- Human Security Goal
Since taking on an advisory role for the Alliance for Peacebuilding I have been pondering the meaning of security in light of the stream of violence and fear that wash through our news each day.
I contend that the opposite of violence is not peace. It is imagination and creation. To put energy into these enterprises will bring about a human centered security that truly fits the UN definition . . . freedom from want, freedom from fear and a life lived with dignity.
Focusing on fighting the enemy, is I believe, a distraction from nurturing the deep roots of security and inner peace. I can imagine a day when the human race will no longer waste so much energy on fighting the enemy and will instead focus on satisfying our most pressing needs as well as imagining and creating the things that fill our deepest desires and those of others. In the coming few blog posts I will be contemplating true human-centered security in light of one of the grand visions I am working toward; the end of the enemy paradigm. I will ponder a few ideas and skills that will suggest how to create this new human space where genuine security can thrive for the earth and ALL her inhabitants.
A simple coffee bean bringing world peace. Sound outrageous? Well that is the grand plan if the PeaceBuilders Community Incorporated (PBCI) in Davao City, Mindanao has its way. Beginning only ten years ago as a presence among parties in the long running wars in the southern Philippines, they currently have Peace and Reconciliation Communities spread throughout the Philippines. Even if this was all that visionary Dann Pantoja and the team at PBCI would have accomplished this would have been admirable.
However, connecting the values of justice and peace to a fair trade coffee business has made this venture down right remarkable. In ten short years Coffee for Peace (the entrepreneurial arm of the vision) has vastly increased what rural coffee farmers receive for their beans while encouraging the producer communities in a whole range of integrated skills. From tending coffee plants, to reforestation, to financial management skills to training baristas, the business acumen of Joji Pantoja has made this the social impact enterprise to watch. Indeed this merger of peace and coffee has attracted much attention earning Coffee for Peace numerous awards and notoriety from the United Nations, Price-Waterhouse Cooper, The Asian Development Bank and more.
With so much doom and gloom the world, I am inspired and humbled to have seen this story close up from the beginning as PBCI and Coffee for Peace make the world just a little more harmonious . . . one cup at a time.
Outside the University is a Daabshiil Money Exchange. I am continually struck by how this bank is more like an ordinary block house with doors and windows wide open to the busy street in front of the university main gate. I once had to cash a check there and two guys, feet propped up on the counter, were lazily texting. Approaching them, I greeting in Somali language and they gave the obligatory laugh to the foreigner who uses broken and rusty vernacular. Cashing the check was as easy as countersigning it. They pulled open a drawer piled full of currency. Somali Shillings, USD and maybe other currencies from the Middle East and Euros. Having gotten my money, then walking away, I turned and noticed them back in standard repose. I am told that some of the money changers downtown just cover up their stacks of money and go to the mosque to pray when it is time. Security is that lax.
What kind of confidence does this place have that a bank or money changer can be so relaxed about security? Nowhere on earth do I know of another place like this. Could it be guns? There are plenty of old Kalashnikovs around Hargeisa from the days of war in the 80’s. But if it were guns that make for security the US would have NO crime. So it can’t be guns. Could it be prosperity? No it can’t be prosperity. Again, the US would be pretty secure and Somaliland would be the world of Mad Max. I think it has something to do with an intact social fabric that is eloquent and nuanced through an oral tradition. Somalilanders have a long history of clan interaction, recitation of connection through ancestry and an oral tradition as a conflict resolution mechanism.
At this time of stress over racial injustice, political insecurity, international terrorism, domestic shootings in the US, might we take a lesson from Somalilanders? Next time we are tempted to become overwhelmed with all our nation’s problems, ask a simple question of ‘who is my neighbor’ and how are our lives connected and intertwined?” Then respond accordingly as we are so good at doing. We know how to do this people!
My colleagues at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute suggest there are at least three views of things that are metaphoric for seeking solutions to violent conflict. The view from a helicopter, Land Rover and walking. Viewing problems from a helicopter presents a flattened and panoramic field of vision where only major features of the terrain are visible. A helicopter leaps to the ‘destination’ without the inconvenience and snarls of vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
The view from the Land Rover is a more nuanced, giving a ground level understanding of the bumps and twists in the road. The temptation is to drive at high speeds through villages to get to a destination some distance ahead. From behind the tinted glass, the rider gets a detached perspective never having to come face to face with real people. That is unless the vehicle stops and the rider alights.
It’s only in walking that one grasps, viscerally, the difficulty of traversing the road. Through the five senses the heat of the sun, the smells and sounds of the journey becomes intimately familiar to the walker. Might the solutions that emerge from struggling on the journey together, walking shoulder to shoulder, be the most sustainable even though they are the ‘slowest’? What will it take to get us out of our helicopters and Land Rovers and get a bit of road dust on our feet?
As I travel back into Somaliland for the sixth time since I began coming here in March 2013 I am taking stock in what, if anything, I have actually contributed toward the greater common good here. Is it only me as a trainer who walks away from an intense 4 days of grappling with the tough issues and interventions of conflict, wondering if he/she has contributed anything?
Yet I keep reminding myself that peacebuilding is fundamentally about relationships. Restoring broken ones, building capacity in others to resist injustice and networking so as create new initiatives. People also have relationships with social groupings and/or organizations. So learning how to relate to others, be they people or structures is also a key part of the relationships of peacebuilding.
Institutions are notoriously NOT fond of funding relational initiatives. I think this is in part because relationships are hard to measure. I have been thinking about doing justice to measuring relationships and wondering what metrics might be helpful. I have toyed around with a ‘relational resilience matrix’ and associated benefits. I need to research who else has been thinking along these lines.
21 July 2016
I’ve heard the national election cycle in the Philippines called the ‘silly season.’ I am traveling outside the US just at the time when one of our political parties is having its convention and the TVs in the airports I transit through are abuzz with pundits and talking heads and balloons on the convention hall floor. I saw a TV headline that summarized one political party sentiment stating that “the other presidential candidate is the enemy.” WOW! That’s not silly…that is the deadly serious rhetoric of civil war.
Human Security, my new best phrase, has a fairly simple definition. The UN defines it as freedom from want, freedom from fear and a life lived with dignity. The current political climate seems to be moving us away from all three. Shouldn’t our democracy provide us a greater sense of security? When people become our enemy instead of racism, greed, poverty and apathy toward civic participation we are in deep trouble as a nation. What happened to appeals for the greater common good, enhanced and robust communities and optimism?
As I head off to teach a short course on human security and peacebuilding at the University of Hargeisa, I am conscious of the enormous amount of work that needs to be done in the US on true, people-centered security. Perhaps a starting place is to expand our collective consciousness and practice gratitude for all that goes right even during the silly season.
Posted in: Musings, Travel
I had the privilege of attending a conference in The Hague, Netherlands where civil society peacebuilding organizations and military leaders launched a new era of coordination effort around human security. The conference was held at one of the NATO Centers of Excellence focusing on Civil/Military Cooperation.
Lisa Schirch shepherded a three year process of collaboration with global civil society networks, police and military that has produced a very useful training manual that will enhance global human security. Human security is defined as freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity (Handbook on Human Security, 149).
One of the most referred to case studies was the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute’s engagement with the Philippine Military. Three representatives from that work were present. General (retired) Ferrer, longtime MPI facilitator Deng Giguiento attended and myself gave a case study of the process of MPI, as a civil organization, accepting the Philippine Military officers in the peacebuilding trainings. I was Deng’s co-facilitator in 2005 when General Ferrer first attended.
Cmdr (ret) Thomas of the German Navy, Deng of MPI, Jon of MPI/Etown College, General (ret) Ferrer of the Philippine Army
Swords to Plowshares . . . from a British military barracks built to fend off Napoleon in the early 1800s to a peace and reconciliation center called Glen Cree.
Seen on assignment with Brethren Colleges Abroad (BCA) in Ireland.
A year ago I started resourcing this curriculum writing project in Lao PDR. This visit is my last for this project. It has been exhilarating to watch new capacities being built in people and institutions here. I have tremendous hope because of the transformation I have witnessed throughout this project. I have learned much from helping to translate the concepts of peacebuilding into such a unique and exotic context.
Thanks MCC, MCC Lao Staff, IGE and the individuals who have touch my life on this sojourn.
??? Does what I do have any impact ???
!!! I often ponder this question !!!
!!! Perhaps . . . as ripples on the water gradually spread out to gently lap the distant shoreline ???
??? The alternative is tsunami washing away all in its path !!!