Building Peace in the Midst of a Perfect Storm: What is to be Done in Southern Africa?
A virtual Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding (SVNP) Southern Africa Regional Policy Conference co-hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HRSC), Institue for Global Development (IGD), Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Le Centre d’Etudes pour l’Action Sociale (CEPAS), and the Wilson Center Africa Program will take place via Zoom Webinar from June 29-30, 2021.
This regional conference will reflect on key peacebuilding priorities in Southern Africa, focusing particularly on assessing trends, challenges, and opportunities. The conference will reflect on how the region can fulfill its goals of building resilient societies and communities capable of sustaining peace and development on their own, within an ever-changing and dynamic environment. By assessing specific case studies, for example, DRC, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho, the regional conference will provide the space to reflect on some of the main lessons from the region.
How do we achieve sustainable peacebuilding in Southern Africa? This is a key question for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and its 16 Member States. The international community and intergovernmental organizations in Africa have, in the past decade, focused their efforts on sustainable peacebuilding and the development of resilient societies. A variety of actors have engaged in efforts to advance this agenda: local actors, civil society, national governments, regional and sub-regional organizations as well as international organizations. Southern Africa, however, still experiences many peace and security challenges and is now also faced with the threat of violent extremism. There, for example, continues to be armed conflict in the DRC, civil unrest in South Africa and Zimbabwe, electoral related unrest in Malawi, maritime insecurity in Southern Tanzania, Northern Mozambique, and Mauritius, transnational crime throughout the region, especially along porous borders and, and high levels of gender-based violence and femicide. The growing threat of violent extremism in Northern Mozambique and the military interventions in politics in Zimbabwe and Lesotho remain disconcerting. These security issues are deepened by ailing economies, poverty, unemployment, corruption, abuses by the security sector, lack of respect for human rights, lack of infrastructure including that of health which was recently magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
SADC has established the structures, strategies, and processes for advancing development, conflict management, and peacebuilding. The SADC Organ is tasked with peace and security and has created conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding capacity. SADC has also developed a number of strategies to enhance regional complementarity as a means to achieve a more inclusive and equal regional integration model. However, sustainable peacebuilding approaches are uneven and ad hoc in their implementation, and the mechanisms that SADC has put in place may be dated for the new conflict context it increasingly has to confront, especially the threat of violent extremism. Sustainable peacebuilding has to be holistic and promote human-centered approaches. It has to be able to confront hard security threats, build a peace infrastructure and simultaneously address the social, economic, political, environmental, and health challenges that are the underlying drivers of conflict. The promotion of inclusive governance and the development of effective, efficient, and legitimate security sector institutions and conflict management structures and processes are key. In how far has SADC been able to meet this peacebuilding challenge? How is SADC responding to the growing threat of violent extremism? How can it deal with increasingly complex regional challenges and identify opportunities for new ways of building and sustaining peace?
This regional policy conference is part of the Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding (SVNP) series designed to bring SVNP, local and regional stakeholders and policymakers for a policy-oriented dialogue on an issue of a set of issues of importance to that region – in this case, Southern Africa.
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