The Secretary-Generalís new Report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict (June 2001) emphasises that "primary responsibility for conflict prevention rests with national Governments and other local actors." This Africa region-wide project, entitled Capacity-Building in Conflict Management, is based on this premise and builds, as well, on the recommendations of the Third African Governance Forum (AGF III) for improving skills in conflict management. The overarching objective is to assist Governments and civil society partners in sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen their capacities for anticipating, containing and managing conflict situations. To do this, the project has developed training workshops for government officials and their civil society counterparts to: analyze conflicts and develop strategic responses; work effectively in conflict environments; and, enrich development policies and practices with conflict resolution tools and techniques. Over the past two years, the project has collaborated with a group of African and international conflict transformation specialists in developing intensive, participatory workshops that address the following subjects:
1) conflict analysis and early response development;
2) skills development for conflict transformation;
3) conflict-sensitive approaches to development; and,
4) governance and conflict management.
The group of fifteen conflict transformation specialists met first in Addis Ababa (September 2000) for a thematic content and design brainstorming session. A design critique meeting was held several months later in Kampala (February 2001) which reassembled the design teams to refine the content and training methodology for each thematic subject. The design teams then finalized the material and delivered pilot workshops around the continent, with the aim of introducing the basic project concepts on conflict management to a wider audience, further improving the course material, and evaluating its effectiveness in developing skills that enhance national capacity for managing conflict.
A number of UNDP Country Offices in sub-Saharan Africa responded enthusiastically to the building of local capacities for dealing with conflict and offered to host in-country pilot workshops. The four different modules were piloted in workshops for mixed audiences of government officials, NGO and civil society in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zimbabwe in 2001 and 2002. In each case, the initial workshop has been an impetus for expanded efforts in the subject. In Zimbabwe, a preparatory assistance project is currently delivering five more workshops for parliamentarians, government officials and civil society. In Uganda, the national management institute has requested assistance to integrate and offer all four training modules as part of their regular curriculum. In Kenya and Sierra Leone, steering committees have been organized to decide upon on-going activities and formulate full-fledged national projects.
The next phase of the project aims to strengthen these partnerships with Governments, UNDP and local universities and training institutions to meet their wider conflict management skills development needs. It aims to tailor the training material to countriesí specific needs, transfer the workshops courses and enhance the participatory training skills of local institutions. This will work toward the projectís ultimate goal of enhancing governmentís abilities to manage conflict by having conflict transformation skills training offered widely by local institutions in different parts of the continent.
The next phase of the project also aims to meet other institutional and capacity development needs in conflict management for countries that participated in the pilot workshops as well as additional countries interested in enhancing their knowledge-base and skills in conflict management. First, within the realm of training, is to ensure that the material is locally adapted and self-sustaining by collaborating with local institutions to deliver the training material, as needed, in indigenous languages and for different target audiences.
The second project aim is to develop and strengthen those governance institutions and mechanisms directly involved in managing conflicts. This includes advisory services coupled with introductory workshops in response to requests for policy advice and guidance on conflict management skills development and practice. In addition to overall institutional assessment and development, it may include the establishment and staffing of mediation centers, ADR and court-annexed mediation programmes; strengthening the conflict resolution capacities of ombudsman and human rights institutions; implementing decentralization and diversity management policies in ethnically diverse communities; working with development ministries and agencies on cross-conflict initiatives that jointly address development and coexistence-building needs; and other modalities for instituting dialogue and consensus-building processes to address divisive issues.
As inputs from the pilots are integrated, the training workshops and course material will be available to wider audiences around the continent. New partners, such as regional organizations, bi-lateral development agencies, training institutes and other interested groups, are welcome to collaborate with the project teams and use the training materials and workshops to meet the needs of their staff and clients.
In addition, it is hoped that other international and bi-lateral agencies will support the next institution-building phase of the project. This will permit the UN to collaborate more widely with local institutions, such as public administration and management institutes, universities and local NGOs, to transfer the material and have the workshops become part of the institutionís regular course curriculum, available on a regular basis to national and international officials and their civil society partners.
We welcome an exploration of such collaboration with local institutions and development/aid agencies. Please feel free to share this information with individuals and institutions working on these subjects and interested in cooperating in this initiative. The project is currently operational in sub-Saharan Africa. However, we have received inquiries from other parts of the world about replicating this model of developing training modules by composing design teams of local specialists and then working to establish the training at local institutions. Interested parties are invited to contact UN Headquarters in New York at Tel. 212-963-8381 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.