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    Rotary Peace Fellows

March 6, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Sharon Edington

Sharon Edington is a Rotary Peace Fellow at the University of Bradford in the UK studying for her MA in Conflict, Security and Development.  Prior to commencing her Rotary Fellowship, Sharon worked for eight years in various contexts including the West Bank, the Republic of Georgia, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Chile’s Atacama Desert. This work primarily focused on women’s empowerment and human rights across a variety of areas including agriculture and livelihoods.

Sharon is interested in enhancing her skills regarding emergency response work, which led her to recently undertake a five week volunteer role supporting the Syria crisis response in Beirut. In future, Sharon will seek out roles that combine policy change and advocacy with practical programmatic support to affected communities, in order to seek the higher level changes that will enable sustainable development for vulnerable communities.

We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questions.  Here are Sharon’s answers:

1.  What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next 50 years?

Due primarily to the implications of climate change, I’m not optimistic unless change starts now. The decisions we are making today are going to lead to increased stress on already vulnerable populations, which may well lead to tension with those countries who are prepared to protect their ‘way of life’ at the cost of others. We can’t afford to be complacent, as we live in a global community.  That is why citizens of Western countries can’t afford to stop trying to improve our own societies through promoting fair policies based on human compassion as well as pragmatism.

2.  What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to fostering peace within and among nations?

▪ To slightly amend the famous quote: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.  Our leaders act in our name. We are responsible for holding them to account, keeping them honest, and promoting fair and just policies (domestically and internationally).  Too often citizens of lucky countries (like Australia) don’t reflect enough on what we can do to make the world a better place.

Balanced and equitable international trade practices and regulations: Currently the scales are heavily stacked against developing countries by the global economic system. It is important to emphasize the role of national good governance in developing countries, but there are changes necessary at the international level also.

The end to impunity: Leaders who make decisions to send their citizens to war should be held to the highest levels of accountability in regard to how that war is practiced. I welcome the prosecutions of Charles Taylor and others, and I hope that in future we see the same standards applied to Western leaders where appropriate.

It is a privilege to introduce Sharon Edington, a Young Peacemaker who has already accrued considerable field experience in areas of the world where the full spectrum of challenges to building peaceful, sustainable communities exists.  Her focus on the empowerment of women to become leaders in their communities by virtue of understanding what is necessary to build and sustain livelihoods is a theme that is gaining momentum thanks to people from all walks of life everywhere in the world who see that the inequality of access to resources simply has no rational explanation. It is a product of greed and the determination to live by standards based on the idea that some people are born more worthy than others to share in the resources of the Earth.

While much remains to be done to build a world in which full equality in every  life is the norm, activists like Sharon, who are working in their preferred way  toward that goal, provide irrefutable proof that it will one day be reality.  Sharon Edington and the Rotary Peace Fellows you have met so far lift all of us up with motivation and inspiration.  We will continue to feature people and groups working in any and all aspects of peacebuilding.

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.

February 23, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Doyin Ogunyemi

Meet Doyin Ogunyemi, our next Rotary Peace Fellow from Class 12.  Doyin is pursuing a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution at the University of Bradford, Division of Peace Studies.  This will be a second post-graduate degree for Doyin who already holds a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Lagos in Nigeria.  Her undergraduate degree in Medicine and Surgery was conferred from the University of Ibadan in 2004.

Since completing her first post-graduate degree in 2009, Doyin has practiced as a Public Health physician involved in community health outreach, disaster management, epidemic outbreak response, and research. She is a member of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) and the West African College of Physicians (WACP).

As a serving member of APHPN since 2008, Doyin’s activities include a focus on community-based approaches to peace and conflict resolution, mobilizing communities to promote people-centered approaches to public health issues, building partnerships across sectors and disciplines, collecting science-based information, and sharing experiences. Her academic interests include the relationship between conflict, poverty and health; community-based initiatives for prevention, early detection, and the proactive resolution of conflicts; and resolving conflicts in order to build collaboration.

Doyin’s research interests lay in the implications of conflict in the public health and health care systems, environmental conflict management, and sustainable development. She has a special interest in addressing the community-wide health, social, and economic issues raised by ongoing conflicts that are rooted in the effects of extreme poverty, violence, population displacements, and the collapse of public health services.  Doyin chose to pursue her second postgraduate degree—a Master’s in Conflict Resolution—to support her research in these particular areas.

We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questions.  Here are Doyin’s answers: 

1.   What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next 50 years?

While an optimistic approach to life is the best, it is a difficult one to sustain in terms of being able to foretell an end to armed conflict. The era of the ‘security dilemma’ (sometimes called the spiral model) has led to arms racing which is seen by nations as a show of power. The accumulation of arms with the notion to be more secure has the propensity for armed violence to continue for some time (unless properly checked).

2.   What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to fostering peace within and among nations?

The promotion of social justice and the use of media to speak against social inequities

Global cooperation and bottom to top approaches in governance

The involvement of peace workers in developing strategies for conflict      ‘prevention’ rather than ‘reaction’ across all cadres of the society

Doyin’s choice to use her considerable intellect and passion to improve the lives of Nigerian people is inspirational for anyone who wants to participate in reaching the long-term goal of global peace.  Her contributions do not end at the borders of Nigeria.  Her work demonstrates that wherever your peace building stage is—within the family—the community—the region—or the nation, your work will resonate far beyond that place.  This young peacemaker’s research is invaluable to the improvement of lives around the world, as all nations face the same challenges described in Doyin’s background, particularly in the areas of conflict management and sustainable development.

We hope that Doyin will keep us informed about her progress.  Thank you, Doyin, for all that you have already accomplished and will accomplish in years to come.

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.

February 13, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Frannie Noble

Meet Frannie Noble, our next Rotary Peace Fellow from Class 12.  Frannie attends the University of Bradford in the UK, which is one of the Rotary Peace Centers. As a Peace Fellow in Bradford’s Division of Peace Studies, Frannie is working toward an MA in Peace, Conflict and Development. Her particular area of interest is children’s rights.

Frannie’s interest in children’s rights grew out of work and study in West Africa. While living in Bamako, Mali, she interned with the Coalition of African NGOs Working with Children, and volunteered at a state run orphanage in the capital.

Following university, Frannie traveled through Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania to better understand care systems for orphaned and abandoned children with a particular interest in learning how children’s programs worked with local governments.

In 2010 Frannie began work in Nairobi, Kenya, to establish and run Oasis, an outreach program of Flying Kites, Inc. The program worked to unite local children’s homes and offer professional training to orphanage staff.

Frannie is interested in project management, in particular programs that support the needs of children and families in conflict.

We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questions.  Here are Frannie’s answers: 

1.   What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in  the next 50 years?

I believe the efforts to reduce arms and to end violent conflict are appropriate and necessary, but a complete end to armed conflict is an incredibly complex challenge. While I do not believe that we will see a complete end to armed conflict in the next 50 years, I do believe that an increased awareness of different types of violence, examples including domestic violence, structural violence, environmental degradation, and violence towards women, is helping to change the way countries and people work to improve the quality of life for individuals. Even more so, a greater respect for local participation and solidarity in solving conflicts and decreasing violence can and should be used to contribute to greater peacebuilding efforts.

2.   What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors  to fostering peace within and among nations?

Local ownership, involvement and partnership in development and peace building projects.  

An end to the use of root causes of conflict as an explanation for violence. When we simplify conflict into compartmentalized and often stagnant “root causes” it diminishes how we think about the individuals involved in the conflict and limits our ability to respond in a dynamic manner. 

A change in the selection process and appointments of leaders to international organizations like the IMF and World Bank to better represent the populations they serve.  

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.

February 4, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Sana Saeed

Sana Saeed is a Peace Fellow based out of the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo, Japan. ICU is one of the International Peace  Centers around the world supported by Rotary.

Sada’s experience includes working at the Interfaith Alliance as the Program Coordinator of Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity (LEADD).  This national program for high-school age youth promotes active citizenship in a multi-faith society.

As Director of Youth Programs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA, (UUCA), Sana gained in-depth experience and developed her skills to effectively work with youth by managing social justice, spiritual, and education programs for 300 high-school and middle-school youth. While at UUCA, Sana also served as a consulting Program Manager for the Interfaith Youth Action Group (IYAG), a pilot initiative in the Washington, D.C., area that builds on previous efforts by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faiths Act Fellows. It aims to empower high school students from diverse backgrounds to become leaders in interfaith dialogue and service, guiding them to create their own year-long community service initiatives with both a local and global expression, using the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as their platform.

Sana extensive experience also includes working in the role of Campus Program Coordinator for the American Islamic Congress (AIC) with a focus on Project Nur, an initiative to create multicultural and interfaith student groups on U.S. college campuses. Her work with the AIC was highlighted in an article Sana co-authored about the impact of Project Nur on Muslim students in Washington D.C. and Boston, MA.

Early in her career, Sana worked as a Program Associate for Clergy Beyond Borders, an organization that aims to build bridges between clergy of different faiths and train them to promote religious pluralism. At the same time, she was also a Graduate Research Assistant for the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia. In 2008, she completed her M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.

Sana’s recent accomplishments include co-authoring a national high-school curriculum on introducing the concepts of anti-racism and social justice to teens called, Building a Beloved Community with the Unitarian Universalist Association, for whom she is a member of the national Youth Ministry Advisory Committee (YMAC). In June 2012 she was elected to be an at large Board member of the InterFaith Conference of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

1.  What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next    50 years?

I’d like to think that in the next 50 years there would be an end to armed conflict, but history shows that humans have used armed conflict for thousands of years. I think priorities of peace makers should focus on creating more understanding to foster pluralism, dialogue to prevent misunderstandings, access to peace education as a way to begin addressing the use of arms in conflict, and also to grapple with societies in the midst of armed conflict. I believe these elements and more need to become more accessible to, and include input from, the people on the ground (local communities) who are caught in the midst of armed conflict, as a way to begin addressing the growth of peace.

2.   What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to     fostering peace within and among nations?

I believe interfaith dialogue, education, and inclusivity are essential to fostering peace. By inclusivity I mean making sure the voice at the grassroots level and in local communities impacted by conflict, trauma, and violence is prevalent in the peace process, including peace talks, as national conversations around peace often represent only a certain set of voices with access to the conversation.

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.

January 24, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Philip Ikita

Meet Philip Ikita, our next Rotary Peace Fellow from Class 12.  Philip is based at the Rotary Peace Center which is affiliated with the University of Bradford in the UK. Philip’s academic work is within the Division of Peace Studies at Bradford, which is the oldest and largest department of peace studies in the world.

Philip is a Sociologist and Development Worker with over a decade of experience in democracy/governance, human rights, conflict management, and peace activism.  His experience has found him working both within and outside of Nigeria as a civil society leader, project manager, researcher, trainer, advocate, and campaigner.

In just over a decade, Philip has gained a wealth of experience in his career so far by choosing organizations with which to work that reflect his activism and deep commitment to peace.  Prior to taking up residency in the UK for his graduate studies as a Rotary Peace Fellow, Philip served as Program Coordinator for  Nigeria’s People’s Democratic Institute.  In that role, he facilitated the first International Election Observer Mission to South Africa’s national elections in 2009 for that organization.

Another of Philip’s organizational choices, the Research Triangle Institute International (RTI) in Nigeria, gave him a chance to work on a key component of community development in his position as Training and Capacity Building Manager.  Early in his career, Philip served as Program Officer with the Mississippi Consortium for International Development (MCID), Nigeria Country Office.  In keeping with Philip’s unwavering commitment to peace, he served as a member of the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in Sri Lanka Field Team from 2007-08.

As a Peace Fellow, Philip is focusing his studies on how information technology (IT) models can support citizen and community participation in managing or mitigating conflict and in promoting democracy.

We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questions.  Here are Philip’s answers:

1.  What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next 50 years?

I see a gloomy future with regard to armed conflict in the next 50 years. Arms spending is increasing, and the so-called world military powers continue to flex their muscles. With the growth of technology, warfare is becoming more sophisticated…the U.S. is not at war, but U.S.-made drones are killing hundreds even now. It might get worst in the future.

2. What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to fostering peace within and among nations?

The three most important factors that foster greater peace among the nations are, in my opinion:

a.  The never-dying left movement: anarchists, radical scholars, the workers movement, occupy movement; left activists and the platform of social media…all are forces whose activities tend to pull back powerful governments and states from excesses;

b.  Education and increased consciousness of the larger majorities across the nations could prove to be liberating and capable of increasing the peace;

c.   Women emancipation and empowerment: in all spheres, in the streets and in government, women are contributors to peace, and I believe increased empowerment of women, increased roles for women in society and government everywhere will foster peace everywhere.

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.

January 14, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Manish Kumar

Meet Manish Kumar, our next Rotary Peace Fellow from Class 12.  He is based at The Rotary Peace Center which is anchored by the Joint Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Program.   The Duke/UNC-CH joint program gives Peace Fellows application options for either institution.  As a Peace Fellow at UNC, Manish is associated with the Gillings School of Global Public Health, specifically in the Department of Public Health Leadership.

Having lived, studied, and worked in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand, Manish witnessed different types of conflict and gained an understanding of the role of agriculture, health, and nutrition plays in the lives of rural poor. He strongly believes that livelihood opportunities, education, and access to quality healthcare services are critical to promoting peace and development. He is of the opinion that strengthening leadership and political systems is essential to improve governance along with the accountability of governments.

Studies in agriculture, development communication, and management of agricultural knowledge systems taught Manish about various developmental pathways. His extensive background includes work with academic, national, and international organizations in India.  As a Peace Fellow, he is carrying forth a focus on knowledge management, research and advocacy, information and communication technologies for health, organizational development, and partnership management. His work on advocacy includes interviews, both face-to-face and electronically, with prominent personalities including politicians, UN agency representatives, leaders of bilateral donors, bureaucrats, and civil society leaders.

Extensive travel within and outside of India shape the thought processes Manish applies in his personal and professional life.  He is passionate about social services and mentoring young professionals. Manish led the National Cadet Corps unit at his undergraduate college.  The Corps supports building character, discipline, leadership skills, and the idea of selfless service among youth. As a founding member and Asia representative of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development, Manish was instrumental in strengthening YPARD’s knowledge network which champions the cause of young agricultural professionals.  As a Rotary Peace Fellow, he is currently pursuing the Masters of Public Health in Public Health Leadership at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questions.  Here are the answers Manish gave us:

1.  What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next 50 years?

Armed conflicts, unfortunately, have shown a relatively longer life expectancy than people around the world might have expected. However, in my opinion, armed conflicts have only another fifty years, at most, to survive. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Not to believe in the possibility of permanent peace is to disbelieve in the Godliness of human nature.”

In my own view, I think that Gandhi’s thoughts have assumed greater significance in today’s world. Leaders with vested interests in the economics of conflict are preoccupied with the goal of accumulating wealth and keeping control over the access and distribution of resources.  To attain their goal, they incite conflicts within and among nations.

The balance of power is now tilted around the world in favor of these leaders who intentionally limit involvement in political, governmental, and civil society by those people at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. It is no coincidence that we see examples around the world of countries led by the winners in the economics of conflict who have the resources to promote their own agenda, excluding all others.  The leaders with these agendas very often happen to represent the interest of a particular region, religion, ethnicity, political ideology, or socioeconomic class.

2. What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to fostering peace within and among nations?

Strengthening leadership and improving governance is critical for fostering peace within and among nations. In a country where millions of people live in absolute poverty, their political representatives accumulate enough illegal wealth to acquire assets like coal mines in other countries. Such examples are common in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and cast a dark shadow on the quality of leadership and governance in some of those regions.

Furthermore, these examples reiterate the urgent need for revamping or reorganizing political institutions which is another important factor to nurture peace. Now the inter-linkages between local and national political institutions is weak with poor accountability.  This inadequate and ineffective “feudal” system is kept alive by a fiefdom of “high and mighty groups.”

But the 21st Century is here offering tremendous opportunities to design appropriate and innovative new uses for traditional communication pathways, as well as to develop entirely new information and communication technologies that can promote peace across geographical and political boundaries.  Seizing these fantastic opportunities will not only re-invigorate involvement of citizens at all levels of society, but give them, at last, the certainty of knowing that each and every one of them is a stakeholder in their political system.

When all members of society are known to be fully engaged, at every level, in the business of running their country, the credibility of that country’s leadership, both internally and externally, is greatly enhanced.  A society that is fully engaged in embracing 21st Century technologies will include those citizens who were once marginalized in remote locations.  They will be integrated into the larger society by virtue of communication technologies that reach into formerly overlooked places.  It follows, then, that equality of access to public delivery systems for every need identified within the society will be a reality.

In my opinion, cultivating peace within and among countries calls for a fully  integrated approach that tackles issues concerning leadership, governance, political systems, and public service delivery.  Depending upon the existing political climate at any given time, a country may choose to embrace all major elements of change at once, including socio-economic issues, overall management issues, and issues concerning developmental capacity.  The other option would be to address all of those elements in a “phased in” plan.  Either way, the bell of change is heard now daily in some part of the world.  And there is a very powerful truth about change being announced with the ringing of a bell.  Once the bell is rung, it cannot be “un-rung.”

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.