Staying engaged as a peacebuilder during and beyond the pandemic.

1.      Tell us about yourself and the work you do.

 My name is Christian Cito, I am a Congolese peacebuilder. I provide program advice with Conducive Space for Peace and am the founder of Peacemaker 360. CSP works globally with specific country-based engagements currently in Colombia, Myanmar and Democratic Republic of Congo.  CSP’s main office is located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Local leadership in peacebuilding is at the core of CSP’s work through its mission to transform the global peacebuilding system to promote local agency and power in peacebuilding. CSP’s work consists of three primary tracks, building momentum for change through influencing of institutions and generating and curating evidence, analysis and research.  Second, CSP seeks to support change agents in leveraging change through supporting global, trans-local and local connections of change agents in pursuing and reimagining a new global peacebuilding system.  Thirdly, CSP works to promote joint and innovative action among change agents and key stakeholders to promote effective systems change.

2.      What made you aspire to engage in peacebuilding work?

My experience living through conflicts in Eastern Congo inspired me to work for peace.

3.      What are the biggest challenges COVID- 19 has posed to peacebuilders and peacebuilding activities?

In early April 2020, CSP, Peace Direct, and Humanity United conducted a series of online consultations with 400 local peacebuilders  from 60 countries. In these consultations participants shared several challenges facing their work. For a review of these challenges you can check this report. As a way of illustration, one challenge has been an increase in arrests and police violence while enforcing lockdown measures. With an increase of violence, the already shrinking civic space has been further reduced. Local peacebuilders also noted that oppressive governments are using the pandemic to further their political agendas and to punish any form of political dissent. The mismanagement of funds and corruption make it difficult to channel support to the individuals and communities that need it most, and this has exposed deep-seated inequalities related to access to resources. These inequalities are especially glaring at a time when the number of COVID-19 infections are increasing in Africa, whilst most countries do not have adequate and sufficient medical facilities and equipment.  The pandemic has sparked a need to advance peacebuilding through ceasefires, however, programme and operational support dedicated to local peacebuilding face increasing strain and uncertainty as donor institutions redirect support to COVID-19 responses, which has weakened local capacities to address conflicts during and beyond the pandemic.

4.      Can you tell us more about the latest online platform that was recently launched by Conducive Space for Peace which you are part of?

The online platform was launched in response to the need expressed by local peacebuilders to have a shared online space for networking, the platform is designed to meet your needs and aspirations, and help you identify where they cross over with your peers’. 

Through the platform you can:

  • Start, or participate in, thematic and/or regionally focused discussions
  • Share questions about your work with a supportive community of peacebuilders
  • Get exclusive content and conversations you can’t find anywhere else
  • Expand your network by meeting people who share your interests or who care about the same topics
  • Make better, more well-informed decisions about the things that are most important to your peacebuilding work in this uncertain period
  • Share stories, experiences, and ideas around our shared mission to support local peacebuilders
  • Find inspiration for in-country, regional and global advocacy, related to local peacebuilding, through thought-provoking conversations and expert opinions

The platform will also provide access to online courses that allow local peacebuilders to adapt and strengthen their work through digital tools designed for peacebuilding.

5.      What is your favorite part of being in this online community?

The added-value for me has been connecting with other peacebuilding actors responding to COVID19 in their respective contexts and being part of a supporting community of peers in peacebuilding that care about transforming the global peacebuilding system can be transformed to hold the needs of local peacebuilders at the core—even beyond the pandemic.  

6.      Are there any life lessons that the experiences/narratives of peacebuilders have taught you?

 There are many life lessons that I have gleaned from local peacebuilders throughout my peacebuilding trajectory. In this crisis time more specifically, If there is one beautiful lesson that the pandemic has taught the world it is that we are all vulnerable—and it is only with human solidarity and compassion that we will come out stronger as a global community beyond the pandemic. And local peacebuilders understand this lesson best.

7.      What are the adaptations and solutions you have seen that peacebuilders have taken to respond to the current pandemic?

The most important adaptation local peacebuilders have pursued is working virtually. Although it is still a learning curve for many of us, it has also enabled local peacebuilders to continue sharing their works and experiences on ways their communities are coping with the pandemic.

8.      What gives you hope and what are your future plans?

What gives me hope is the resilience expressed by local peacebuilders during this global pandemic. I try to live one at a time nowadays and not worry so much about the future. I have learned with the pandemic to appreciate every day as it comes and to give it the best.

9.      What action do you want the reader of this interview to take?

Continue taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Appreciate them even more. And if you are a peacebuilder and would like to be part of a supportive virtual community of peers, then consider joining our online platform. Stay well