Building Peace; piece by piece
Peace Direct has always been a small team of dedicated individuals pursuing a vision of placing local people at the heart of all conflict resolution activities. Since we were set up in 2004 we have supported local people in 16 countries – to stop conflict and save lives. We consider our greatest achievement to be the depth of relationships and trust we have developed with our partners in the field, recognized in our top position in the 2011 Keystone Survey.
In the US, starting in 2010, we have:
- Recruited a Board of Trustees and achieved 501(c)3 status
- Launched Peace Direct in May 2011, with a remarkable performance by Tony award winning actor and Patron of Peace Direct, Mark Rylance, telling the dramatic story of our partner, Henri Ladyi Bura from DRC
- Secured start-up funding from the Samuel Rubin Foundation and a number of generous individual donors
- Raised funding for our work and that of our partners from a number of US Foundations
In the last 7 years we have supported these remarkable individuals to stop violence, unite communities and save lives. Their achievements include:
- As Kenya’s post-election violence flared in 2008, we gave funding to the Concerned Citizens for Peace, a group instrumental in calming the fighting and proposing a solution eventually brokered by Kofi Annan.
- In war-torn Congo we have supported local peacebuilder Henri Ladyi for six years. Last year his organization rescued 444 child soldiers from the bush, and helped 14,000 refugees to return to their villages in safety.
And this is just the beginning, in the next five years we want to see local people given the power to build their own better futures – to become leaders of their own peace and development programs, and not just contractors for outside agencies. And we want to see their activities multiplied far beyond what we can fund ourselves.
Here is just some of what we have achieved so far…
- We hold our first Peace Exchanges – international conferences of peacebuilders – in Nairobi, Goma, London and Khartoum. These unite all of our peacebuilding partners and other local players into a global network of support and expertise.
- In Pakistan and Burundi we began new partnerships with youth organizations, inspired by their vision to have real lasting impact with young people.
- We publish Ripples into Waves, a concept paper demonstrating how locally led peacebuilding can have national impact in conflict zones. The UN circulates the paper to all their Peace and Development Advisers worldwide.
- We put steps in place to set up Peace Direct affiliates in Germany and USA, to expand our influence there and raise more funding for local peacebuilders.
- We receive our first core grant from the UK Government, allowing us to support the growth of our partners’ projects in Congo, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.
- We were chosen by the Independent newspaper for their Christmas appeal, taking our message to 200,000 readers. Hide
- In Congo Henri Ladyi begins working with communities that have been forced to flee their homes in the vicious bush war. We secure funding for this through the Baring Foundation.
- In Somalia Asha Hagi begins working with local communities, to spread understanding of the implications of the new peace agreement. We secure funding for this through the UK government.
- In Kenya we fund the Concerned Citizens for Peace, a group of citizens who take action to calm the escalating violence. Through their contacts, a phone company agrees to send everyone a text message urging them to reject violence whenever they top up their mobile phones.
- BBC Newsnight features Congolese peacebuilder Henri Ladyi speaking from the war zone. He shows how Congolese people are sharing the little they have with those who have fled neighbouring violence. Hide
- In Nepal we fund local organization YAPE to set up a Rapid Response Fund for peace. After 10 years of guerrilla war, the fund gives YAPE the flexibility to respond to violence as soon as it arises.
- In the UK, in partnership with Conflict and Change, we launch our east London project Truce 20/20, to give young people the skills to mediate tensions and prevent violence in their own community. Twice a year we bring international peacebuilders to share their knowledge with these young people.
- BBC Newsnight features Somali peacebuilder Asha Hagi. She appeals to the international community to take responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe they had a hand in creating.
- We adopt as a long term goal – “To bring local peacebuilding into the heart of all strategies for dealing with conflict”. Hide
- In Kenya we begin funding a trusted group of Kenyans to prevent violence flaring out of control.
- In Somalia we begin funding local peacebuilder Asha Hagi to give women a voice in the future of their country.
- In Columbia we begin funding local organization The Escuela to empower and educate women in non-violent resistance.
- 30,000 people worldwide watch our video on YouTube. In the video, Gill Hicks, Peace Direct ambassador and 7/7 survivor, urges people to ‘do something practical for peace’.
- We launch ‘Young Muslims Speak’ a paper giving young Muslims from across the UK the chance to express their thoughts and fears to MPs. Hide
- In Sri Lanka and Aceh we provide funding for post-Tsunami peacebuilding.
- We publish What If? Fallujah, a study of how the destruction of Fallujah could have been avoided. We hold a seminar with high-level US army officials to launch the study.
- The Charity Times awards Peace Direct as Best New Charity. The judges say it is rare to find such a small organization that is so focused and has such impact. Hide
- In Congo we begin funding local peacebuilder Henri Ladyi’s organization to raise awareness among communities of the need to live in peace and reject violence.
- In Iraq we fund a project to prevent the abduction of civilians.
- We launch our information website Insight on Conflict, to showcase information on local peacebuilding organizations around the world.
- In the UK we launch the Lucknow Dialogue tour, visiting community activists from Slough to Keighley. The tour tells the story of how the residents of Lucknow, India avoided communal violence. Hide
Origins of the organization
Peace Direct grew out of Scilla Elworthy’s work at the Oxford Research Group on the effectiveness of civil society peacebuilding, published as War Prevention Works (pdf). In 2002, Scilla joined forces with Carolyn Hayman, who had seen the need for a trusted conduit to channel funds to those working on the frontline of conflict. Over the next 18 months, as Peace Direct took shape, Scilla and Carolyn looked for sources of funding.
A turning point came when Lord (Joel) Joffe convened a meeting of around 35 people with a potential interest in Peace Direct in September 2003. Three questions were posed:
- What do frontline peacebuilders need?
- Will the public give to peace?
- How would Peace Direct relate to other peace organizations?
This led to the first Peace Direct Board of Trustees, chaired by the late Dame Anita Roddick. With the Board in place and charitable status gained in February 2004, Peace Direct appointed Carolyn as Chief Executive and made its first grants. Hide