18 October 2023
CENTRE FOR MEDIATION IN AFRICA
CENTRE FOR MEDIATION IN AFRICA
Ubunye: Communities standing together
This project responds to the need for local level intervention to swiftly and effectively address festering conflicts that could result in national or regional unrest if left unaddressed. Given the already fragmented nature of South African communities due to Apartheid legacy, the current state crisis, the gender-based violence crisis, and other looming tensions, and anxieties around the forthcoming 2024 elections, the Ubunye project is a timely and relevant intervention with a strong social transformation agenda.
Ubunye, which means unity, reflects the spirit of this project which seeks to link conflict resolution and mediation at the local level with that of the provincial and national levels. Working closely with traditional leaders, and municipalities, and their existing networks, the project will develop an innovative digital stakeholder map, co-establish local peace networks across regions – beginning with the Eastern Cape, and a digital tracking system to ensure the sustainability of the networks. Training in mediation and trauma will be undertaken in collaboration with the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture, Cape Town. The project is funded by the Embassy of France in South Africa, with additional support from the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands. Project timeline: September 2023 – September 2025.
Conflict at the national level in almost every instance finds its roots in local conflicts at the community level that have remained unresolved. In South Africa, the unrest that erupted in July of 2021 was evidence of the way in which festering conflicts at a very local level can be instrumentalised and ignited in order to support disruptive political agendas and place a country at risk. Central to these festering conflicts are communities which are highly fragmented as a result of the legacy of Apartheid as well as South Africa’s current crisis of state.
What is needed is an intervention at the local level that can assist in addressing festering conflict quickly and effectively before it ignites into a national or even regional crisis. This is particularly pertinent with the upcoming national elections in 2024. Our proposed project seeks to do this by linking conflict resolution and mediation at the local level with that of the provincial and national levels.
Following the ‘spider approach’ that has effectively been utilised by John Lederach, one of the world’s leading thinkers in conflict transformation, together with the Natural Resource Conflict Transformation Centre in Nepal, we propose developing and piloting a local intervention which can be scaled to the provincial, national and even regional level. Working closely with traditional leaders, and municipalities, and their existing networks, this would include an innovative digital stakeholder mapping exercise, the establishment of a peace committee network across regions, and a digital tracking system to ensure the sustainability of the networks. The project will be piloted in the Mthatha area of the Eastern Cape. We hope to work with the support of traditional leaders and stakeholders to build on what they are already doing in their communities.
Six phases are planned for this project over a 12 month period: i) dialogue/needs analysis with stakeholders, ii) digital mapping, iii) establishing peace networks, iv) establishing and sustaining tracking system, v) linking networks to one another, and vi) exploring how to link local peace networks to national systems and the IEC.
- A digital map based on the information collected in phase one will be developed that will be available to stakeholders. This digital map visualises all the people, policies, processes, institutions and systems working in the area of governance, peace and security.
- The peace networks are envisioned to operate as spider networks. ‘Spiders’ are those at the local level already actively building peace in their communities. Partnering with them, and supporting them in the work they are already doing, allows us to build and strengthen webs of peace between key stakeholders at the local, provincial and national levels. The emphasis is on building and strengthening connections between people, processes, institutions, policies and systems at every level.
- Training in mediation and trauma together with the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture will be undertaken in Phase 3. The training speaks to the relationship between unresolved trauma and the eruption of conflict and violence at the interpersonal as well as social and political levels. Co-learning will be encouraged as we gain from the expertise and experience that trainees bring from their unique contexts.