October 24, 2011 – Peacemakers honored in Kenya, Middle East and Uganda

Peacemakers honored for outstanding work in Kenya, Middle East and Uganda

October 24, 2011

San Diego, CA – On October 12, 2011, George Gachara, co-founder of the Picha Mtaani (Street Exhibition) initiative in Kenya, and EcoPeace Middle East, a regional organization of environmentalists who promote sustainable development and advance peace efforts in the Middle East, received the 2011 Outstanding Leadership Award from the International Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). The awardees were selected in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to advancing conflict resolution internationally. The awards were presented at ACR’s Annual Conference in San Diego, California (USA). Sister Pauline Acayo, 2010 individual recipient of the same award, also formally accepted her award at the conference in San Diego. Many who heard the presentations of Gachara, Bromberg and Acayo found their remarks the inspirational highlight of the conference.

George Gachara, of Nairobi, Kenya, helps create spaces for young people to become agents of peace and reconciliation in their communities. In the aftermath of the 2007 presidential election in Kenya, waves of political and ethnic violence swept the country, resulting in the deaths of over 1,500 people and the internal displacement of 600,000. “As a country we stood on the brink of collapse,” recalls George of the days and weeks following the election. “We saw how bad things can get. For us, Peace cannot be just an interval between wars, which is why we’re driving a much needed cultural transformation.” Seeking to prevent such violence from erupting again in the future, George joined with two other young leaders in launching the Picha Mtaani (Swahili for Street Exhibition) initiative. In addition to training young people in facilitation and peacemaking skills to spark reflection and dialogue, Picha Mtaani hosts photography exhibitions of the 2007/8 election violence, which have been attended by over 1,000,000 young people. George says, “We hope that by staring at the horror we inflicted on each other, we can steer individuals towards personal reflection.” He adds, “Addressing conflict is not merely about pacification of peoples, but addressing injustices, inequalities between people. Unless we can meet this challenge, new conflicts will flare up and we will lose another generation to war, it is our duty to nurture a future and hope for young people suffering from unemployment and have little prospects of improving their lives.” To learn more about the work of George Gachara, visit: www.pichamtaani.org and www.georgegachara.com .

EcoPeace Middle East is a regional organization bringing together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists to promote sustainable development and advance peace efforts in the Middle East. The primary objective of EcoPeace is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect shared environmental heritage. EcoPeace seeks to advance both sustainable and regional development and create the necessary conditions for lasting peace in the Middle East. EcoPeace’s unique innovation is the development of a shared regional vision based on the need to share water resources more fairly between the region’s people and with nature, in order to respond to the demise of the region’s trans-boundary natural ecosystems. These include the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, the Mountain and Coastal Aquifers, and the effects of climate change on the water resources in this region. Using grass-roots and community-based strategies, activities are carried out in all sectors of society—youth, adults and municipalities—to promote and educate communities on the pressing environmental issues that threaten common livelihoods, and provide people with the appropriate tools to tackle these environmental and social challenges. Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli Director for EcoPeace accepted the award on behalf of his organization and the other co-directors who could not be there: Munqueth Mehyar (Jordan) and Nader Khateeb (Palestine). Bromberg, Mehyar and Khateeb have played a central role in developing and implementing projects that for the first time ever have brought together Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists to join forces in efforts to promote the integration of environmental considerations into regional development and trans-boundary environmental and peace building projects. For information about some of EcoPeace’s current activities, visit http://foeme.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/foeme-2011-plans-activities

Sister Pauline Acayo is head of Catholic Relief Services in Uganda’s Northern Region. Among her many accomplishments, Sister Pauline helped to reintegrate to the community over 5,000 child soldiers and 2,500 formerly abducted people, through traditional reconciliation methods. She coordinates a radio program for a Community Resilience and Dialogue peace building project. She is a beloved figure across her region in northern Uganda and shared many stories with the ACR attendees about her work in villages with “the poorest of the poor”.

ACR International Section and International Day

ACR’s International Section consists of a global team of mediators, peacemakers and students exchanging ideas while promoting peace and conflict resolution. ACR’s International Day is the premier networking event for conflict resolution practitioners with a global focus. An excellent forum for members to learn and expand their work locally and globally, this year’s International Day was part of the Association for Conflict Resolution’s 11th Annual Conference, “Many Paths: One Destination.” For more information, visit www.acrnet.org

About the Association for Conflict Resolution

The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) is the professional organization dedicated to enhancing the practice and public understanding of conflict resolution. ACR represents and serves a diverse national and international audience that includes nearly 5,000 mediators, arbitrators, facilitators, educators, and others involved in the field of conflict resolution. ACR also publishes Conflict Resolution Quarterly Journal and ACResolution. For more information about ACR, visit http://www.ACRnet.org

To view photos of the reception on our Flickr page, click here