Global poverty and violent conflict are two of the most serious problems that we face in the world today, and they are often linked. In the poorest corners of the world, the daily struggle of deprivation can often lead to clashes between individuals or communities that can then descend into violence. Young people can be forced to seek refuge in militant organisations in order to survive, and once recruited they become part of the problem. Poverty is clearly a contributing factor to warfare – but the reverse is also true.
It’s estimated that civil war sets back a country’s development by 30 years. We see this daily in the countries where we work. With a population of nearly 66 million, DR Congo spans a territory as large as Western Europe. Over the last two decades, five million Congolese people have died because of conflict – either as a direct result of the fighting or because of the disease and hunger it has caused. Three quarters of the country’s people live below the poverty line, with more than half not having access to drinking water or basic healthcare. One in five children do not make it past the age of five.
Almost all the countries affected by conflict have failed to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal and deaths due to malnutrition are twice as common in war-torn countries. If the world is to secure prosperity and peace this needs to change, and currently not enough work is being done to overhaul the tragic circumstances in which the people in areas like this live – but there is hope.
As you know, we fund local peacebuilders around the world, helping them to implement real change. These local heroes bring an end to violence, save lives, rebuild communities, eliminate poverty and restart economies – in places that other people have already given up on. Henri, one of our partners in Congo, risks his own life time-and-time again, each time he walks in to a rebel camp and negotiates the release of child soldiers. But because he is willing to take this risk, over six hundred child soldiers are now safe. His commitment, and that of all our partners, is total – they live and raise families in these places, so their efforts will not cease.
Local people, like Henri, understand the underlying social issues that provoke these situations and therefore have a greater capacity to not only end wars, but prevent them. They negotiate with all from UN troops to militia, so they can find a peaceful solution. Their success demonstrates that local peacebuilders are well positioned to break the cycle of violence where it starts – at the grassroots. These people have all the knowledge required but they need funding, and they can make a little go a very long way – £65 could provide one small loan to help support a vulnerable family to start a small business in Congo.
That’s why, at Peace Direct, we’re committed to supporting them in their work to resolve conflicts as quickly and peacefully as possible. You can help too – join our latest campaign and Live Below the Line to raise funds for our partners who are striving to inspire enduring peace and lift their nations out of poverty. Find out more and sign up here
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed” – Dwight Eisenhower.