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Civil society an ‘unwavering force’ for peace: UN official

A vibrant civil society is a fundamental part of democracy. Pictured here, voters at a polling booth in Liberia. (file)
UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
A vibrant civil society is a fundamental part of democracy. Pictured here, voters at a polling booth in Liberia. (file)

Civil society an ‘unwavering force’ for peace: UN official

Peace and Security

Civil society organizations are on the “frontlines” of peacebuilding, a senior UN official said on Thursday, as the Organization convened the inaugural dialogue with grassroots organizations aimed at building and nurturing peace initiatives on the ground.

Elizabeth Spehar, UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, emphasized the importance of civil society.

“Civil society organizations are on the frontlines of peacebuilding, all over the world,” she said, adding:

“As an unwavering force for peace, they are our strongest allies, from the grassroots to the global stage. We want to enable civil society to better contribute to the UN’s peacebuilding agenda.”

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Two-day event

Over 70 peacebuilders from all regions of the world are attending the two-day forum in New York, co-hosted by UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and the international organization, InterPeace. Many more are joining the deliberations remotely.

In addition to fostering interactions between civil society peacebuilders and the UN, the event provides a platform for South-South and triangular cooperation, as well as exploring how the dialogue can be sustained in the years to come.

Complex challenges

Itonde Kakoma, President of InterPeace, also noted the significance of partnering with civil society in the face of complex challenges.

“This partnership with the United Nations is important because the complexities of the challenges the world faces today require us to come together in partnership in a genuine, respectful manner that brings about a higher level of complementarity,” he said.

“We cannot in any way, shape, or form, assume that singular institutions are enough to work on the challenges we face,” he added.

Elina Kalkku, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, noted how civil societies can make communities more resilient.

“Civil societies can be key in building peace and resilience all over the world. CSOs can identify needs that must be addressed. CSOs can share ideas on how to move forward,” she said.

Essential partners

Civil society organizations are also essential partners in implementing peacebuilding projects funded by UN’s Peacebuilding Fund, drawing on extensive local knowledge and solutions.

For instance, in the period leading up to October’s presidential polls in Liberia, the Peacebuilding Commission engaged with civil society in support of free and fair elections empowering women and the youth.

The project included ensuring key benchmarks, including a 30 per cent gender quota among political party leadership and candidates, ending sexual and gender-based violence, and inclusion of youth in electoral processes and decision-making at all levels.