Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, Critical Connections, and the Islamabad-based Peace and Education Foundation (PEF) are together leading a program, Collaborating Against Violent Sectarianism, to promote greater sectarian tolerance in Pakistan. A cycle of violence against members of different Islamic religious sects, mostly perpetrated by extremist organizations, has claimed over 2,300 lives since 2007 and contributes to much wider feelings of intolerance. However, faith-based groups and secular organizations in Pakistan have very different perspectives on the causes of militancy and how these should be addressed—so they fail to rally around a common agenda for promoting tolerance and peace. This is the problem our joint program addresses, by bringing together diverse secular and religious leadership in Pakistan.
This winter, Karuna Center began work on a 4½ year program to support the Commission of Peace and Security of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-nation trading bloc that has emerged as a powerful force for peace. Last fall, ECOWAS was widely praised for its use of diplomacy to help reverse a coup in Burkina Faso, allowing democratic elections to take place. ECOWAS includes some areas where Karuna Center has deep peacebuilding experience—such as Senegal, Liberia, and Ivory Coast—as well as places where the Boko Haram insurgency and other conflicts are ongoing. It will be a privilege to work with ECOWAS leaders to further hone their approach, with so much at stake.
Our work is a part of a larger USAID-funded project in collaboration with lead implementer Creative Associates International and the project, abbreviated as REWARD,* will support the West African leaders in ECOWAS to respond quicker and more effectively to emerging violent conflicts. While Karuna Center will focus primarily on strategies for effective non-military responses that can prevent the escalation of conflict, another partner in the project, Fund for Peace, will offer their renowned expertise on mechanisms for early warning. Karuna Center Executive Director Olivia Dreier and Senior Peacebuilding Advisor Maria Jessop recently led the team’s consultative assessment in Abuja, Nigeria with ECOWAS’ staff. The team was very impressed with the staff’s insight and skill and greatly look forward to co-developing innovations that could serve as a model for the continent.
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