Summary: This project seeks to deepen the foundations for peace and social cohesion in Zimbabwe, by enhancing national and community dispute-resolution capacities, providing dialogue platforms for consensus and confidence building around shared values, fostering tolerance, and encouraging inclusiveness and collaboration in the equitable delivery of development dividends.
Problem: Social polarization has been recognized as a historical issue in Zimbabwe. Despite the efforts that have been made to address it, there are unresolved grievances that ought to be tackled for the nation to collectively forge forward. The establishment of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in the new Constitution (2013) provides an avenue to guide Zimbabwe in dealing with these enduring issues in a peaceful and structured manner. Moreover, through a consultative process convened in October 2015, stakeholders indicated that there remain important local disagreements in several domains, such as: intra- and inter-political party tensions; quarrels related to natural resources (including land, water and environmental degradation); violence against women and girls; and growing intolerance (especially at the political level). These disputes, if not well managed, could undermine the country’s ability to achieve its set socioeconomic goals.
The overall objective of the project “Deepening the foundations for peace, dialogue and social cohesion” was to reduce potential threats to peace and social cohesion in Zimbabwe, while improving mechanisms for structured response to conflicts and disputes before they escalate to violence. The project targeted both national and community levels and focused on four key areas:
1) Strengthening governmental capacities to coordinate peacebuilding and social-cohesion issues;
2) Strengthening the capacities of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to design a strategic framework for reconciliation;
3) Enhancing dialogue and consensus-building processes towards nationally shared values; and
4) Enabling community peacebuilding mechanisms to provide alternative mediation and dispute-resolution services.
With the leadership of the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) and the active involvement of key ministries, church and faith-based organizations, NGOs working in the peacebuilding field, and entities from the culture and arts sector, the project’s main achievements included:
– The NPRC bill, drafted with multi-stakeholder inputs, was approved by the Parliament in October 2017;
– The following high-level dialogue platforms were supported: a multi-sectorial dialogue space entitled “The Champions Dialogue Group” (or “Dialogue Reference Group”), the Creative Arts and Culture Leaders Forum, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD), and the civil-society organizations’ platform on conflict early warning and early response;
– The mediation and dialogue capacities of key stakeholders were enhanced: 324 Local Peace Committees (LPCs) were strengthened, and 225 peace mediators and facilitators were trained (109 male and 116 female, including 70 young people) in four districts; in the first year of the project, close to 180 disputes were resolved;
– District visits provided stakeholders the opportunity to receive first-hand community testimonials in an effort to better understand the role played by local structures in supporting peacebuilding;
– Three capacity-enhancement retreats were held, each focusing on a key topic: people affected by violent conflicts; truth-seeking and truth-telling mechanisms; and post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation initiatives;
– A framework for multi-stakeholder processes for consensus building on shared values was designed and piloted through the churches nationally in 2017; critical conversations on peace and social cohesion were initiated through a working session that drew on regional experiences of religious leaders promoting pre-electoral peace and reconciliation (from Kenya, Lesotho and Zambia);
– In 2017, the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust led a two-month Peace Campaign targeting the youth to pledge a commitment to peace, including through the utilization of a Peace Mascot;
– A report on the scope of academic programmes on peace and governance in Zimbabwe was produced, culminating with the design of a fellowship programme to invest in the future generation of peacebuilders, to be carried out in collaboration with six national universities;
– A Peace Pledge was convened at the national level as a confidence-building measure before the 2018 elections; leaders of 23 political parties fielding presidential candidates made a public commitment to non-violence before, during and after the elections;
– A national Peace Caravan was convened as an innovative approach to localizing the pledge and mobilizing citizens’ participation in peace promotion; having traveled through all the ten Zimbabwean provinces, the caravan provided a platform for sustained multi-stakeholder dialogue with state entities, political parties, civil society organizations and faith institutions;
– South-South exchanges further supported the strengthening of the NPRC, which gained experiential learning from homologous entities in other African countries, such as Kenya’s National Integration and Cohesion Commission, Ghana’s National Peace Council and South Africa’s Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.
Provider countries: Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia
Beneficiary country: Zimbabwe
Supported by: Government of Switzerland and UNDP
Implementing Agency: Zimbabwe’s Office of President and Cabinet (OPC)
Project period: February 2016 – December 2018
Programme Specialist (Peace and Governance)