MESSENGERS OF PEACE

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In 2012, Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia, as part of an ongoing effort to grow and strengthen collaboration with civil society rolled out a 21 day peace activism programme.

In MOP, we recognize that partnership with individuals and organizations cut across every aspect of our work, helping to bring about results that no organization can achieve independently. We (MOP) believe that partnership and collaborative relationships with others are critical to delivering results for peace consolidation in Liberia.

Since its establishment in 2008, MOP has worked with several partners, starting with the Community Outreach programme, Public Information Section-UNMIL, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, The Catholic Church-Liberia, The Carter Center, International Alert, Shirley Ann Sullivan Educational Foundation, Peace Building Office, Youth Action International, Center for Media studies and peacebuilding, United Nations Volunteer Programme-Liberia(UNV) and other broad range of partners worldwide to advocate for sustainable peace and development in Liberia.

In December 2013, MOP, through its Friends of MOP initiated a month long fundraising campaign to mobilize resources for its peace clubs and to raise public awareness about the need for durable peace. The “Dollar for Peace Campaign” is our first incursion with the public and the corporate sector. MOP’s goal is to engage national peace partnership with the private sector through the corporate social responsibility programme and with other non-public partners to develop a joint response to issues of peace consolidation. The full potential of partnership and collaborative relationship with the private sector would be explored further in the years ahead.

All youth based and volunteer based organizations are working towards a common goal of sustainable peace. Therefore, cooperation, collaboration and partnerships are ingredients required to defuse tensions, between communities and countries of the West African region and thereby reduce the risk of increased conflicts.

The Palava hut system and the early warning programmes are great examples for peace partnership and collaboration.

Our experience partnering with various stake holders has shown that peacebuilding strategies of Peace Advocacy, partnership and engagement are becoming the over arching national planning tool in many post conflict environment, providing a vital opportunity for placing peace initiatives as the core of national development programmes using a multi-sectoral and scaled up response.

Using capacity building and partnership strengthening approaches to address peace building and consolidation issues, helps ensure synergy and avoid duplication of programmes. It also helps to foster greater alignment between global initiative and national development strategies and to acc as a conduit between local and national actors and national peace policy making processes.

The importance of partnering for peace in Liberia cannot be overemphasized and despite the benefits of peace partnership, important challenges exist, for instance, not one non-governmental organization, Government organization and even the private sector has the capacity to leverage the strategic and allocative priority of global programme funds for peace. Many partnerships rely on piece meal, ad hoc and hand down approaches to access funds.

MOP firm believes that existing silo, ad hoc and piece meal approaches to building and consolidation of peace in Liberia helps no one. Too often peace building initiatives are still treated as an “add on” or optional extra not seen as important by the private sector.

 During the planning phase of last year International Day of Peace, MOP approached one of the telephone companies with a proposal for partnership but was informed the company was more interested in growing their clientele. Given that private sector has no history of partnering for peace with local NGOs, it is about time to start one.

We have come to understand that capacity building programmes and sponsorships explicitly support primary stakeholders and not everyone. Access to new digital social media system to collect quantitative and quality date from counties for early warning and dissemination of information and for monitoring is limited.

There is a general lack of organization-wide and coherent understanding of what partnerships and collaborative relationships are; what value they can add to the realization of sustainable peace and what form of cooperation is most appropriate under which circumstances.

Our interactions with private partners, international organizations and even other local non-governmental organizations have shown bureaucratic burden as one of the most important burdens in working with partners. Most private organizations still too often see local peace builders as mere contractors, service providers and implementing agents rather than as genuine partners.

What most NGOs want are relevant relationships that deliver real value. Fully embracing partnerships and collaborative networking; either formal or informal; is the only way of doing peace business. This, however, entails a transformation of current mindset of individuals and organizations.

Messengers of Peace-Liberia is more interested in getting tangible value in return for their time, attention, endorsement and data. We therefore urge organizations, particularly the private sector to acknowledge other local NGOs as genuine partners operating at eye level in the pursuit of common goals, rather than as mere sponsors, supporters or agents.

Messengers of Peace will pursue a way forward by increasing, in the short term, the use of informal collaborative relationships and strengthen cooperation with knowledge partners and build strategic alliance with the media. In its medium term plan, MOP intends to organize an annual social responsibility recognition award for all private enterprise operating in Liberia. A more strategic approach through information sharing, networking, collaboration and partnership is not only essential but critical.

This article is best surmised by an African saying “One hand cannot tie a bundle” The message here is the need to create space for the meaningful involvement and participation of civil society in the peace consolidation process. It’s something worth thinking about.

Until next week, remember: Peace, above all, Peace First. Let Peace Prevail.

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