From 2 to 4 September 2014, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), was represented in the Experts Consultation on Reconciliation as a Mechanism for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The consultation, which was organised around the theme ‘Reconciliation as a mechanism for conflict prevention and peacebuilding’, brought together a large number of international civil society actors, as well as representatives of different United Nations (UN) bodies and agencies.
Stemming from the recognition that reconciliation can play a critical role in terms of sustainable peace and development, especially in countries emerging from violent conflict, the consultation primarily aimed to garner insights and experiences from practitioners in the field, as well as from academics, in order to advance a more up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of reconciliation as an effective approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
The consultation, which was arranged around plenary discussions and break-away groups, was framed within the understanding that despite notable successes, there are growing concerns about the effectiveness and utility of reconciliation – with particular regard to the contestations which exist vis-í -vis its longer-term contributions to social cohesion, and how it may or may not lead to broader national dialogue.
In addition, the evening agenda of the meeting involved the screening of a number of documentaries on the role and impact of reconciliation as a mechanism for conflict prevention and peacebuilding around the world.
Discussions during the event mainly focused on:
- exploring different perspectives and understandings of reconciliation across numerous key case studies
- reflecting on what constitutes ‘successful’ reconciliation processes
- identifying the long-term dimensions and implications of reconciliation and the key challenges which have stood in the way of reconciliation efforts and interventions.
The consultation concluded with a comprehensive discussion of how best reconciliation, as a mechanism for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, could be advanced, better understood and institutionalised specifically, by the UNDP through its efforts to support sustainable peace and development throughout the world.
The event provided a critical platform for ACCORD, not only to share its own experiences in terms of conflict prevention and peacebuilding in Africa, but to also learn and reflect on the current and unique insights provided by practitioners and academics, many of which were based on the work they were doing in conflict zones across the world.