It’s the International Day of Non-Violence on Friday, commemorating 146 years since the birth of India’s pre-eminent peacemaker, Mahatma Gandhi, who led his country to independence and pioneered the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.
The day was established by the UN to raise awareness of non-violence principles and strategies for achieving tolerance and understanding. It offers us a space to assess efforts currently being made towards peacefulness in the world, whether they are suitable and whether they work. It is crucial that as we look to success stories like Gandhi, we acknowledge the obstacles peacebuilders of today regularly face in their work.
Today, during humanitarian crises, local actors – such as those Peace Direct supports – are suffering from chronic underfunding. These local responders, who are effective, timely and cheap are, perversely, desperate for funds needed to carry out their work.
The recently published 2015 World Disasters Report, by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), concludes that “although widely recognised, the effectiveness of local or national humanitarian organisations is not reflected in the humanitarian financing or coordination structures.”
This is simple logic. These organisations are local, run by local people for local causes. They are the first to arrive on scene to respond to adversity and the last to leave when a solution has been found. In the case of Peace Direct, localised responses to conflict are especially important because they offer war-ravaged communities genuine hope of lasting settlements. We believe these solutions are offered only by a tangible introduction of local people in the peace process.
As world leaders gather in New York to debate the future of global development this week, and presidents trade words about how to respond with force to political crises, it’s worth remembering that local leaders and non-violent means have an important role to play too.