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    The role of Civil Society and NGOs

    in the Prevention of Armed Conflict

    A program for an International Conference

    at United Nations Head Quarters to be held in 2004

    ‘I urge NGOs with an interest in conflict prevention to organize an international conference of local, national and international NGOs on their role in conflict prevention and future interaction with the United Nations in this field.’

    Report of the UN Secretary General on Prevention of Armed Conflict, Recommendation 27 (June 2001).

In response to this appeal and with the Secretary General’s support,

    the European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP) hereby proposes a two-year integrated program of research, consultation and discussion to take place all over the world. Six regional conferences will focus the experience of each region and lead on to a major international conference at UN Headquarters in 2004. All those involved at any level of conflict prevention and peace building are warmly invited to take part.

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Rationale

    The profound changes of the past decade have left us in no doubt: traditional power politics and diplomacy are not, on their own, capable of delivering sustainable peace. Yet because modern warfare is so destructive of lives and resources, and so unpredictable in its effects, merely reacting to events is no longer an option. The search is on for new forms of intervention.

    Meanwhile, the nature of conflict has shifted. We see fewer inter-state wars and more civil wars. And we observe the growing importance of non-state actors in both fomenting and preventing conflict. Even within societies rent by internal divisions, there are always people working for peace on the ground. NGOs, women’s organizations, religious leaders, the business sector, media and other civil society actors, are all natural allies of the nations and agencies working for peace on the international stage. But mobilizing and coordinating such an alliance is not easy. Get it right, and your coalition may be powerful enough to indeed prevent conflict. Get it wrong, and the problem may get worse.

    Conflict Prevention, the young discipline that has set out to master this treacherous field, has been learning fast. Researchers are discovering how complex and specific each conflict is. NGO’s at local, national and

    international level are finding out what they can and cannot do to promote peace within divided communities. Governments are beginning to welcome cooperation with non-state actors. ‘We, the people’, in whose

    name the United Nations was originally set up, are finally taking our place at the table.

    The Secretary General’s appeal for NGO’s to hold an international conference to discuss their role in the prevention of armed conflict comes as a golden opportunity for the Conflict Prevention community to consolidate its rapid development. Best Practice and Lessons Learned from recent conflicts all over the world have yet to be brought together into a coherent body of knowledge. The strengths and limitations of the approach have yet to be properly evaluated. The problems of integration and coherence intrinsic to new forms of diplomacy have yet to be fully worked out. And just as important, the enormous potential of this form of human commitment has yet to be widely grasped.

    In presenting this plan for an integrated two-year program leading to an international conference, the European Centre for Conflict Prevention is

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    keenly aware that Northern ideas are only one strand in the thread of world experience. The program is therefore conceived as a worldwide undertaking, with every continent being invited to assemble and contribute its own insight into the experience of recent conflict. At the same time, the program is designed to raise the profile of Conflict Prevention at all levels all over the world. The final Conference at UN Head Quarters in New York will thus mark the end of a long and inclusive debate and usher in a new phase of partnership between NGO’s, civil society, governments and the United Nations.

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Objective and Goals

Overall objective:

    to increase the effectiveness of conflict prevention efforts

First goal:

    to explore fully the role of civil society and NGO’s

    in the prevention of armed conflicts

Second goal:

    to improve the interaction between civil society and the UN, regional organizations and governments and thereby to achieve a more integrated and coherent approach to conflict prevention

Third goal:

    to strengthen regional networking and to establish regional conflict-prevention networks composed of key NGOs, sub-regional networks, practitioners and academics

Fourth goal:

    to promote the development of a coherent body of research and theory that will help the conflict prevention community take its place in international deliberations

Fifth goal:

    to produce a UN Action Plan or Protocol on Conflict Prevention in its broadest sense, possibly embodied in a Security Council Resolution, which will guide the international community as it seeks non-violent solutions to armed conflict in the decades ahead

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Structure, Process and Planning

To Spring 2003 - Preparatory phase

    ; Extensive discussion between leading NGOs, networks and academics active in

    the field of conflict prevention

    ; Consultation with the UN, Regional Organizations

    ; Exploration of funding options with foundations and governments ; Compilation of material on Best Practice and Lessons Learned, and on former

    interactions between NGOs and the UN and governments

    ; Nominations for:

    ; Preparatory international conference (Spring 2003)

Spring-Fall 2003 Planning phase

    ; creation of an International Coordinating Committee + Secretariat

    ; selection of major themes

    ; agreement on organizational structure

    ; decisions on funding

    ; establishment of Regional Steering Groups to cover all regions (Africa, Asia,

    Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America)

    ; Planning regional action

Fall 2003-Spring 2004 - Regional action phase

    ; workshops, seminars, forums etc. on regional and sub-regional level ; collection of regional data, case studies, mapping

    ; further compilation of Best Practice, Lessons Learned and former interaction with

    the UN and governments

    ; preparation of working documents for:

    ; Regional preparatory conferences

    ; The first regional conference to be held in Geneva (Fall 2003). To give the overall

    program coherence, we suggest an agreed format. Within the format, each region

    is encouraged to set its own agenda and priorities

Spring 2004 onwards - Final phase

    ; Processing material and recommendations sent from the Regional Steering Groups

    to the International Coordination Committee

    ; Preparation of an agenda, a final discussion document and a draft Action Plan for: ; International Conference at UN Head Quarters in New York (2004)

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Wider effects of the progam

    The program is conceived as a creative enterprise in itself. Quite apart from the impact of the UN Conference and Action Plan, the following positive effects are envisaged:

    ; The clear formulation of questions, conclusions and recommendations

    on the involvement and interaction of the key actors and sectors will

    promote the development of effective tools and coherent approaches

    to Conflict Prevention.

    ; The role that civil society and NGOs can play in Conflict Prevention

    will be highlighted by high-level conferences in all continents,

    culminating by a major international event, the UN conference. This

    unique exercise will encourage Governments to take NGO and other

    civil society involvement much more seriously.

    ; Dialogue between state and non-state actors will be stimulated. ; Regional and international networking will be strengthened. ; Local NGOs will gain more of a voice.

    ; Research and data on Conflict Prevention all over the world will for

    the first time be collected in an integrated and comprehensive way. ; A wealth of resource material will be produced that will support the

    development of Conflict Prevention as a valuable contributor to peace

    in the new international environment.

    The Conflict Prevention community will be brought to the attention of a much broader public.

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Key actors

    In order to give the final UN Conference the maximum authority and impact, the Program is designed to facilitate contributions from every continent, from every sector and from actors at every level.

    If you belong in the following list, you are invited to join the program:

; NGO’s at local, national and international levels, especially those

    directly involved in Conflict Prevention

    ; Civil Society Organizations

    ; Field practitioners

    ; Grass Roots Organizations

    ; Universities and research institutes

    ; The corporate sector

    ; The United Nations

    ; Relevant United Nations Agencies

    ; Regional Organizations

    ; National governments

    While the focus will be on the role of NGO’s, the contribution of the other sectors is crucial to defining that role and to developing coherent and constructive partnership between all actors.

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ECCP

    The European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP) is an independent NGO based in The Netherlands. The ECCP provides a wide range of support and facilitation services to the broad field of Conflict Prevention and Peace Building.

    The Searching for Peace program is aimed at recording, describing and analyzing conflict prevention and peace building efforts in the main conflict areas of the world, with a special focus on multi-track diplomacy. The Lessons Learned program draws on the experience of all those working to prevent and resolve armed conflicts. ECCP publications offer extensive regional directories of organizations working in the field, while its own direct network extends to more than 1500 NGO’s worldwide. The ECCP website is intended as a major source of information available to all those who are working for peace.

    The ECCP also acts as Secretariat for the European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation, a network of over 150 key European

     With this experience behind it, the ECCP organizations active in the field.

    offers to act as the central secretariat for the program described in this brochure.

For more information, please contact:

    Paul van Tongeren, Executive Director, E-mail: p.vantongeren@conflict-prevention.net

    Guido de Graaf Bierbrauwer, Coordinator UN-Conference Program, E-mail: g.bierbrauwer@conflict-prevention.net

European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP)

    PO Box 14069

    3508 SC Utrecht

Visiting address:

    Korte Elisabethstraat 6

    3511 JG Utrecht

    The Netherlands

    Telefoon + 31 (0)30 242 77 77

    Fax + 31 (0)30 236 92 68

    www.conflict-prevention.net

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