In Conversation with a Youth Resilience Builder by Geena Whiteman
The Oxford Human Rights Festival is about celebrating culture, encouraging debates and discussions and highlighting the work of activists, organisations and individuals across the world in building resilience. The OxHRF has been fortunate enough to conduct interviews with young pioneers across the world, heading up their own organisations and initiatives to make positive change, boost resilience and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Over the next few days we will be posting stories of young activists, the work that they do and what resilience means to them. If you want to check out the work that their organisations do, we have attached their websites for your further information.
Name: Michael Afolami
Organization: Peace Actor Network
What challenges is your organization aiming to combat, and is this a local, national or international initiative?
We are working to create an atmosphere of lasting peace in communities, where human potential can flourish. Our work at Peace Actor Network is based on the idea that humans and their actions and activities produce resultant effects in their immediate environments. Our organization is aiming to fix attitudes that fan the embers of conflict. Recently, our organization had gathered that a community that was in a ceasefire with its warring neighboring community might resuscitate the buried disagreement. As our usual practice, we identified the kingpin of the threatening party and interviewed him. Through the interview, we established a relationship with him and built his trust in us, such that he confided in us what their intentions were, and we were able to stop the looming catastrophe. To us, what we do is making communities less fragile and strong enough to prevent the outbreak of conflict. At the national and international levels, the peculiarity and somewhat objective common characteristic of fragile states is that they are prone to conflict. This is exactly the challenge we are aiming to solve: making communities less prone to conflict. At the moment, we only have a local reach with strong vision to enlarge our network of peacebuilders throughout the nation and even beyond in a time not too long.
What does resilience mean to you, and how does your organization build the resilience of those you work with?
At our organization, we perceive conflict as the greatest threat to humanity, and that is what we are fighting against. We do not necessarily need to wait for it before we act. Instead, we take preemptive measures to stop conflict in all dimensions while also building capacity of the people to deal with it – I mean, minimize its scope and impacts – in the event that it occurs. This is what resilience means to us. In light of this, we are leveraging peace education, capacity building and community development to create a community of people that are conscious enough to shun attitudes that lead to conflict.
Which of the 17 SDGs do you think is most important for building resilience around the world, and why?
Peace, justice and strong institution. First thing to note is that a peaceful atmosphere is a prerequisite for building resilience that is sustainable. This implies that you cannot build resilience in conflict, and this is the truth: that resilience is the capacity of a people to avert conflict, violence and disaster, and their ability to manage one in its eventuality. Rather than entirely viewing peace in this regard as the absence of violence, it is important to look at peace in its positive state. Here, peace is assumed to be shaped by attitudes, institutions and structures. These attitudes, institutions and structures are embedded in a number of goals that describe, among others, the level of a community’s resilience. For instance, the political culture of a state; its levels of corruption and human capital; equity in health, education and other infrastructure; flow of information; and the acceptance of the right of others, all determine whether a state is prone to conflict, or whether it can handle one when it occurs. Justice would mean the respect for the rule of law, human rights and dignity, and these are the major drivers of resilience of a people. Judicial independence, balanced democracy, are some institutions and systems that reinforce justice. Effective governance is necessary to increase the levels of human capital, enhance free flow of information and enforce less corrupt systems across governance, media, and lifestyle. In a nutshell, building resilience depends on the people's level of right, positive attitude, and availability of strong institutions in countries and communities.
Throughout the semester members of the student committee will take turns to write a blog. It might be about organising the Festival, it might be about something else they are doing in or away from Brookes, it might be thoughts on our theme of home. Check in regularly to find out!