A top African award for contribution to peace and conflict management – particularly in the field of women’s rights and empowerment – was presented to the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) at a glittering ceremony in the Malian capital, Bamako, last night.
The Tombouctou Award Ceremony was organized as part of the Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS – “African Women in Solidarity”) “Conference on Gender, Peace and Security: Capitalizing on 10 years of Women’s Experience to Celebrate the Work and Efforts of Peace Advocates in Africa Towards the Empowerment and Advancement of Women on the Continent”. The reception ceremony was hosted in Mali in commemoration of the country’s pacific resolution of the La “rebellion touareg”, in the vicinity of the Flamme Tombouctou, a recognized symbol of peace and reconciliation.
ACCORD has, over the past 14 years, earned the reputation of being one of the most successful NGOs in Africa in the areas of conflict resolution and mediation. In 2005, it was the first African NGO to address the United Nations Security Council and the UN has endorsed its unique peace model. The organisation has supported peace efforts in countries as diverse as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia and East Timor. Its most recent intervention has been in the conflict in Burundi in which it lent its expertise to the South African government’s mediation efforts to resolve the tensions there. ACCORD maintains a fully staffed office in Bujumbura in addition to its headquarters in Durban.
“Being recognized with the Tombouctou Award is special as it focuses exclusively on women’s rights and women’s empowerment. Over the last 14 years we have trained over 12 000 people throughout Africa in conflict prevention, mediation and leadership skills. A solid proportion of those have been women,” said Mr Vasu Gounden, Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD.
ACCORD’s next major project is the Africa Peace Centre (APC), which is to be built in Durban. The secure, state of the art complex will be a residential facility where parties in conflict situations, whether governments, rebel movements or civil society organisations, can sit down with mediators and facilitators to find common ground.
The key objective of the APC, according to Gounden, “…is to build capacity in Africa for the prevention of conflicts and, where conflicts do arise, to have a facility that can speed up our response time and provide support to sustain any peace initiative beyond the agreement phase.”