvement as the key to the success of the Framework. Still, even more impactful than the panel event itself was the opportunity for all parties to have focused time to meet and plan together – reinvigorating the forward movement towards implementing the Framework on a national scale. Taking and making time for cross-sector collaboration is key to its success.
I recently traveled to The Gambia for a gathering hosted by the International Peace Institute, the Senegalo-Gambian Permanent Secretariat, the UN Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team in The Gambia and the UN Trust Fund for Human Security. This gathering felt like a priority for two reasons. First, the topic was about localizing the 2030 agenda – an effort CFP is aligned with, especially when defined as working in ways that support local efforts that contribute to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals. Secondly, there was an intentional effort to bring country teams together that included civil society, local and national government, and international funders and organizations. This is not the norm, and I commend the partners in their efforts to acknowledge the importance of these key parts of our systems and their efforts to reach out to ensure participation of these different groups.
During the event, organizers asked me to offer an activity that would help country teams better see the current relationships between the different sectors. I offered a human sculpture activity that involved first labeling group members as key stakeholders, such as community, local government, national government, international organizations. Everyone was instructed, as a country team, to place the people with stakeholder labels into relationship with each other as those relationships were currently being experienced in the country. The activity resulted in some frank conversation as teams were forced to name the current state of the relationships, which, in most cases, were not in ideal alignment. Having people in the groups that represented these different sectors enhanced the nuance and depth of analysis, which could not have been done in the same way without the experience of those in different sectors present. One participant said to me, when you are forced to physically demonstrate the state of the relationships and see where there’s misalignment, you can start to see what needs to happen to change the relationships. This was an eye-opening experience for many present because we are not used to working with the whole in mind.
As I finish this, a team from Sierra Leone is representing the Wan Fambul National Framework at the Paris Peace Forum. Hon. Francess Alghalli, Minister of State for the Office of Vice President and John Caulker, Executive Director of Fambul Tok have traveled to Paris to share the collaborative effort that brings communities, local government and national government in alignment to support community-led initiatives to consolidate peace and engage in development. Sadly, Hawa Conteh, Community Representative of the Inclusive District Community in Koinadugu District of Sierra Leone, was not granted a visa. Had she been allowed to participate, there would have been at least one team at the forum to demonstrate, through the presence of a local community representative, the power of partnership between government, civil society and community activists. Clearly, there is a great deal of work to be done in creating and supporting these critical partnerships.
As our work moves forward, CFP will continue to find opportunities to further inclusive, whole-systems processes that address conflict and determine ways to be together as a whole Earth community that supports the well-being of all.