Thursday, January 31, 2013

Time for elections?

We learn from doing yet sometimes we ignore what we learn. Other times we are too cautious to implement the procedures we know have to be taken.  The one area in which I am taking note of is the push to have elections.
Cases in point are Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and Libya.  Each of these countries made great strides to implement election and each have made matters no better. The main issue for such a situation is that elections are divisive by nature. Of course there is a strong need to have a government in place. What we are left with is a dance of political grace and not every song you dance to is the same.
Part of the dance is to ensure legitimate government with a transparent decision making process. This dance is very difficult because transparency is neither easy nor an efficient method of decision making. During a transition period efficiency of decision can bring down a government if it is seen as being too slow to provide change. Each of the countries named have fallen into this trap.
How do you get past that trap?
Oddly enough that trap is circumvented by stalling elections. Local councils need to be built and given time to grow in strength, reputation, respect and acceptance. Local efforts need to be focused upon with greater effort such as schools, water, markets, hospitals, energy grids and the list never stops. Through the building of these, the people will experience the progression of peaceful governance. As the local needs are met, the regional needs can be eased into through political elections. All the while the peace efforts on the national stage engage in communications with locals seeking to build constitutions, national frameworks and vision of what the country is to be.
It is not very often that all communities share every value equally in which a country stands for. This is where tensions begin at the national level. The dance to ensure peace is kept starts with how the local people experience their lives.  If the local people feel there is no trust the entire system can break.
One topic that is often put down is the use of foreign soldiers as police. The bottom line of reality is that a soldier is exactly that, a policy enforcer.  The main job is to secure peace and enforce some level of law. This has to be the focus of any force entering into a mission if they are to assist with building a society. Local forces that walk the streets and villages constantly build trust.
Lastly, there is no time frame. Setting deadlines is an effort that will only end up being the cause of more chaos if not met. Usually such deadlines are often missed. As long as the people know what is going on, they are regularly given the chance to participate and experience the progression of peace, peace will be the outcome.
Of course it is easy to write about such ideas, accomplishing them is difficult. If you do not have peace within yourself, it will difficult to see it outside.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Destruction of culture

Remember when the Taliban destroyed the Buddha statues of  Bamiyan during 2001?

Such acts reveal the complete disregard for human history. No matter what your religious, political or cultural beliefs are, such pieces of history cut through ideology and become part of the total human experience. The statues can be rebuilt and there is an effort to do just that through UNESCO, Japan, Switzerland and of course Afghanistan where the site is.

The reason for that memory was the news that a library in Timbuktu was destroyed. Within the library were manuscripts of great importance to cultural heritage belonging to all the people of the world. No matter if you never set foot in Africa, each one of us is here because of the work done by those who came before us.

There are times when such treasures are lost in the course of war that make the world feel pain collectively. When Mostar bridge was destroyed during the war in Yugoslavia, the world felt that peace was completely lost. On a parellel, the looting of museums in Baghdad was forseen but still the actual event was viewed with disgust and loss.

These moments of insanity speak to frustration of people who commit such actions. History and culture are of little to no value in the minds of those that destroy such artifacts. Although looting does hold some desire of monetary value but the true value of the items looted belongs to the entire population. Such items are icons to the collective works of our past builders.

Some things are built to last forever others only survive due to care and respect. Peace is one of those realities that lasts only due to care and respect. Burning down libraries that house cultural treasures is of little help to any peaceful solution. So we are are left with the thought that peace is not the focus for those that set the fire. That mentality will always be apart of war.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Libyan peace efforts

During a transition period where elections are to be held, people are in a state of vast hope. This state is a fragile state of being. Before elections are held there sits the options of the peoples’ future. Libya is an example that has moved to the back of the line for most. However the experiment that is currently taking place in Libya has global importance and a very integral one for the peace of North Africa.
There is always the desire to point out the wrongs of past decisions in such cases. As important as it is to know history, it is also important to understand there is nothing you can do that will erase the past mistakes. What is the status of Libya at the moment?
The situation in Libya has improved in some ways. The celebration of independence was reported as a great family event.[1] In that small manner the people were provided a sample of what life is to be like. Underneath the celebration is another reality. Weapons are still a major problem, armed groups hold the balance of military power and the people live with uncertainty daily.
The issues with elected officials will always be front and centre, no matter what country a person lives in. The emphasis on elected officials is even greater during a period of transition. Looking at Libya during its transition a large critique of elected members deals with armed groups. There are armed groups that carry out more targeted attacks, focusing on foreigners and diplomats, most recent being Italy’s Guido De Sanctis.
One area of major concern for Libya and surrounding countries is the tightening of borders. Libya has been working diligently at border security, which is very complicated, evident with the Mali fallout due to Libyan transition. As a response to such fallouts Libya, Tunisia and Algeria are working on this issue. Any improvement along such lines will go a long way to securing peace in the region. 
Further to those countries we can not exclude the increased role of France. Although France is operating in Mali, the reality is that such a role is a direct result of Libyan transition. Will peace in Libya be as influential in other countries? In theory it should but in reality, that is different.
Of all the violent conflicts around the world, the current situation in Libya is one where success can be had quickly, not easily, nor without great efforts but the transition period to peace is being felt.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Character of peace

When rebuilding or even building a society there is one question that is ever present. That question is, “Who do we want to be?”
For the most part that is what a constitution spells out for the larger society. Not all societies have constitutions though. For some the society has religious text as the guiding source. Also there is often a divergence in what the guidance material strives to explain and the actions of the people.
For example we can look at the various religious texts. The three main religions being Jewish, Christian and Islam each proclaim to be religions of peace. We all know that these three religions have long histories of violent conflict. Such conflicts are still being carried out at this very moment.
Another example of actions not meeting the goals set out is the divergence within the United Nations. The organizational/systematic goals of the United Nations are supported with all the avenues to ensure peace throughout the world. At odds with those goals are the actions of its members.
Being at odds with the goals set out by the builders of society is a reality of life. We grow and we experience events that bring new points of view. As these events unfold we silently ask the question, “Who do we want to be?” In many of the responses to that answer such words as trusting, honourable, caring, compassionate, unifying, strong, ethical and genuine are descriptors we all seek. Such an image is a lofty goal. It takes hard work and determination to build such a character. Looking around the world, where are those that emulate such character? Where are the role models for such a society?
There is a component to having such character that is lost. That component is the will to sacrifice all you have to live up to such character. By that I ask, what country today would be willing to lay its entire life on the line to uphold such pillars of character? For the most part I have witnessed more cowardice actions than any of the descriptors mentioned. For the most part I have witnessed leaders throwing money, soldiers and weapons at problems and when each of those fail it is time to leave. Examples are Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Haiti and there are others.
Such actions have only left the swords of division in the world. Those divisions grow as the children are educated about the actions of others. The people are taught to not trust, to be fearful, to hate, to destroy and to fight because they have known no other reality. Just think of the children in Syria that have only the last few years of memories, or a similar child in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti or Somalia. How are they to perceive the world?
We glorify the violent victories and supress the peaceful victories. This is the reality we are building yet we strive for the day where peaceful victories are the norm. We are told that peace is boring, no one wants to hear about unending talks, yet we are enthralled with unending violence. We wonder why peace has not returned to Libya, has been a rarity in Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan.
Many people are willing to die for a cause but no country is willing to change for peace. If such a reality existed, Israel and Palestine conflict would have been long over, Afghanistan would be a peaceful country as would Iraq. Under the current reality, our leaders still believe that violence will bring peace, which is evident in the actions concerning Syria.  
Is thar who we want to be?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rebuilding Syria?

The fact of the matter/reality of Syria is that the legitimate government is the current government. Any external force that enters Syria must have permission from the Syrian government. However, there are some foreign powers that do not feel obligated to adhere to such international law. Such people live above others and apply laws as they see fit.
For peace to be possible in Syria, the first goal is obviously to end the violence. Next there must be restoration of a legitimate government.  The sad part is that the need to restore a legitimate government is a problem made/forced by the international community to begin with. This need for a legitimate government is a step that should never have been a reality. The cost of such a move has been paid by the citizens of Syria in the currency of death by the tens thousands.
 The only reason so many innocent people have died is due to the childish behaviour of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. From the outset the discussion to provide assistance to the Syrian government was made in such a manner that Syria could not allow an occupation force into the country. The rhetoric of foreign intervention was made out to be an occupying force and that was the largest issue for why no assistance was allowed.
Here we are at the same stage as we were in the very early stages of the protest movement of 26 Feb 2012. That day had a referendum on constitutional change supported by 80% of the voters. One year later there are fewer leaders to trust, current government is broken, opposition is just as untrustworthy as is the current people in power, broken infrastructure, government institutions scrambled at best, less civil cohesion and more weapons. In summary, Syria is far worse than it was on 26 Feb 2012.
Now what? Well there will be a power vacuum as the current government takes is final stands. A greater fight within opposition cells to be the main power figure will blow up. The members of the United Nations Security Council will bicker as if they were children fighting over a toy. Finally the real work to build peace will come from the average person that lives in the communities of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and all the other destroyed communities.
The bulk of the peace work will be accomplished by the people who have lost the most, endured the most and have been given the least support. The school teachers, nurses, doctors, food vendors and of course the children will be the ones that will have to carry the most burden. The irony will be that the focus will be on the idiots that allowed the entire situation to get out of control. Furthermore it will be those same idiots that will take credit for peace as they shake hands after signing a peace agreement.  
If this was a world where justice was had and what is right was the norm, all the leaders would be held responsible for every death. Alas we live in a world where might makes right, money can buy justice and those that yell the loudest get best service. Upon that reality we must endure the garbage of leaders that talk about peace, looking after the needs of the people and securing a safe world for all. Hypocrisy is alive and well and that is the enemy. Go ask the average person in Syria if they wanted such hell.  The only reason we are here now is because of lazy leaders who did not have the intelligence to work out a peaceful method in the first place. Sadly we are still saddled with such leaders.
The hope of a peaceful future does not lie with such leaders but within the average persons’ willingness to be peaceful. After all it is the people that will restore peace. Now begins the work of preparing the necessary tools for peace to be rebuilt in Syria.
Seek out the communities that need schooling supplies to teach peace. Mend the minds of the youth so that they will not continue the anger and hatred which spawned such nonsensical violence. Work with community organizations within Syria to rebuild the laughter and joy of a healthy neighbourhood. Allow the understanding that peace is always the first priority of our leaders. Those that can not maintain peace are to be voted out of as soon as possible.
Finally we must understand that we are all in a giant experiment/game. There will be those that gain power only to destroy and to ensure personal gain at all others expense. Such people will come into power from time to time. More often than not such people learn this behaviour. Which is why we must work very hard to bring peace education to the people of Syria.
We failed the people of Syria once already. Foreign countries ignored international laws and sent in equipment, focres and actively called for the destabilization of the government. They acted no different than the terrorist organizations that also operated within Syria. Such a world breeds contempt and untrustworthy attitudes. Such a world will bring greater chaos and violence. What else do we expect when leaders act in such a manner? What do people expect who act in such a manner? I expect that we get exactly as has transpired in Syria.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The dream of peace

Who is accountable for peace? In short that question is often “they” that “we” have fingers pointed towards. The main thrust of accountability is levelled against the largest of organisations. Yet the reality of peace rests within the individual. Each peacebuilding program that is put into place relies on the individual. Every community that receives aid support must deliver support one person at a time.
Each of us makes a decision as to how they will act. During times of violent conflict or even during political rallies, elections, protests or demonstrations each person is accountable. The reality which is often lost in many circumstances is that there is no “they” without the individual. This is why personal peace is such a major issue in global peace. Such knowledge has been with us for as long as two people stood in each others presence. Further to this knowledge, the circle of accountability spreads from the individual person to a single community, single province, region and includes each individual country.
As we dream for the end of violent conflict in Syria, we must seek to rebuild first in our minds. We must understand how the people/individuals will live in peace. We must understand how government is to be respected again. What will it take for individuals to live without fear, to trust and have faith in one another again?
The rebuilding of countries is no easy task and is often carried out by large organisations. Throughout the years, those that have worked to rebuild war torn countries have understood the importance of the individual peace. The phrase “if you save one person, you have succeeded” is the base support of all those that work to rebuild communities and countries.
From there, we seek to assist those that have been impacted by violent conflict. As the many organisations congregate to rebuild communities, there is a growing level of understanding that the people who are being assisted hold the greatest power for peace.  However, interventions do have impacts as we all know.
In the case of Syria, we may never know the true involvement of outsiders or what role outsiders played to bring chaos. We do know that certain individuals had the opportunity to end violence in Syria. At present there is no longer one singular individual in which peace can focus upon. Since peace was not possible for those individuals, the world is met with the task of rebuilding societal/structural peace.  Slowly, peace will return to Syria when a great number of individuals experience structural peace.
With the task of rebuilding a peaceful society the accountability still rests with individual. For example, will a government officer seek bribes? Will those that benefited from the chaos seek peace? What of those that benefitted under the old order? These are the individuals that will always be a concern. Such people will always be part of society. Within that cycle lies the battle for peace.
The never ending struggle to ensure people are aware of their impact on global peace is vital. For example, we can look at what is taking place in India.
“There is no doubting that the woman’s suffering has revolted Indians. There is no doubting the anguish of the demonstrators who have come out to tell the political class that they want a new kind of government, one that that is responsive and efficient. Nor is there any doubt that the heartfelt desire for change is real. But the experience of the past few years shows that middle class anger can collapse just as quickly as it erupts”[1].

Each of us moves on while a peaceful society will always remain a dream for all of us.