Building peace is a complex process composing multiple, multi-sector overlapping activities. In addition (and importantly) peace is a cultural construct based on the building confidence in people.
The EPES Mandala approach to peace building involves community leaders and community based organizations. We go beyond traditional government-based formulae for peace building because 'peace means people'. Time and again studies and evaluations show that peace building fails to have the desired impact because it is structured mainly around government interventions in places where governments have failed.
EPES Mandala develops partnerships with NGOs that work in the communities and are not limited to 'rushing around the countries doing workshops'. We strengthen local civil society organizations and their role in peace building, as well as strengthening government institutions and the security forces whose role is to replace anarchy with stability.
Understanding culture is vitally important, which is why EPES Mandala consulting teams are multi-national and poly-cultural. We first worked as a team in West Africa, where the traditions of civil society and social capital produced the Peace of Timbuktu under the guidance of Mali's President Konaré. This allowed Mali to create a state of 'positive peace' that tackled the underlying causes of conflict. Many peace building projects produce only 'negative peace': the guns stop shooting but the causes of conflict remain unsolved.
EPES Mandala builds social and economic capital as well as peace. UNDP pioneered studies of social capital during the 1990s, defined by Poulton and ag Youssouf in their book A Peace of Timbuktu as: "The sum of the human, cultural and spiritual values and patterns of personal interaction in society". Social capital brings neighbors together to help each other in time of trouble. Social capital is about trust. Yet the final measure for success in peace building is the economic revival of the region. EPES Mandala places security, agriculture, trade and investment on the list of peace targets to be achieved and impact indicators to be evaluated.
These are the values of participative democracy. EPES Mandala believes that peace building rests on the success of decentralized and representative governance systems that allow ordinary people and communities to have some say over the decisions that affect their own lives.
The role of women is critical for building peace and social capital. While the role of the mother is also strong in Asian and Middle Eastern societies, African mothers in particular occupy a spiritual place in the family and society that is difficult for Westerners to understand. Peace programmes that ignore these factors are likely to meet with only limited success, and evaluations of their impact may miss cultural essentials.
Critical components of an EPES Mandala peace building programme include:
Disarmament & demobilization
Creation of a framework which will transform conflict into lasting peace
Security sector reform that rebuilds societies after conflict
Democratic governance ensuring long-term stability and peace
Guarantees of good and appropriate management
General Henny van der Graaf is the world's most famous micro-disarmament expert and was founding Director of the three most important pioneering SALW programmes: in Albania (UNDP), Cambodia (EU-ASAC) and the former Yugoslavia (SEESAC). He was the official UN Supervisor of the Flame of Peace in Timbuktu, Mali.
In Mali he met the other members of the EPES Mandala peace building team that includes Tore Rose - former UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Mali, Dennis Brennan - former USAID Director in Mali, Robin-Edward Poulton - a leader of West African civil society deeply involved in the peace process, Ibrahim ag Youssouf who was Advisor to the UN Resident Coordinator, one of the chief peace negotiators and creator of Mali's Flame of Peace, and Djely Samoura from Guinea who worked with civil society leaders. They are joined by distinguished experts such as Ghassan Rubeiz of Lebanon and USA, for many years a negotiator for the World Council of Churches in the Middle East and Salem Mehzoud, of Algeria and UK, who worked as a mediator with the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Boubacar N'Diaye of Mauritania who is teacher and researcher in peace and Matilda Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa who is one of Nigeria's leading conflict prevention experts.
The role of women in peace negotiation is crucial, and EPES Mandala includes in its consulting teams experienced women peace teachers and negotiators like Lois Ann Nicolai and Andria Wisler, both from USA, who have worked extensively in Central Europe and Africa on democracy and peace building; Dan Pisay of Cambodia who has five years experience of weapons collection with EU/ASAC; women's leaders Bushra Gohar and Miriam Bibi in Pakistan who are in the forefront of negotiating peace and fighting SALW, and their Pakistani lawyer Saima Khattak. In Africa we use lawyers like Mariam Diakite of Mali and civil society leaders like Binta Barry Mansaray of Sierra Leone, Zakiyatou oualet Halatine of Mali and Kawther Elmi of Somalia.
In addition we can call on a cadre of conflict transformation specialists from the European Peace University, including Jane Newton (Canada), Catherine Leila Poulton (UK/France), Yumi Yasuda (Japan), Meike Grimm (Germany), Gertrude Nguku (Kenya), Martha Muganda (Uganda) - all remarkable women who are working in some of the world's most troubled conflict zones.
EPES Mandala was created in 2004 to pursue the success of this team in the field. As a consulting company we have carried out fieldwork in Afghanistan and Liberia, and provided advice to the UN, UNDP, USAID and the African Union on various peace building and disarmament issues. these world-renowned specialists in post-disaster reconstruction and weapon collection programmes, EPES Mandala's work is supported by the expertise of a multi-qualified international groups of experts.
It is a policy in EPES Mandala that we always put together multi-national teams of experts who understand the culture of war in which we are working and the culture of peace that we are setting out to create. We have access to a wide range of men and women, each with specialist skills and we choose our consultant teams to fit the cultural needs and the political economy of each assignment. We work closely with skilled non-governmental teams that have appropriate skills, cultural roots and deep local knowledge.
EPES Mandala also emphasizes the importance of communications as a part of peace building. We have several team members who are fulltime or part time peace journalists and film makers whose work contributes to understanding the issues affecting war torn societies inside the country, and also to donors and well wishers overseas. Sander Francken, a well known documentary film maker in Netherlands, worked with us in Cambodia while Adam Ouloguem and Macky Tall are Malian journalists focused on peace journalism. They provide materials for the peace educators and writers Andria Wisler at Columbia, Lois Nicolai in New England, Robin Poulton in Virginia, Zeki Ergas and Djely Samoura in Switzerland.
Peace Building is the final objective of practical disarmament, and this has taken us into the design of post conflict strategies covering Africa, Asia and Central Europe. The leading members of the EPES Mandala team have participated in peace building in Mali, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau, former Yugoslavia and Albania, Algeria, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia, Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
EPES Mandala Consulting recognizes that returning peace brings economic development. Even before we start, our conflict transformation strategy assumes that post-conflict disarmament actions will give way to economic development activities. It is never an even progression, but it must happen. Yesterday's security and small arms emergency will eventually become tomorrow's development opportunity. Our strategy has the flexibility to embrace both. From the very beginning, building confidence to stimulate local economic investment and encouraging sustainable development is a cornerstone of the peace building strategy.