Ongoing Activities

ONGOING ACTIVITIES

     Steve Sachs

CODEPINK in Washington, DC on the weekend of the 8th Anniversary of the Iraq invasion, March 18-20, undertook the following actions: Friday, March 18, Iraq Veterans Against the War/Civilian Soldier Alliance Fundraiser: an evening of live music, delicious Ethiopian food, and social empowerment at the Ras Hall, focusing  on Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops, a veteran-led campaign to win the right to heal. Saturday, March 19, Noon: Rally at Lafayette Park and March on the White House Speakers include: Ret. Col. Ann Wright, Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges, Mike Ferner, Elliott Adams, Caneisha Mills and more! Coordinated by Veterans for Peace (more information is at: StopTheseWars.org). Saturday, March 19: Forum: Move the War Money, Save Our Communities: The Washington Peace Center, Military Families Speak Out, and others are collaborating on this forum exploring the effects of our over-inflated military budget on our local communities.  Local DC organizers spoke on how the economic crisis is affecting DC and how people can work together across issues to change the situation. Sunday, March 20: Rally at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia to support accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. Supporters rallied at the town of Triangle and marched to the gates of Quantico. The event was endorsed by the Bradley Manning Support Network, Veterans for Peace, Courage to Resist, CODEPINK, and many other groups. Monday, March 21, the Friends Committee on National Legislation led all day lobbying of members of Congress to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For more information go to: http://codepinkalert.org/form.php?modin=132.

On March 12, supporters of Rethink Afghanistan held get-togethers in communities across the country for Rethink the Cost, a worldwide Meetup day. Some groups discussed what to do next locally to get their neighbors thinking about the cost of the war. Others just shared a coffee or a beer with likeminded people. The emphasis was on getting offline to find the others in the community in order to build real relationships to attain the goal of rethinking Afghanistan. For more information visit: http://act.bravenewfilms.org/go/178?akid=1470.242045.uj9V9T&t=5 or http://act.bravenewfilms.org/go/12?akid=1470.242045.uj9V9T&t=7.

Foreign Policy in Focus reported, February 22, 2011, http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=kSsjVkHBRtoBZB9M97wovidUNpPmj29H, on April 12, “a few days before tax returns are due, cities around the country will participate in a Global Day of Action on Military Spending. This will be a chance to tell the media, our elected representatives, and our fellow citizens that we’re mad as hell about this nation’s budget priorities and we’re not going to take it any longer. Right now it might only be four people standing in front of the City Hall in New Haven calling for war dollars to be spent at home. On April 12, they’ll be joined by people all over the country – and all over the world.”

Code Pink, http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=WSmBK7jpetFUTv4tNmx5iA1mLgIczSvV, reported, April 8, 2011, “Just weeks ago CODEPINK activists stripped nude in San Francisco and in DC to protest the inhumane imprisonment of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning [forced to be without cloths]. With our signs, “WikiLeaks exposed the naked truth about war,” we stood up not just for Bradley, but for brave whistleblowers everywhere who are using the pioneering website to leak the truth. We recently donned our pink whistles and joined some 400 activists to rally at the Quantico Marine Corps Base where Manning has been held in solitary confinement for over 9 months. He was served with 22 new charges by the Department of Defense this month, including ‘aiding the enemy,’ a capital offense punishable by death or life imprisonment. Not on our watch. We’ve collected almost 10,000 signatures demanding that the cruel and ridiculous charges against Manning be dropped. With your help to spread the word, we can double that number.”

Gush Shalom issued the following Press Release, February 19, 2011, “Israel is becoming a liability to the United States, bringing US into the same international isolation into which Israel itself was cast.  The so-called “Israel Lobby”, which prevents Israeli misconduct from ever being corrected, is a grave danger to Israel’s future. The vote in the U.N. shows the entire world unanimous in regarding settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as manifestly illegal and a major obstacle to any chance of peace. It is clear to the entire world that there is no point to negotiations while the State of Israel is daily creating accomplished facts in the territory which is the subject of negotiations. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, too, are well aware of this. They gave unconvincing excuses for their act of imposing a veto on a highly justified and needed resolution, which all other countries supported. These excuses cannot hide the one and only reason for this illogical vote: the intervention of the government of Israel in American politics, using the power of the so-called “Israel Lobby” in the U.S. Congress. The veto they were forced to cast should not mislead the Netanyahu government. It is clear for everybody to see that Israel is becoming more and more a liability to the US – bringing the United States into the same international isolation as that into which Israel itself was brought by the actions of its government. President Obama was well aware that the imposition of the veto will impart additional momentum to settlement construction, that it shattered any remaining chance for resuming negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and that it causes great damage to the United States’ status in an Arab World going through revolutionary upheaval. In Obama’s weighing of interests party-politics prevailed once again over what he himself has declared to be the strategic interest of the United States, as well as over the chances of bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by a united effort of the Family of Nations. It should be stated clearly and unequivocally: the body known as “AIPAC” is not an “Israel lobby”, but an anti-Israel lobby, a body which accumulated enormous power which it uses for preventing Israeli ruthless politics from being ever corrected. By thus stifling Israel in a self-destructive mode it helps to destroy the future of Israel, to deny Israel any chance of achieving peace with its neighbors, to push our country deeper and deeper into the abyss of occupation, settlement and racism. It is the duty of all who consider themselves true friends of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, to confront AIPAC and break its power of silencing criticism. This is the only hope for Israel’s future.” For more information, contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson, 054-2340749.

Gush Shalom reported, May 7, “Last Friday, the IDF carried out a ‘liquidation [attack on alleged terroists]’ in the Gaza Strip, and immediately the alert level was raised in our region for fear of a Palestinian retaliation leading to escalation.  On Friday, April 8, 2011, at 2:30 PM, we will hold a protest vigil at the Yad Mordechai Junction”, “We, residents of the area, see a close connection between the suffering of our neighbors, due to the ongoing siege and military attacks, and our own suffering. We call upon the Government of Israel to stop the deterioration towards another senseless cycle of violence, to put an end to the mutual bloodshed and offer residents of this region a different option: Dialogue, negotiations, and a striving for a long-term agreement, which will make possible a which will enable us and our neighbors to live a quiet life in dignity. The option of brute force has brought us to a dead end! It’s time for a political initiative!” For more information go to: http://www.othervoice.org.

For more information on the Israeli peace movement contact Gush Shalom, P.O. Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, 972-3-5221732, info@gush-shalom.org, http://www.gush-shalom.org, Adam Keller of Gush Shalom launched a blog, at: http://adam-keller1.blogspot.com/ in Hebrew and  http://adam-keller2.blogspot.com/ in English.

A Global Day of Action on Military Spending, with many groups collaborating world wide, was held April 12, 2011 to coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s annual report, which includes new figures on military expenditures. The joint actions worked to focus public, political, and media attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities. A major concern was that in 2009, global military spending surged to an all-time high of US $1.53 trillion. “Given the numerous crises facing the planet — economic, environmental, health, diplomatic — it is imperative that we create a global movement to shift this money to human needs. We know that there are thousands of organizations and millions of individuals who support this point of view – what is needed is to begin a serious mobilizing effort to make it visible. While each location will craft its own approach, we hope there will be a common focus on calling attention to the overall size of global military spending. This would need in most cases to be linked to a related national (or local) issue, such as the Afghanistan war, anti-bases efforts, arms trade deals, work against small arms, resources for nonviolent conflict resolution, Article 9 campaign etc. We very much hope that peace groups will use this as an opportunity to connect up with anti-poverty, environmental, pro-democracy organizations and others who share our perspective.” For more information contact Noah Gimbel,noah.gimbel@gmail.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9po4ggUl-Ew By generating some captivating images, we plan to attract widespread media coverage and make available photos of our rallies and events. We will compile an album of pictures from around the world and post them online to document the global movement and to use to accompany stories about the SIPRI report and our own actions.

Search for Common Ground (SFCG) “February Update: The Crisis in Ivory Coast Continues,” http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=bSGPxtRUQ%2Fl%2BFW3QjRg7dTEt%2Fj%2Fa5Z7B, stated, “While the world’s attention has been focused on Tunisia and Egypt and other Arab countries, the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has receded from the news, but it remains completely unresolved.  Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouatarra have not met together, and with the support of their respective camps, each continues to lay claim to the Presidency of the country. It is within this context that Search for Common Ground continues to do its work.  SFCG began working in Côte d’Ivoire in 2005 with the primary goal of reducing tensions by providing space for dialogues on key issues, helping communities engage in constructive cooperation, and strengthening social cohesion by increasing local capacity to resolve conflicts non-violently and SFCG continues to play this role today. SFCG media teams are calming tensions, promoting moderate voices, and providing accurate information where rumors and manipulation are rampant. Despite considerable challenges, the team in Abidjan has succeeded in keeping most of their radio programs on the air, continuing to provide credible and balanced information to the Ivoirian population.  SFCG’s radio programs are a major source of impartial information because most other media sources in the country are identified with one political side or the other. At the heart of Cote d’Ivoire’s conflicts is the issue of belonging.  Who is, and who is not, Ivoirian.  Immigrants with longtime roots in the country are still called “foreigners.”  Identity and citizenship are directly connected to land ownership, with resulting conflicts over land and who has the rights to own land.  Historically, the most violent flashpoints have been in 8 communities along the north-south border.  SFCG has been working in these areas with community, religious, youth, and women leaders – to increase their capacity for leadership, helping to sensitize their communities away from violence.  Even during this current political crisis, these communities have reported a decrease in tensions and violence and have acknowledged SFCG’s role in helping to make the positive difference.” Common Ground’s fundamental principle is to: Understand the Differences; Act on the Commonalities.  For more information go to: http://www.sfcg.org/.

SFCG Update: April 2011, “Restoring Peace to the Forest: Community Reconciliation in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” http://www.sfcg.org, reported, “Two years ago, thousands of residents fled DRC’s Equateur province to neighboring countries to escape the violence that cost hundreds their lives and destroyed their villages. Over 130,000 people were displaced. Most of those who fled were from the Munzaya community, in the equatorial forest in northwest DRC. Up until then the Munzaya lived in relative harmony with their neighbors, the Enyele, until a dispute over access to fishing and farming rights escalated into a violent conflict. The first eruption happened when over 200 Munzaya homes were burned. After that violence quickly spread. With funding and support from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), SFCG was involved in a peace process for the past year, opening a regional program office in the nearby town of Dongo. SFCG staff provided mediation, conflict resolution, and negotiation trainings for civil society and traditional leaders that helped to build cohesion and create a network of leaders across tribes and ethnic groups. In turn, the traditional leaders replicated the trainings and used their newly learned mediation skills to help resolve a number of smaller local disputes. This process of network building across the tribes was critical to the eventual resolution of the larger conflict. We also organized dozens of participatory theater performances to encourage dialogues, sensitize military members and catalyze joint activities between the military and civilians.” “It was the first official mission to Munzaya in years. ‘The mutual fear and mistrust had to be confronted,” explained SFCG-DRC Country Director Lena Slachmuijlder, “the communities needed a process where everyone felt that they were being heard in safety, and were taking part in creating a better future.’ To that goal SFCG organized a traditional reconciliation ceremony in the heart of the forest that brought together an estimated 3,500 people from Enyele, Munzaya and neighboring villages. The historic, three-day festival began on the day of the second anniversary of the outbreak of violence. The event included sermons, traditional dancing and communal activities to renew the fraternal spirit that had characterized inter-communal relations in the past. Munzaya and Enyele leaders affirmed their commitment to peace by signing a non-aggression pact.” SFCG’s continuing work with both communities will include the launch a new community radio station that will broadcast radio programming to this region for the first time. SFCG is also facilitating discussions with local and provincial authorities to resolve the underlying issue of fishing and farming rights.

The Search for Common Ground Newsletter: Spring 2011 began, “We at Search for Common Ground take a societal approach to conflict transformation. We are committed to preventing violence and building bridges across entire countries. Given the turmoil that is currently shaking the world, we believe that our approach is very much needed, and we have opened programs in four new countries during the last year.” In the Democratic Republic of Congo, “Since 1998, the DRC has suffered appalling atrocities and trauma.  War and other violence-related causes have resulted in an estimated five million deaths.  More than 200,000 women and girls have been raped.  Deplorably, the Congolese Army and armed militias have been prime perpetrators.  Faced with repeated denunciations by humanitarian and human rights groups, the Army has often reacted with denial and defensiveness, and it has tried to insulate itself from the criticism.  In such an atmosphere, we recognized the opportunity to create a different kind of relationship, and we made a decision to work with the Congolese Army to help transform it into a force whose main task is to protect – not harm –‘ civilians.  To this end, we became one of the rare NGOs to form a partnership with the Army – specifically with its Civic and Patriotic Education Service, the military department tasked with sensitization, training, and support to soldiers.  We named the project “Tomorrow is a New Day.”  The idea was – and is – that if appropriate actions are taken today, the future will be better and brighter.” Structurally, “the project follows the Congolese Army’s hierarchical lines and includes steering committees of senior officers, chaplains, and liaison officers whom we train to be agents of change.  36 committees exist, starting at Army Headquarters and extending down to the brigade and battalion level in five of the country’s most troubled provinces.  We have developed a series of interactive tools, which we use to promote compliance with basic human rights standards: Mobile cinema showings at which we screen films, skillfully produced by Ilse and Femke van Velzen, that communicate the need to prevent sexual violence and criminal behavior and that are followed by discussions led by trained Congolese army facilitators. Sensitization sessions for soldiers that involve participatory theater and dialogue (50,000 participants to date). Training manuals that reinforce each module with pre-recorded audio sketches, illustrated image boxes, and guidelines for participatory theater. Radio dramas in Lingala and Swahili, reaching an estimated 15 million listeners through 85 partner radio stations and conveying the need to protect civilians and to assure civil-military collaboration. Radio magazine shows highlighting the military justice system and the negative  consequences of abusive behavior. Comic books portraying model behavior of soldiers and the consequences of criminal acts (200,000 distributed since 2007). Solidarity activities involving joint military-civilian good works, such as sporting events, clean-ups, repairs, and joint harvesting projects.” To assess the impact of the program, “We carry out comprehensive surveys to evaluate the success of our work.  In 2010, evaluators looked at the DRC’s 8th Brigade, which had been part of our process for two years and which had been redeployed six months earlier to troubled South Kivu province.  They found that 92% of those sampled said that this unit was better at protecting civilians than the previous brigade.  Another survey showed that 89% of the population believed that due to joint military-civilian activities, there was a marked decrease in forced labor, theft, illegal arrest, extortion, and rape.”

During 2010, 1,870,128 people around the world directly participated in SFCG programs, including mobile cinemas, participatory theater, trainings, mediations, and related activities, with tens of millions of people watching its TV series in 13 countries and listening to SFCG radio programs in 16 countries. Each month, SFCG produced 415 hours of original radio programming, in the course of working with 1,356 partner organizations. Last year, SFCG trained 7,767 people in conflict resolution, leadership, and common ground journalism. A major thrust of Common Ground media efforts continues to be TV and radio soap operas that use popular culture to change attitudes and behaviors.  As of spring 2011  was  producing local versions of The Team, a multi-episode, soccer-based series in 17 countries.  In addition, Common Ground is developing two other series with different plot premises in Indonesia and Lebanon. In Indonesia, SFCG has created Udin Bui (Big Prison), a 25 episode, primetime TV series about an ex-convict trying to reintegrate into society, broadcast on one of the country’s most popular networks. In Lebanon, SFCG has launched  Kilna bil Hayy (All of Us in the Neighborhood), a children’s series aired on LBC, the country’s most watched satellite and terrestrial network.  In 2009, 13 episodes of this series to promote peaceful co-existence among Lebanon’s ethnic, religious, and social groups. The following year, SFCG produced a second season of 13 more episodes, with messages of unity, acceptance, and forgiveness.  After Season 1, evaluators found that, as a direct result of watching the series, 46% of the viewers said they have increased contacts with individuals from other religious and ethnic groups. To assist the launch of new TV series, Common Ground usually includes a music video performed by well-known, local singers. Some of these are online at www.sfcg.org/musicvideos. When, Timor-Leste became an independent country, in 2002, SFCG launched a weekly radio-for-peacebuilding, magazine series there, Babadok Rebenta (“The Drums of Peace”), produced for youth, by youth, and about youth. The programs are broadcast on national radio and on 15 community stations. After each show, trained moderators host hour-long, call-in shows to discuss further the themes and issues presented. In all, Search for Common Ground implements projects from 39 offices in 26 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. SFCG headquarters offices are located in Brussels and Washington, DC; providing logistical and administrative support to the field. Regional offices are located in Washington DC, Brussels, Jakarta, and Sierra Leone. For more information, please visit: www.sfcg.org.

The Common Ground News Service (CGNews) aims to promote constructive perspectives and dialogue on a broad range of issues affecting Arab-Israeli and Muslim-Western relations. CGNews is available in Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, Indonesian and Urdu, and may be subscribed to by going to: http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=pa3LzJ8pqgn1EwCFdkYFjWqP%2F9%2FhhYol. For an archive of past CGNews articles, visit: http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=3xIyxhmSmCWOUb2bu9jirWqP%2F9%2FhhYol>www.commongroundnews.org. Common Ground News Service, March 5, 2011, launched 1001 Stories of Common Ground Website at http://www.commongroundnews.org, a new social networking website where Middle Eastern and North African bloggers, activists, journalists, women, youth and others share their 21st century stories of positive change – the stories that the media often ignores. To subscribe at no cost in the interactive site, go to: http://www.commongroundnews.org/subscribe.php?lan=en&email=.

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (The HD Centre) is currently actively involved in several conflict situations around the world. Wherever it mediates between warring parties, its goal is to help reach agreements that reduce the consequences of the conflict, improve security, and ultimately contribute to the conflict’s peaceful resolution. 

In addition to peace processes it is able to discuss openly, the HD Centre is also working on others at a more discreet level. Whenever such discretion is requested, the HD Centre respects the parties’ right to dialogue without publicity or external scrutiny, in order to safeguard the peace process itself.
 The HD Centre becomes involved in a mediation project only after a detailed assessment process takes place. It initiates these detailed assessments following recommendations or invitations from individuals, organizations or governments to become involved in a specific conflict. The HD Centre also applies its own judgment in determining whether a conflict would benefit from its mediation efforts. Current HD Centre Mediation projects include those in Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, and in the Philippines in Mindanao and between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). For more information go to: the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). In addition to taking an active role in mediating peace processes, the HD Centre carries out an extensive program of support activities, which includes: providing advice, staff and logistical support to others mediating in armed conflicts; promoting the sharing of experiences in the mediation sector; developing new ways to approach the many issues that surround the topic of mediation; and producing publications. For more information go to: http://www.hdcentre.org/.

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