Nearly 60 traditional and urban community leaders, including youth and women, from Honiara city and all nine provinces are strengthening their ability to prevent and resolve conflict through a four-day workshop in Honiara.
Socio-economic development, political stability and social cohesion in Solomon Islands largely depend on the sustainable and inclusive development of provincial urban centers, where conflict is inherent.
The workshop organized by the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace (MNURP) will help leaders analyze and develop a non-violent approach to conflict and learn mediation skills.
In opening the workshop, Deputy Director of the MNURP, Malaita Province, Genesis Kofana said chiefs and church and community leaders have considerable experience as peacebuilders across the country.
“After the tensions, every institution failed. Only the church and the women and youth groups that stayed in the villages were able to maintain peace and able to re-grow Solomon Islands,” he said.
“They have been playing that role informally, but this workshop has enabled us to bring the leaders together to formally train them to recognize that skill.”
Mr. Kofana added that community and traditional leaders remain important resources in maintaining peace at the local level.
The peacebuilding and mediation workshop is supported by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project, which is jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women.
Workshop sessions will cover peacebuilding, understanding the basics of conflict and how to mitigate escalation to violence to maintain peace in communities. Trauma and healing will also be addressed along with counseling and mediation services available to victims of conflict in the country.
According to a 2017 UN peacebuilding survey of 2,500 people from across Solomon Islands, more than 76 percent of all respondents said they knew of a dispute that occurred in their community within the past 12 months.
In her opening remarks, UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager Azusa Kubota said seemingly small conflicts have the potential to escalate if those involved lack the skills to manage them.
“When tensions increase to such a level that they begin to restrict economic activity and affect personal security, it stifles business, development and investment,” Ms. Kubota said.
She added that if businesses leave and take opportunities with them, it influences cohesion in the community and the country.
“Community leadership plays a very important role in maintaining peace and accelerating prosperity,” Ms. Kubota said.
By participating in the peacebuilding and mediation workshop, leaders are expected to develop skills to address the root causes of conflict in their communities, employing nonviolent resolutions that help them collaborate with governments and NGO partners to ensure sustainable peace and development.