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lluminating our Differences while Honoring our Shared Humanity

19 July 2017

“Education, safety and security are essential practical tools for peacebuilding” - Marla Mossman  

Photo:  Marla Mossman at the United Nations High Level Meeting Afghanistan: Improving Aid Effectiveness and Building Partnerships with National Stakeholders to “Eradicate Poverty and Promote Prosperity”

The Diplomatic Society is running a series of in-depth commentaries covering many varied reconciliation initiatives, peace-building efforts and analyzing ways to empower conflict-affected communities through good governance practices for the promotion of human rights.   

This week in an exclusive interview, United Nations Representative for the International Center for Ethno/Religious Mediation (ICERM)   Marla Mossman spoke to The Diplomatic Society Global Editor Srimal Fernando.  In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Marla Mossman answers a series of questions and talks about her new role at the Peace Alliance Leadership Council.

Srimal Fernando (SF):  Working at Peace Alliance provides a dynamic and engaging environment for a peace builder like you. What kind of role are you going to play with Peace Alliance in the coming months? What serves as a guiding principal in your life?
 Marla Mossman  (MM) :   In addition to my role as The Fostering International Peace Lead on the Peace Alliance Leadership Council, I am the United Nations Representative for the International Center for Ethno/Religious Mediation (ICERM).  Today I attended a UN High Level Meeting moderated by Afghan Ambassador H.E. Mahmoud Saikal and attended by H.E. Abdul Sattar Murad Afghan Minister of Economy, several Afghan parliamentarians, as well as members of Civil Society to discuss best practices for Afghanistan in the Eradication of Poverty and implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
As a Peace Builder, I am honored to be at the UN. This meeting exemplifies my opportunity to hear directly from ambassadors to local stakeholders and gain a holistic perspective on issues that are pertinent to global survival.
My life's mission is for each person to live their fullest potential with access to education, the arts, to live in a safe, clean environment, free from war and violence.
My work with the Peace Alliance focuses on advocating for issues and lobbying to Members of Congress on legislation that further these notions of Peaceful Coexistence.

SF: The South Asia region is perhaps the most conflict sensitive region in the world.  In a recently published  Global Peace Index (GPI)  report   on South Asian states Bhutan was  ranked at 13th,  Sri Lanka at  80th,  Bangladesh 84th, Nepal 93rd,  India 137th, Pakistan 152nd and Afghanistan at  162 out of 163 nations evaluated. To build sustainable peace South Asian States need to strength democracy, good governance. What are your suggestions about how South Asian nations could strengthen democracy, good governance and build sustainable peace in this region?
(MM):   History has shown us that centuries of war have only perpetuated more wars leaving a global community of personally affected people. In some countries, there are families who have suffered through generations of continuous fighting. Obviously, this method does not solve problems but perpetuates hate and prejudices.
At the Peace Alliance our solution is a civil and governmental Framework which we've identified as the Five Cornerstones of Peace: Empowering Community Peacebuilding, Teaching Peace in Schools,
Humanizing Justice Systems, Fostering International Peace, Cultivating Personal Peace and Empowering Community Peacebuilding.
Building on these principles provide qualification of methods and techniques in non-conflict solutions along with a Restorative Justice program that works with community stakeholders, supporting comprehensive activities and strategies in communities working to address such challenges as crime, violence, and gangs. Effective programs may include hands-on street outreach and intervention, mental health services, out-of-school programs, police/community relations, and arts-based practices.

SF: US has a vital role to play in maintaining peace and stability in South Asian States. In your opinion how can US reinforce the confidence of building peace and bringing about stability among these nations?
(MM):  Currently the US State Department needs to replace the departed Ambassadors who were fired by President Trump the day he took office. Embassies around the world are understaffed and unable to fulfill their mission of US aid and assistance.  
Bringing into schools conflict resolution curricula with tools such as social-emotional learning, communication techniques, restorative processes, mindfulness and other proven peacebuilding skills to increase graduation rates and transform violence, bullying, truancy, and challenges facing youth. Moving away from overly punitive policies, toward healing-oriented criminal and juvenile justice approaches. Restorative justice, diversion/alternative incarceration programs, trauma-informed systems, and prisoner rehabilitation & re-entry programs are among the most promising. Integrating peace in our own lives, with our children, in our relationships, in the workplace, and in our approach to activism, through such methods as compassionate communication, mindfulness, empathy, and stress reduction. Championing peacebuilding approaches to international conflict and atrocity prevention in hotspots through mediation, diplomacy, and effective on-the-ground programs. Important components may involve development, post-conflict justice, humanitarian aid, mediation and support for frameworks necessary for democratic processes.
SF:  In almost six years of conflict in Syria close to half a million people have been killed and over 4 million more internally displaced. Perhaps now is the time for the conflicting parties and the International community to put an end to the years of hostilities. The road to peace can certainly be a very difficult. In that aspect what are your thoughts about building peace and reconciliation among the Syrian society?
(MM):  I have outlined Practical tools for Peace Building, education and the essentials of safety and security. However, there is a need for skilled jobs. People want to work, take care of their families, and gain better lives for themselves and their children.
Yet there is vast unemployment due to lack of opportunities to learn new skills. This is stifling progress, especially the future for girls and boys (22- 28 ages). The post traumatic conditions they are experiencing need both physical and psychological support.
Governments and Private sectors can team up to create goals for a prosperous and vibrant society when the focus moves from war and violence to compassion and peace.
We can all do our share by practicing personal peace. Now is the time to eradicate the forces of hate, violence and terror. I do my part in my work and my art project of storytelling and photography.  My Peace Caravan Project's motto is "Illuminating our Differences while Honoring our Shared Humanity."




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