RCSS, in its capacity as South Asia’s Regional Initiator for GPPAC (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict), hosted a Regional Steering Group (RSG) Meeting from March 25th – 26th in Colombo. Prof. Baryalai Hakimi from Afghanistan; Mr. Feroz Ahmmead from Bangladesh; Dr. Paula Banerjee, Dr. Damodaran Nampoothiri and Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath from India; Dr. Nishchal Pandey and Ms. Saloni Singh from Nepal; Prof. Moonis Ahmar and Ms. Nighat Said Khan from Pakistan; and Mrs. Jezima Ismail, Mrs. Regina Ramalingam, Ms. Shanthi Thambayah and Mr. Vakeesan from Sri Lanka participated in the RSG meeting. The meeting was organised with the support of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP) and the Norwegian MFP.
Elaborating on the objectives of the RSG meeting, Professor Amal Jayawardane, Executive Director of RCSS, stated that the meeting was convened to review the activities of the RSG in the past years and to draw up a strategic plan for the next five years. Welcoming the Guest of Honour, Ambassador Tore Hattrem of Norway, Professor Jayawardane remarked that there are many similarities between Norway and GPPAC in their respective approaches to peacebuilding. Professor Jayawardane highlighted the civil society’s potential in preventing conflicts and reiterated that civil society organizations are the strongest when they work together and networking is their greatest strength. He thanked Ms. Marte Hellema from the GPPAC Global Secretariat for her invaluable assistance in organizing the RSG meeting.
Ambassador Hattrem in his address stated that he was well aware of GPPAC’s good work. He reiterated that conflict prevention is a major foreign policy priority for Norway where the country has been both directly and indirectly involved in facilitating peace processes. He further stated that Norway has also pursued this policy by supporting efforts of other organizations, particularly civil society organizations, in their activities towards conflict prevention. Ambassador Hattrem went on to say that conflict prevention is a complex issue and that people needed research to see what works and what does not, which is why the focus of this Regional Steering Group meeting was so important.
Ms. Marte Hellema, Regional Coordinator-Asia Pacific at the Global Secretariat of GPPAC, provided an overview of the GPPAC processes and its programmes to set the momentum for the discussions that followed.
During the first working session of the meeting, members of the RSG spoke of their experience with peacebuilding in their own countries, thus paving the way for the discussion that followed. Ms. Marte Hellema from GPPAC facilitated the next sessions on formulating a work plan and identifying key areas of focus for future work. The subjects of Women/Gender, Role of the State, and Youth were highlighted as areas that needed attention with regard to future GPPAC programmes. The participants later discussed methods of learning and sharing, lobbying. and public outreach, and presented their recommendations to the plenary.
The outcome of the RSG meeting was the finalisation of a detailed work plan for 2010 which included programmes on awareness raising, interaction & advocacy, knowledge generation & sharing, preventive action and networking. The decision was taken to hold several meetings/ workshops in South Asia pertaining to the five programme areas: a Roundtable with the SAARC Secretariat to be held in Nepal in July 2010; a peace education workshop in India in October 2010; and a workshop on Early Warning& Early Response (EWER) in Pakistan in November 2010 culminating with a Regional Steering Group (RSG) Meeting in early 2011.