What does peace mean to you?

What does peace mean to you?
by Allison LIRA for Shared Future News
26 March 2019

Held at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Concern Worldwide’s Project US in partnership with Challenges NI facilitated a World Cafe conversation around the UN Sustainable Development Goals developed in 2015. The event was part of the Imagine Festival and focused on the 16th goal of Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, which aims to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity.”

The event formed part of a broader effort by Project US to connect the local level in Ireland to the UN Global Goals. Attendees of the event were encouraged to discuss what the realisation of the 16th goal of Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions meant to them. Armed with an array of colourful markers and large sheets of white paper, participants discussed in small groups the guiding questions proposed by the facilitators and jotted down the ideas that were produced. After a few minutes of discussion, the facilitators asked one representative from each small group to share with the wider group what their table’s thoughts were surrounding the question proposed. Topics of discussion included issues of peacebuilding as well as government transparency and inclusion.

On the topic of peacebuilding both at home and abroad, many interesting and interrelated ideas were shared. Some spoke of the issue of justice, with one man emphasising who said that “there is no peace without justice”. The importance of addressing issues of inequality and the protection of minority interests was stressed.

Others touched on the importance of education. Breaking this down further, some were focused on peace education and issues of integration, while others stressed equal access to quality education, especially for women and young girls.

Lastly, the theme of a bottom-up approach to peacebuilding was expressed repeatedly. Many participants discussed the need to build trust. A young woman noted that in order for initiatives to be effective, the governing body attempting to implement them must be regarded as the legitimate governing body in the eyes of the people.

Related to this, participants were asked to discuss ideas surrounding creating transparent and inclusive institutions. On this topic, participants noted the challenges facing governing institutions worldwide, such as increased political polarisation, government corruption, and lack of trust.

To address these issues, many participants discussed the importance of accountability. A few ideas for holding governing institutions accountable were floated. Some mentioned the need to build stronger protections against the outsized influence of special interest groups.

Others talked about greater local representation in decision making as well as finding ways to encourage greater public engagement in politics at all levels. Another important point made had to do with the need to not just build trust vertically but also laterally, especially in conflict affected places. Strategies proposed for accomplishing this included better, more accessible public transportation and the creation of shared spaces where people of diverse backgrounds could come together.

At the end of the discussion, the facilitators collected the sheets of paper that held the group’s ideas. They informed the group that the ideas discussed during the event were going to be condensed into a report that will be delivered to the UN.

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