Communicating for peace

Last month, International Alert conducted a week long communication training course for local peacebuilding organisations active in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The training took place against a backdrop of renewed fighting and multiple atrocities having been reported on all sides.

Local organisations taking part in the training were long term partners of the Life and Peace Institute, which is one of our partners in Bukavu, South Kivu province.

We identified the local organisations as being principal drivers of key initiatives aimed at reaching a more inclusive understanding of the issues affecting eastern DRC, and as being central to the efforts of local civil society to build peace.

These local organisations conduct research through contacting and working with all parties engaged in conflict to reach agreement on the identification of issues and possible solutions to them. Through their inclusive research process, they foster dialogue between conflicting parties, which can lead to relationships that extend far beyond the actual research period. These activities mean that the organisations have to be very careful and efficient in their communication. They often are met with suspicion, and are the object of rumour and prejudice.

Their ultimate aim is to make an impact and actually change perceptions and behaviours in order to build the foundations for a sustainable peace.

Our training brought together expertise and experience in communications and training to help them acquire the tools they need to navigate these difficult circumstances and to ensure their work achieved maximum impact.

The week-long training also allowed time for reflection and planning – a time that peacebuilders often cannot afford in their daily work. The five-day training was a success, and participants did take home essential skills in communicating with other organisations, as well as thinking through the factors that influence the way their organisation is perceived by others.

Alert’s presence in the DRC has been largely focused on empowering local organisations and communities engaged in peacebuilding. We have conducted a wide range of training and capacity building activities with local womens’ leaders, as well as various local organisations engaged in other crucial peacebuilding work.

This communications training was part of an EU-funded project, ‘Enhancing dialogue in eastern DRC’, which has a large training component. Alert will be engaged in medium term accompaniment and capacity building of organisations throughout eastern DRC, in South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri provinces respectively.