Future prosperity through peace | Daily News

Future prosperity through peace

Conflict Prevention is about managing risks and knowing what the risk factors are, the potential for peace and the drivers for peace with a focus on those drivers. “Peace Building is essentially rebuilding relationships that are broken which include relat
Executive Director of GPPAC, Darynell  Rodriguez Torres.  Picture by Sarath Peiris
Executive Director of GPPAC, Darynell Rodriguez Torres. Picture by Sarath Peiris

Conflict Prevention and Peace Building are key to a future without armed conflicts. Therefore, it is a field of study that is of the utmost importance since only a proper understanding of Conflict Prevention and Peace Building can bring about sustainable peace. Daily News met up with the Executive Director of GPPAC (Global Partnership for Prevention of Armed Conflict) Darynell Rodriguez Torres and discussed the goals of GPPAC and the future that we all can create together. Torres was recently in Sri Lanka for the GPPAC week.

GPPAC is a network of Civil Society Organisations which is active in the field of conflict prevention and peace building. Darynell Torres, in addition to being the Executive Director of the GPPAC, is also the Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. He has been with GPPAC for the past seven years where he has been leading the policy and advocacy programme.

He has a deep knowledge of conflict prevention and peace building issues and has extensive contacts with external stakeholders including Civil Society organisations, government representatives and high level officials at the United Nations system and regional multi-lateral organisations.

“GPPAC came out due to the need to highlight the role of Civil Society in the Prevention of Armed Conflict. This was a result of the report by the Secretary General of the UN in 2003, Kofi Annan. Mr. Annan made an appeal to Civil Society Organizations to work together with the UN, because the UN cannot tackle the issue of Armed Conflict alone. We need everybody involved. This prompted a movement to fill that gap that existed in terms of how our civil society organisations can work more closely with the United Nations and governments and play our role in civil society,” said Torres.

Prevention of armed conflict

GPPAC was launched through a number of regional consultations where Civil Society Organisations developed the regional action agendas. This ended up with a global meeting in 2005 at the UN Head Quarters where CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) presented their Global Action Agenda for the prevention of armed conflict.

“That was the origin of GPPAC. It has been nearly 13 years since that conference. The organisation has really established itself as one of the most important players in the world, bringing in the perspectives of CSOs from all the regions of the world on how we can build a peaceful and safe society,” stated Torres.

GPPAC has 15 regions and is a network of networks. It is a global network composed of regional networks which are at the same time composed of national networks.

The 15 regions of GPPAC are Eastern and Central Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, North America, South Asia, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, North East Asia, Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Western Balkans, Northern and Western Europe.

“We have 15 regional secretariats and they are our network members in different countries. For example, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) in Colombo is the Regional Secretariat for South Asia. So we learn to work together, design together and advocate together,’ said Torres.

Conflict Prevention and Peace Building has to be understood through the context and where it happens.

“What we intend to do is to do an analysis of the conflict drivers in the particular regions - at the country level but also an analysis of the regional trends. Conflicts do not respect boundaries. You see a lot of regional dynamics playing in the context of a particular conflict. So we think to ourselves – ‘how can we make a contribution for civil societies in these countries? How can we engage other actors? How can we convene them to work together? And based on our capacities, how can we add value?’, pointed out Torres.

Global presence

Conflict Prevention is about managing risks and knowing what the risk factors are, the potential for peace and the drivers for peace with a focus on those drivers. “Peace Building is essentially rebuilding relationships that are broken which include relations between people and relationships between people and state institutions. So how can we rebuild these relations that have been broken? We do that through dialogue. First you build trust. You put yourself in another person’s position. You talk and gain a common understanding. So we try to create spaces for dialogue. We work amongst people and institutions to build up trust,” explained Torres.

GPPAC started out as a very loose organisation in 2005 and have been able to consolidate a global network with a presence all over the world. Torres is proud that wherever he goes he meets active GPPAC members in all corners of the world.

“We have this global presence that enables us to have this great power and a greater say. It enables us to convey whatever the message we have when we talk to other actors. We have come a long way in terms of our convening power. We can invite powerful actors to our table, which has become one of the distinctive features of GPPAC. This could be the UN, SAARC or the African Union,” added Torres.

The GPPAC week which is held in Sri Lanka from June 4 – 8 consists of the GPPAC International Steering Group (ISG) meeting, the conference on ‘Trends in Youth Radicalization in South Asia’ and the Regional Steering Group (RSG) meeting GPPAC South Asia. There are 33 participants across the 15 regions.

“GPPAC is constantly thinking and strategizing how to use the network better and more effectively and make a difference in the issues we deal with. This week has been extremely exciting and energizing and we are all looking forward to such meetings,” said Torres.

Torres remarked that GPPAC looks at nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts, pointing out that the availability of arms is a driver that makes it easy for violence.

“We would like to see a greater control of small arms. The greater availability of arms, the greater the potential of using them. I come from Latin America, which unfortunately is one of the regions where the use of small arms is more widely spread by common criminals. This is something we should all try to combat. We need to de-activate these violent drivers in everyday life,” explained Torres.

The role the youth can play in conflict prevention and peace building is vital. At the GPPAC week attention was paid to looking at some of the drivers and motivations that prompt youth to join extremist organisations.

“We also looked at some of the strategies and work done in regions to understand this process better. We also want to counter this process so as to prevent the potential for radicalization. We want to do this by sharing our perspectives and experiences to find solutions. This is why we say that the role of the youth is critical. Conflict Prevention is a long time process. How are we going to manage our future together? This must transcend our own life span. We must think in more intergenerational terms. We need to look at intergenerational dialogue. We must inculcate such a line of thinking in the youth, so we can build a future together,” pointed out Torres.

GPPAC week

Torres added that it is extremely heartening that Peace Builders have visited Sri Lanka for the GPPAC week.

“We are here to make change happen. We are here to see how we can make that happen. Speaking from my own experiences, I am originally from Columbia which has been in pervasive conflict for decades. When you grow up in that context, you think about what you can do. This was my motivation to get engaged in this field of conflict prevention and peace building. Then I started to learn about international politics and world affairs. What I experience in Columbia can be seen in different parts of the world. The lessons of those regions apply to different contexts.

That has been my motivation and drive to work in this field. You can learn from others. What really drives me is the ‘globalness’ of GPPAC,” said Torres.

Torres also pointed out that bringing GPPAC to Sri Lanka gives most of these participants an opportunity to learn about Sri Lanka and understand its context.

“To focus on Sri Lanka in a post conflict scenario gives us a chance to learn about Sri Lanka’s reconciliation experience. So we all looked forward to these discussions. We also need to look at the appeal that terrorist organisations have for people. We need to look at what motivates people to join these organisations, and what they offer that attracts people to them. What are the root causes? So we are here to learn all of this during the GPPAC week,” said Torres. 


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