Education and advocacy for civil conflict resolution

Agnes Sander 

From 2010 to 2013, I worked for the Civil Peace Service (CPS) in Yaounde, Cameroon. My work focused on the prevention of violence and violent conflict between young people. When I returned home, I successfully applied to Bread for the World for a job in Germany. Since then, I have been working as a peace education consultant in the "Civil Instead of Military" project of Action Committee Service for Peace (AGDF).

I give presentations in schools, to youth groups and church congregations, and at conferences in Germany, about my experiences of civil conflict resolution (ccr). An important dimension of our educational work in this project is that we ourselves have experience of practical peace work and can use our experiences as input. When I was working for CPS, I was concerned specifically with youth violence and more generally with the situation of young people in various countries in Africa. This means that I can relate things to real life for young people in Germany and thereby build bridges to issues which are important to a lot of young people here, such as how to cope with violence, a lack of prospects, and their lost hopes for the future.
Very few of the groups I work with have heard of CPS or of methods of civil conflict resolution. So the basic objective is for participants to know at the end of the presentation that there are processes of civil conflict resolution which can be effective in situations of violent conflict. We want to give young people some idea of: what ccr looks like in practical terms; the understanding of conflict on which it is based; and why military means are ineffective when it comes to tackling the root causes of conflict. Experiences with ccr, both in Germany and abroad, show that nonviolent conflict resolution is feasible. Good tools and programmes are available in this field in Germany. But far too few people know about this.

My work gives me an opportunity to reflect critically on my experiences and to portray them now, afterwards, in ways which make sense to people in Germany. Among other things, the key question regarding the effectiveness of methods of conflict resolution is significant: It is important to name failures, and not just to paint a rosy picture, but to portray a realistic image.

My work has made me conscious of the fact that this educational work is – and has to be – also a form of advocacy – and that this is essential. I would like to see greater support coming from other quarters. Politicians, above all, should give a clear signal that ccr is the preferred alternative to military intervention.

 

Agnes Sander lived in Kamerun from 2010 to 2013 (published in transfer volume 1/2017)