Fri | Dec 9, 2016

The dilemma faced in peace management

Published:Thursday | March 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Horace Levy, member of the mediation group Peace Management Initiative.

The following is the fifth excerpt from the recently published book 'Killing Streets and Community Revival', authored by Horace Levy, member of the mediation group Peace Management Initiative. See Excerpt Six in Friday's Gleaner.

A critical issue has been the dilemma that the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) faced from early. This was its having to respond to community clashes in several different areas in rapid succession but needing simultaneously to focus intensively on an individual community or set of communities with developmental initiatives in order to make their ceasefire sustainable.

With only one staff person for the first 21 months and a board of unpaid volunteers saddled with their regular and mostly demanding jobs, it was the first 'extensive' option that was generally pursued. Outbreaks of violence, what with their publicity, always won immediate attention ... . The PMI had no choice but to combine the two approaches. But it is clear from the results achieved that a heavier emphasis on the intensive, through having more resources … would have brought much greater benefit ... .

Thus, it was a year and a half before a group of communities in one area received ongoing, really intensive treatment, the kind of community developmental inputs that could guide and steady an area on to an entirely new path. Mountain View was that area, from July 2003 after a series of eight killings triggered by the local government elections. As the data below will show, the outcome in terms of numbers of deaths was very positive - until 2006-07, when a national election politician sowed the land mines that reversed many of the earlier gains.

Social development

The development referred to here is not the housing, schools and infrastructure of various kinds that people tend to think of when that word is used. It is rather what some refer to as social development:

Training in skills/trades or academic subjects (at e.g. Excelsior Educational Centre (EXED) or HEART National Training Agency).

Training in mediation and conflict resolution (by the Dispute Resolution Foundation).

Small grants for group income-earning projects, as well as job-locating outside the community by a professional person employed for this purpose.

Intercommunity sport competitions (e.g. in 2007 right through the election period, of 26 football teams citywide, each team comprising members from rival corners, funded by, especially, the United Nations Populations Fund but also USAID and also of netball for the girls), and six-a-side corner leagues.

Cultural activities (e.g. led very effectively in Mountain View and Rose Town by Area Youth Krew/Foundation).

Residential retreats out of the city (for 50-70 youth from widely separate communities) around such topics as violence, revenge, sex, health, discipline, careers and community life.

Health and information or opportunity fairs.

Community-based summer camps.

Community fix-up projects, e.g. repainting a basic school.

Counselling and (for traumatised young children and mothers) therapeutic field trips involving a specially organised team of counsellors, and victim support.

Open community and leadership meetings.

Cross-city leadership conferences.

A 'peace council' of leaders of the rival adjoining communities or community sections.

This last, the 'peace council', has been particularly important. It grows naturally out of weekly or fortnightly mediation meetings. Although comprising at the outset of corner leaders, the aim is to gradually broaden it to include 'elders' representative of the broader community. The council is essential not only initially for maintaining communication between sections and thus quelling the rumours that tend to abound, become 'real' and lead to fresh outbreaks of shooting, but also for building trust and as an ongoing forum for sharing ideas on developmental and welfare needs and the steps to be taken to meet them.

To address those needs, the council is put in touch with other agencies better resourced financially than the PMI and with specific interests, or these bodies are invited to council meetings. The PMI has had a long list of partners, drawn in and on according to the particular aspect of the work, as well as a few funding sources. The PMI opened up communities so that other agencies like the Jamaica Social Investment Fund or Citizen Security and Justice Programme could enter and make their input, the violence having prevented or terminated their initiatives. With the Violence Prevention Alliance, an umbrella grouping out of the Ministry of Health, and also with Grace and Staff (whose community work director sits on the PMI board), especially vibrant and helpful partnerships developed.

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