Burundian Peace Exchange (Fall 2013)

From Peace Direct, with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

Community-based Warning and Response (CBWR) systems are an emerging idea in the peacebuilding and conflict prevention fields. CBWR builds on previous Early Warning and Response (EWER) models, such as FAST, which face challenges because of their dependence on external forecasting, and lack of clear links to effective responses or preventative action. By contrast, CBWR systems build from the local upwards, harnessing existing local capacities to build dynamic networks for immediate responses to emerging conflicts through local mediation, training and/or invoking local or state authorities.

In a 3 day ‘Peace Exchange’ conference in Burundi in September, jointly organised by Peace Direct and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and with funding from USIP and the Nexus Fund, we saw the components of a Burundian CBWR network emerge, almost alchemically, from having the right ingredients in the room.

A Burundian Quaker organisation, Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC), pioneered an EWER in Burundi in advance of the 2010 elections. While these elections were relatively peaceful, violence continues in Burundi and many fear that it is again on the rise as the ruling party prepares for the 2015 elections.

During the conference, representatives from 18 Burundian peacebuilding organizations, including HROC, and two from across the border in DRC, shared their priorities for peacebuilding and concerns about the road to 2015. They also heard about experiences from Kenyan peacebuilders, who adapted HROC’s EWER model for their 2013 elections, as well as the EWER Working Group Coordinator of Liberia and Convener of the UNLock EWER system in Nigeria. Participation by different arms of government was a feature of these, which may be harder to achieve in Burundi.

Burundian participants identified existing synergies between their work – including overlapping and complementary areas of focus, shared approaches to education and training, and collective geographic presence of nearly the entire country – that would build a strong foundation for a CBWR. Burundian groups chose three representatives to steer next steps, with support as needed from FCNL, Peace Direct and the Kenyan, Liberian and Nigerian participants – who at the conference voluntarily formed a civil society EWER technical support team.