BY LYNTON AARON FILIA
ABOUT 60 community leaders across Solomon Islands have been empowered with abilities to prevent and resolve conflicts through a four-day workshop on peace building and meditation held in Honiara last week.
The workshop was organized by the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace (MNURP) and supported by the United Nations Peace-building Fund (UNPBF) project, which is jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women.
One of the primary purpose of the workshop was to help leaders analyze and develop a non-violent approach to conflict and learn mediation skills.
The sessions covered through the workshop comprise peacebuilding, understanding the basics of conflict and how to mitigate escalation to violence to maintain peace in communities. Other sessions included were trauma and healing along with counseling and mediation services available to victims of conflict in the country.
Upon the completion of the workshop, the participants are now qualified to carryout trainings and awareness on peace-building in their respective communities.
Genesis Kofana of MNURP said chiefs and church and community leaders have considerable experience as peacebuilders across the country.
“After the tensions, every institution failed. Only the church and the women and youth groups that stayed in the villages were able to maintain peace and able to re-grow Solomon Islands,” he said.
“They have been playing that role informally, but this workshop has enabled us to bring the leaders together to formally train them to recognize that skill.”
Mr Kofana added that community and traditional leaders remain important resources in maintaining peace at the local level.
According to a 2017 UN peacebuilding survey of 2,500 people from across Solomon Islands, more than 76 percent of all respondents said they knew of a dispute that occurred in their community within the past 12 months.
UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager Azusa Kubota said seemingly small conflicts have the potential to escalate if those involved lack the skills to manage them.
“When tensions increase to such a level that they begin to restrict economic activity and affect personal security, it stifles business, development and investment,” Ms Kubota said.
She added that if businesses leave and take opportunities with them, it influences cohesion in the community and the country.
“Community leadership plays a very important role in maintaining peace and accelerating prosperity,” Ms. Kubota said.
By participating in the peacebuilding and mediation workshop, leaders are expected to develop skills to address the root causes of conflict in their communities, employing nonviolent resolutions that help them collaborate with governments and NGO partners to ensure sustainable peace and development.
Meanwhile, participants of the workshop comprises of traditional and urban community leaders, including youths and women from Honiara city.