Photo: © 2017, Peace Dialogue, “Systematizing the experiences of Arena”. Author: Armine Zakaryan
The project “ARENA: Community Theatre and Public Art” was launched in 2015 aimed at empowering the civil society activists from the conflict affected countries in the post-Soviet territory. The project is aimed at improving the impact of peace building on the community and regional levels through developing relevant pro-active strategies for a community based peace building and creating a safe and supportive network for civil society groups from the South Caucasus Region, Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Since the beginning of the project, more than 42 civil society actors participated in 6 regional workshops and 10 follow-up activities organized within the framework of the Arena program. Currently the Arena community involves more than 60 peace and human rights activists as well as independent artists, journalists, filmmakers and comic makers from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation and Ukraine. Moreover, many civil society activists from Armenia, Russia, Croatia, Lebanon, Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, who were involved in the project’s activities as trainers, facilitators or consultants during different phases of the project, expressed their interest in joining the ARENA community and supporting the efforts of the project’s participants.
From 24 to 27 April, 2017, 14 participants were invited to take part in a workshop aimed at implementing a participatory and comprehensive analysis of conflict dynamics in the project involved region and review of the participant’s role in these processes during the last two years. The workshop was entitled “Systematizing the experiences of ARENA project in 2015 and 2016.” With this workshop the organizers intended to establish a relevant basis for developing pro-active, bottom-up peacebuilding strategies, suitable in the specific local contexts of the ARENA community members. The development of the strategy of the network will be implemented during a seven-day Summer School for Creative Strategizing. The event will take place in the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) in Stadtschlaining, Austria later in August, 2017.
During the “Systematizing the experiences of ARENA” workshop, the participants focused on answering the question:
“How did the ARENA platform help its participants to develop suitable, pro-active strategies for their community based peace building activities?”
“Our society is very polarized. The society is full of apathy and fear, there are many challenges in the life of people in my country. I would like to live here with the knowledge of how to deal with at least some of these issues. I want to use systematization exercise in order to realize how to work with this issues more effectively”- said one of the participants of the workshop.
During the workshop the participants were asked to share thoughts on what the aims of each of the ARENA project’s activities were in 2015 and 2016 and what was contribution of these activities to their community-based peace efforts. The participants mentioned that ARENA:
- Strives to establish an international peacebuilding network;
- Creates a platform for collaboration for people working for peace across a conflict divides;
- Creates a structure for mutual support for the peace and human rights activists;
- Forms personal attitudes towards the conflicts (humanizes conflicts) through helping the participants to explore each other’s contexts;
- Provides artistic means for promoting peacebuilding ideas and empowers people from conflict affected communities through art;
- Promotes experience, exchange and recognition of one’s own role in bringing changes in the participant’s communities;
- Provides instruments and skills for making peacebuilding more attractive and understandable for broader public in the participant’s respective communities;
- Builds capacities of peace and human rights NGOs and provides opportunities for analysis and reflection for peace activists from conflict affected and post-conflict countries of the Eastern Partnership region and Russia.
Analyzing the previous activities of the project and lessons learnt from their own experience, the participants have developed a list of recommendations to be considered during the development of the ARENA’s strategy.
Noteworthy, those recommendations were based on the detailed analysis of the participants’ specific local contexts. For instance, in contexts where the involvement of new people into peace oriented projects is restricted due to political circumstances, it is necessary to provide some resources to the network memebers so they can constantly work with larger number of people in order to involve them during the further activities of the project.
Many participants mentioned that a relevant structure (network) should be created for insuring collaboration and constant communication between the ARENA implementing team and the regional groups. Moreover, the participants involved in the project at its earlier phases should take a leading role in empowering the “newcomers” in the network.
According to the recommendations of the workshop participants, the concrete vision and mission of the network should be developed together with a concrete criteria for involving new people. This may help the involved actors to develop their respective sense of ownership towards the network and stop perceiving themselves as just project participants.
“In order to increase the effectiveness of the local peace-building initiatives the network members should implement a constant assessment of the needs and interests of people in their communities,”- said the participants of the “Systematizing the experiences of ARENA” workshop.
Based on the assessments, they will be able to develop methodologies and approaches together with the other Arena members that will best work in their specific social and political context.
The topic of building a fund-raising mechanism that will provide sustainability for both the network and the participants’ work at their respective communities was one of main topics of concern for the workshop participants. Many participants mentioned that in their countries there are no resources available for a long-term peace building work.
And the last but not least, many recommended establishing a relevant decision making mechanism within the network and in their regional groups. This is was important particularly because some of the participants of the ARENA project are involved as individuals or as representatives of different organizations, therefore, it is necessary to define how the decisions are made regarding the network developments and the participant’s initiatives in their local communities.
We would like to also recommend you reading the article about another workshop „Art and visuals in community based peace-building“ held in the framework of the ARENA project from 19 to 22 April, 2017 in Tbilisi.
For more details, please contact Armine Zakaryan at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Project’s German Partner – OWEN – Mobile Akademie für Geschlechterdemokratie und Friedensförderung e.V.
The project “Arena: Community Theater and Public Art” is supported by the zivik (Civil Conflict Resolution) programme of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) with means from the German Federal Foreign Office.