Call to youth, faith leaders to become peace-builders | Daily News
GPPAC-RCSS Week 2018 discusses armed conflict

Call to youth, faith leaders to become peace-builders

Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) Executive Director Prof. Gamini Keerawella speaks at the media conference held in Colombo, last week. Also present are delegates who attended GPPAC-RCSS Week 2018. Picture by Sarath Peiris
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) Executive Director Prof. Gamini Keerawella speaks at the media conference held in Colombo, last week. Also present are delegates who attended GPPAC-RCSS Week 2018. Picture by Sarath Peiris

As 60 to 70 percent of resolved conflicts relapse, it is necessary to address the root causes generating a conflict, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) Executive Director Prof. Gamini Keerawella said, at the media conference held in Colombo, last week.

The prevention of conflicts and ensuring a safer environment for citizens is essential as it will pave the way for the socio-development of a country. The RCSS emphasises the fact that root causes should be addressed in preventing an armed conflict, and peace-building initiatives should be encouraged at all times, Prof. Keerawella said.

“Young people as peace-builders and faith leaders as role models in the peace-building process will be important elements, and this will prevent the huge losses on the economic front, where the cost of conflict on a country’s resources is enormous. The voice of non-elected members could play a crucial role in disseminating the message of peace in a conflict-ridden environment,” he said,

The RCSS has been the South Asian regional secretariat of the Global Partnership for Prevention of Armed Conflicts (GPPAC) since its inception in 2003. Sri Lanka currently holds the executive directorship of the RCSS, which held the GPPAC-RCSS Week 2018 last week in Colombo.

Prof. Keerawella said peace-building initiatives should be carried out at community level by building bridges to improve harmony and reconciliation among the communities. Conflict dynamism creates its own culture and the demilitarisation process is important to ensure peace.

“The role the media can play in the direction of preventing armed conflict is important and critical. We consider the media to be one of our close partners,” Prof. Keerawella said.

GPPAC RCSS Week has taken place in Colombo at a historic time, locally and globally. The international political system is presently undergoing decisive changes. The emergence of international public space has put an end to the monopoly enjoyed by international political space in global politics. It is a process that began decades ago.

In this context, international non-government organisations have come forward to play an increasingly important role in deciding the global political agenda. Today, international non-governmental organisations are a definite fixture in international relations, capable and proving their capacity for official diplomacy. Most of their initiatives can be seeing as a progress in track iii diplomacy or backchannel diplomacy. Furthermore, global armed conflict patterns have also undergone a decisive change.

Locally, in Sri Lanka, we are emerging after 30 years of armed conflict. One of the key concerns in Sri Lanka is how to prevent the recurrence of armed conflict that brought enormous pain and destruction, irrespective of ethnicity or faith, Prof. Keerawella said.

Armed conflicts are varied and complex. Conventional inter-state and intra-state conflict division is not valid in the present context. Some internal armed conflicts are proxy wars involving states.

In the Cold war context, attention was mainly on armed conflict involving states, while intra-state conflicts were considered a law and order issue. The dramatic rise of the human toll in intra-regional conflicts has made intra-state conflicts also an international concern.

“Each conflict is unique and each peace is unique. There is no specific way to peace. Peace is the way. We can draw lessons from other peace initiatives, but it is hardly possible to copy them,” Prof. Keerawella said.

The prevention of armed conflict is an important element of peace. The general perception is that prevention is relevant in pre-conflict and post-conflict scenarios, but not in conflict scenarios, as there is nothing to prevent. This is not correct. In all three scenarios, prevention is important, as prevention is a social and political process, he said.

It is not possible to create a conflict-free society. The issue is not conflict, but violent conflict. When arms are used to resolve conflicts, the outcome is violence. Transforming the dynamics of conflict to dynamics of social progress is the challenge before us. It is necessary to understand the difference between dissent and subversion. Dissent should be viewed as an important element and safety valve of democratic governance.

In certain political situations, non-violent resistance can be a propellant for social progress and democratic political transformation. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mandela used this strategy of non-violence as a mechanism to repair social and political ills.

The prevention of armed conflict is a responsibility of the entire human race. In view of the lethality of arms produced by states, the survival of the human race depends on our ability to prevent armed conflict. In all conflicts, civil society can and must play a critical role in promoting the prevention of armed conflict, Prof. Keerawella said.

About GPPAC and RCSS

GPPAC is a member-led network of civil society organisations with worldwide regional secretariats devoted to planning and implementing activities in preventing armed conflict.

RCSS, an independent non-profit regional organisation based in Colombo, engages in collaborative research, networking, and dialogue on strategic and international issues pertaining to South Asia.

Established by a group of scholars, including Prof. Shelton Kodikara, founder professor of international relations at the Colombo University, in 1992, it has a long publication list and impressive track record. During the last 25 years, RCSS has served as a leading networking and research hub for strategic and security discourse in South Asia.

The RCSS can proudly claim the distinction of being the peerless regional think tank focused on regional security.

It is an independent and democratic institution. The RCSS functions under the supervision of a board of directors from South Asian countries, with its executive directorship rotating among member states. Sri Lanka currently holds the executive directorship.

The objectives of the RCSS are mainly three-fold: sponsor, coordinate and support research on South Asian and Indian Ocean strategic and security issues; promote interaction among scholars and professionals in the region and beyond, who are engaged in South Asian and Indian Ocean studies; and foster linkages and collaboration among institutions focusing on issues relating to conflicts, peace, security and development in South Asia and its Indian Ocean environments. 

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