Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Workshop participants share insights with each other in a discussion circle. Photo: Jean Bruno Nkondi.

This post was written by Joanna Ashworth, Researcher in the Centre for Sustainable Community Development and Co-Director of Engaging Diaspora in Development.

We just finished a five-month workshop series with 25 diaspora leaders. Here is a glimpse into what we learned together.

1. Take time to grow a learning community

One day a month for five months we gathered with SFU’s project directors, advisors and 25 diaspora leaders in a workshop series. This gave us the chance to network with fellow diaspora involved in similar development work. We learned so much from hearing about the work people are doing and about how we might collaborate with them. We also wanted to gain more skills and knowledge on how to develop our projects. There was good chemistry between people—we all feel like family now.

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This post was written by Umeeda Umedaly Switlo, who has worked with CUSO-VSO for nearly four years as the Public Engagement Officer for the Western Region of Canada and the US.

I decided to work with CUSO to affect change and, being from Uganda, I really had a deep connection to that region. My late husband had passed away from HIV/AIDS and that disease was taking a real toll on the people around the world. I wanted to make a difference and lead a purposeful life.

At first opportunity, I travelled to Uganda on a communications assignment for CUSO on my holidays. I took my daughter Nareena with me and was hoping she would make some connection to Africa. I had left the country as a refugee in 1972. We had lost everything and my family was scattered around the world. This event changed my life but I knew somehow that I wanted to see Uganda again.

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This post was written by Chloë Straw, Project Research Assistant.

A brightly coloured historical timeline marked the entryway to the July 13th dialogue on Human Insecurity and Peacebuilding. Listing major armed conflicts that have occurred since the 1950’s, the timeline offered a way in to the discussion as people were invited to respond to the question, “How have these conflicts impacted you?”

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Kawa Jabary promotes peaceful activism in Iraq as an alternative to the ‘culture of violence’ commonly seen in demonstrations.

This post was written by Sophia Sithole, a Political Science and Mathematics student at SFU as well as a member of the Ethiopian and Zimbabwean diaspora in Vancouver.

Despite going through many changes in the past several years, Iraq is still a place of civil unrest and turmoil. While some leave to escape the chaos, many go back in hope of bringing about change through peace and reconciliation. Kawa Jabary is one of these individuals. Born in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, he was forced to flee to Turkey as a result of his political activities and eventually settled in Canada as a political refugee. Between work and school, he organizes symposia and workshops with the Metro Vancouver Iraqi diaspora to promote peace in Iraq. Kawa often makes trips back to the Kurdish region of Iraq to support peaceful actions as an alternative to the violent demonstrations, which prevail in the country.

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This post was written by James Busumtwi-Sam, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University and Member of the Project Management Team and Project Advisory Committee.

Achieving ‘security’ means different things to different people but in general it involves protecting certain core values (human life, livelihoods, property, etc.) from harm. The notion of ‘human security’ attempts to redefine the traditional approach to security in international affairs from a preoccupation with state/national security to include the security of individuals and groups. The term ‘peacebuilding’ includes a wide range of activities undertaken to transform a hitherto insecure and conflictual situation/relationship, prevent violence, and achieve accommodation or reconciliation between individuals and groups at the community, regional and national levels.

That there is a relationship between ‘development’ (or the lack thereof) and ‘insecurity’ is by now well established. Twenty-five of the world’s 35 poorest countries have experienced a major armed conflict in the last three decades. Since the early 1990s policymakers, practitioners, and scholars have attempted to develop a formula to build and sustain peace, and enhance human security in the aftermath of armed conflict. UN agencies and the major bilateral and multilateral aid donors adopted a formula that generally entailed internationally supported efforts to monitor and enforce peace agreements; provide humanitarian relief, rehabilitate and resettle affected populations; and disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate ex-combatants. The strategy also included broader political and socioeconomic reforms designed to promote a particular type of development centred on democratic governance and a market economy.

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Peace it Together Filmmaking Summer Program 2008.

This post was written by Rosamelia Andrade, Project Research Assistant, with additional content from Reena Lazar, Executive Director of Peace it Together.

When it comes to stimulating dialogue, increasing understanding and building peace amongst individuals who are traditionally considered as “enemies”, filmmaking has tremendous potential. The Vancouver-based organization Peace it Together strongly believes that filmmaking is a creative way to engage, negotiate and reach consensus while working towards a common goal. The mission of the organization is to empower youth to promote peace through dialogue, filmmaking and multimedia.

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