We have learned to be more adaptable and understanding than ever before. While we may feel less in control of our futures than at any other time in our lives, most of us have met this extraordinary challenge with grace and patience.
In thinking about those qualities – grace, resilience and patience – I am reminded that however challenging the year may have been for us at Peace Direct, our local partners have dealt with much worse. And yet, they have demonstrated these qualities in abundance. There’s a superhuman quality in almost every local peacebuilder. The best way I can describe this is being able to hold on to the possibility of a better future for their communities,and to work towards it, even when violence is bearing down upon them.
So, as we look back at the year, I want to say to all peacebuilders everywhere: thank you for believing in peace even when many don’t, and even when your own lives are at risk. You are an inspiration to all of us.
The year has been punctuated by achievements and challenges, which you can read about on our website. Here, I reflect on a couple of the things that have stood out most for me during a tumultuous year.
The most poignant example of this for me was in August, when the Taliban swept through Kabul, shocking the world in an instant. The hopes of a generation of women and girls vanished at that moment and the country now faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. At Peace Direct, we worked hard and fast to see if and how we could work with local peacebuilding organisations. We soon found that while the world’s attention was focused on evacuating people from the country, local civil society organisations were teetering on the brink of collapse; starved of funds, solidarity and support. We established a new partnership with a local organisation, Equality for Peace and Democracy, based in Kabul, who urgently needed assistance, and I am proud that we could send them some rapid and flexible funding to help them survive. Working closely with them over the past couple of months, we have now launched the Afghanistan Solidarity Fund, which will support local women’s groups, youth groups, and other community-based initiatives so that they can continue their life-saving work in the coming months. As one staff member from EPD told us recently, “when the world left Afghan civil society in chaos with no access to financial resources to continue their work, Peace Direct stepped in.'” The staff and volunteers of EPD remain in Afghanistan, as do the members of their peace committees and women’s protection networks. They have not given up hope of a better Afghanistan, and nor should we.
Across the world, many many others have shown similar bravery and resilience. In the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan – countries written off by the international community as persistently wracked by violence and instability – we have worked with our partners to support and strengthen an ecosystem of local peacebuilders. Together, we have continued to grow our ‘Local Action Fund’ which provides flexible funding, support and accompaniment for work that is led by local groups. In 2021, through the Local Action Fund more than 150 local organisations became better placed to tackle violence in their communities. We know that when local groups are trusted to do the work they tell us is needed in their communities, and by not placing restrictions on funding, building sustainable peace becomes a real possibility. We are proud that our Local Action Fund is catalysing local peacebuilding efforts around the world. In the New Year we’ll be sharing some of the stories that we’ve received over the year, so please watch this space.
As we end the year, I hope that we carry those qualities of resilience, patience and grace into 2022. More than that, I hope we can learn from peacebuilders everywhere, to hold onto hope even in the darkness. As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest just before the dawn.