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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World
Number 8 June 2001

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Towards a Culture of Peace

Setting up a Network for Peace and International Solidarity*

From March 23-25, 2001, the city of Grenoble (France) hosted a seminar organized by three local associations that work towards defending human rights - Amnesty International, culture of peace and non-violence - Ecole de la Paix and education to favour the return of Tibetan refugees to Tibet - Aide à l'Enfance Tibétaine.

The aim of this seminar was to envisage the opportunity of setting up a transversal network of international solidarity that would bring together representatives of NGOs from countries who share the following points: who suffer systematic violation of human rights every single day; who are not sufficiently supported by the UN; who are in a situation of emergency and are looking for peace; who use non-violence in their struggle whenever it is possible.

For this first meeting, the following countries were chosen as they geographically represent one particular part of the world: Colombia (South America) with Inès de Brill, Democratic Republic of Congo (Africa) with Laurent Kantu and Tibet (Asia) with Lobsang Tsering.

The interaction between Inès, Laurent and Lobsang proved to be very fruitful. For these three speakers, it was extremely useful and enlightening to listen to Denzil Potgieter, a judge in South Africa, who was invited to this seminar as a resource person. After hearing whatever they had to say, Potgieter offered his personal analysis of the situation in their country, based on his experience with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (see here below extracts of his speech).

At the end of this seminar, a charter was drawn up to put forth the preliminary base of this Network (defining aims and objectives, suggestions for action and functioning). This network is at its initial phase and if it proves to be relevant and justified in the course of time, it can certainly be open to organisations of other countries who subscribe to the ethics defined by the charter.

* Report prepared by Jocelyne & Philippe Doguet (Ecole de la Paix); Fernand Meunier (Amnesty International) & Chantal True (Aide à l'Enfance Tibétaine)

* For more information, visit these Internet sites:
Amnesty International Grenoble:
Ecole de la paix:

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"The Iceberg [of conflicts] melts under the sun of democracy" (Denzil Potgieter)

"Your situation is quite similar to that of South Africa: an existing intense conflict and a divided society. In spite of the situational differences, there is a common link in the struggles and the aim is the same, which is, to obtain a "normal" society. And the only solution, as underlined by Lobsang, is through peace. But when one is deep into a conflict, peace seems impossible. For instance in South Africa, 50 years of struggle were destructive because we did not have enough distance to think of peaceful solutions. And yet, finally, a long lasting solution based on peace was found.

Making an opening for Tibet

One must always work in tune with the international situation existing at that moment. Tibet is in the process of creating a second level of leadership. This is very positive as it will allow it to have a direct contact with China. In South Africa too, it was the direct contact that enabled it to resolve the conflict. China is evincing a keen interest in joining the big nations of the world as it wants to be a part of the WTO. This will call for an opening and Tibet must make itself present through NGOs. We must take into account that the Chinese leadership will change in the course of time. As for South Africa, a new President made it possible for a change. There was the same fervent desire to make South Africa a part of the world. And partners abroad played a key role at that crucial moment to make the leaders understand that if South Africa wants to be a part of the world, there must be change.

Constructing peace together in Congo

For the Democratic Republic of Congo, the existence of a framework - the Lusaka Agreement - is very positive as it offers a base. Will a new president in the Democratic Republic of Congo help making an opening? It is not in the interest of any of the countries involved in the conflict to stay on there, and nor have they the right to do so. The network can help applying pressure on these countries. As for keeping UN forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it must be worked out. The aim is to bring together Congolese factions for negotiations in order to construct collectively. The South African President is working towards finding a regional solution.

A referendum for peace in Colombia

What is positive for Colombia is the strong presence of NGOs and especially the referendum for peace conducted among adults and the youth. This legitimizes action for peace. NGOs must now be active and present in peace solutions. It is important for civil society to be involved in the process.

Based on his own experience, Denzil concluded by saying that the mountains here are not really mountains, they are immense icebergs. "Be aware, the part that emerges is less important than that the part is immersed. NGOs must not remain on the surface. They must dig." He added: "icebergs melt under the sun of democracy. Ours melted."

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  • Inès de Brill is Colombian and currently lives in Frankfurt (Germany). She is the Director General of the Colombian Confederation of NGOs. She represents the Asamblea permanente de la sociedad civil por la paz (APSCP) in Colombia and was invited to Grenoble in this capacity.

  • Laurent Kantu was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo at Kamina (in the province of Katanga). He completed his studies at Kinshasa. He has a degree in criminology and penitentiary sciences. Since August 2000, he is a refugee in France. Associated with the COSI (Centre d'Information et de Solidarité avec l'Afrique), he is President of the Association des Cadres Pénitentiaires du Congo (ACPC).

  • Lobsang Tsering was born in India. He pursued his studies at the Budhist University of Benares and then joined the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) in 1996 as a researcher. He has conducted many surveys on Tibetan refugees recently arrived in India, drafts informative documents and participates in international conferences.

  • Denzil Potgieter is presently a judge at the High Court of Cape Town in South Africa. In August 1995, he was given the task of co-ordinating the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the President Nelson Mandela.

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Civil society for peace in Colombia

Mas allá de la guerra! Well beyond war, what is crucial to Colombia is a need for a profound change so that fair and long lasting peace is made possible. And the structural transformations concerning the role of the State, respect for personal rights, fair development and distribution of wealth cannot be envisaged without the involvement of civil society in the process of peace. This is the driving force behind the initiatives of the Asamblea permanente de la sociedad civil por la paz which tries to co-ordinate efforts of organizations that represent various sectors of Colombian society. In the same direction, organizations in France working for peace in Colombia mobilized themselves to be heard by French public authorities. The latter were asked to take a strong position especially against the Plan Colombia which is extremely repressive and militarian, and to influence the choice of the European Union for support in the process of peace through a policy of economic and social co-operation. Here is a good example of concerted efforts between civil society and public authorities. And here lies a permanent exercise for education of peace that highlights the essential role of this civil society in the development of democracy.


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