As we were preparing the material for this issue, important aspects of our human reality seemed to present themselves for more intense attention, further meditation and appropriate action. The three that struck me most, are diversity, commonality and co-operation.
Diversity could already be noticed in the geographical contexts of the articles and book reviews. The articles are about Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The book reviews are about Africa, Israel-Palestine and South Africa. A diverse variety of human groups are dealt with – followers and chiefs, women and men, youths and politicians, employees and employers, children and warlords, politicians and people of different religious and cultural convictions. Different approaches to conflict are discussed:
- Promoting transformative mediation in which parties are empowered to resolve their conflict themselves, and in which they are guided towards recognising and understanding the concerns of each other.
- Including women in conflict-resolving talks and decision-making mechanisms, and empowering them to fulfil their gender-assertive responsibilities.
- Propagating pro-democracy elements, especially in situations where democracy is ruled out by an unassailable, ethnicised and militarised government.
- Developing and making better use of internal mechanisms for dealing with labour disputes, and building the capacity of parties to explore alternatives and utilise them in less adversarial ways.
- Addressing the structural conditions that facilitate the militarising of Africa’s children and youth, and accommodating the potentially constructive contributions of activism-minded youth.
- Propagating integrity among political and religious leaders.
These accounts do present us with various kinds of conflict among various groups of people and various ways of dealing with the conflicts. If, however, we read these contributions in receptive and meditative ways, we can also experience strong feelings of commonality. The settings and situations may differ from our own, but all of us are probably from contexts where similar or comparable problems and conflicts have to be dealt with. Few places, if any, are exempt from challenges with regard to:
- gender equity and gender assertiveness,
- transparency and integrity when people are appointed to jobs or dismissed from jobs, and
- responses and reactions from children, youths and adults to selfish and stubborn political leaders or groups.
It is possible, therefore, that implied or specifically stated recommendations from far-away places may prove to be very appropriate where each of us happens to be co-existing with fellow-humans around us.
In addition to thoughts about diversity and commonality derived from the written material, we as editing team also had the advantage of experiencing these aspects in our own midst. Earlier in this year, our editorial team has enjoyed the privilege of doubling its size and becoming international.
Richard Kamidza, a Zimbabwean citizen, has joined ACCORD as another senior researcher and as Managing Editor of this journal. His research is focused on conflict transformation in Africa, particularly West and North Africa. With his B.Sc. Hons. in Economics and M.A. in Policy Studies, and his experience of working in regional organisations, he is well equipped to provide policy analysis and proposals for strategic responses and appropriate interventions. He has done consultancy work for various organisations in Zimbabwe and beyond. His last post before joining ACCORD was that of Programmes Co-ordinator, Senior Policy Analyst and Research Fellow at the Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI). He has written research papers, policy articles and book chapters, and has presented papers at various national, regional and international conferences.
Tor Sellström, a Swedish citizen, has joined ACCORD as Senior Advisor. Besides serving on the Editorial Board of this journal, he is co-ordinating the Research Unit and working with the Director’s Office in several important projects. He has studied at the Universities of Stockholm, Barcelona and Paris, and has for more than twenty years worked in six Southern African countries. As Planning Economist with the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA), he co-ordinated support to the Liberation Movements in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. He later worked in senior research posts at the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit in Windhoek and the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala. At this Institute he co-ordinated a project on the role of the Nordic countries in the national liberation in Southern Africa. For the last three years he has been Counsellor (Economist) for development co-operation at the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria. His publications include books, chapters and articles on international development assistance and on regional co-operation and public administration in Southern Africa.
More details about these new members of our editorial team, as well as their pictures, may be found in the staff section of ACCORD’s website. What can also be seen in this website section is that although the editorial team is not gender-balanced, the four new senior researchers are. Moreover, the technical assistance and the design and layout of the journal are done by women – Karabo Rajuili and Angela Thomas.
So, in our editorial work, we indeed have the benefits of a valuable diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, talents and skills. And as we contribute our assessments, analyses, insights and suggestions, we experience the thrill of our commonality. Precisely this interrelatedness of diversity and commonality inspires us to a kind of co-operation that is very meaningful – and very pleasant.
This is the third aspect I have mentioned at the beginning: the inter-human possibility of cordially co-operating with each other. We trust that the material in this issue contains enough that may stimulate readers to maintain and enhance the quality of their co-operation with others. We are so different, but we are also so similar! We are joined together by so many factors. And so many people around us, as truly human as each of us, may be ready to co-operate, or may be waiting for some of us to co-operate to bring about much-needed changes.