BBC World broadcast
about Peace to the City partner in Jamaica
Stories from the Peace to the City Campaign: (1997 - 1998)
Like many cities in the US, Boston is a city of economic contrasts with wealthy and economically impoverished neighborhoods. Even though they live only a stone's throw from some of the most renowned American universities, the urban poor in Boston are still forced to cope with an environment with high rates of unemployment, illness, chemical dependency, neglect, crime and violence.
Large numbers of the victims and perpetrators involved in crimes are juveniles. Federal data shows that children ages 10-17 are 11.3% of the U.S. population but commit more than 18% of all violent crime and 33% of property crimes. Likewise, young adults under 25 constitute 21% of the population but commit almost 60% of all property crimes and approximately half of all violent crimes. Often, both the victims and perpetrators of juvenile violence are minority children who live in the economically depressed big city neighborhoods and public housing complexes.
In spite of these bleak statistics, Boston's murder rate has been cut by more than one-third in the last two years, and only one person under 17 has been killed by a gun or knife since July 1995. Attorney General Janet Reno has attributed the changing trends in Boston to a "comprehensive effort that balances enforcement with good prevention mechanisms." No one group can take all the credit for changing the traditional approach to problems to a more collaborative and cooperative one. However, key to Boston's success has been the creation of the Ten-Point Coalition.
The Boston Ten-Point Coalition was established in the early 1990s when violence in Boston was reaching its peak. The Coalition is an ecumenical group of Christian clergy and lay leaders working to mobilize the Christian community around issues affecting black and Latino youth - especially those at-risk for violence, drug abuse, and other destructive behaviour. The Coalition's goal is to make the local church more effective in the work of rebuilding communities. It also seeks to build partnerships with community-based, governmental, and private sector institutions. Their work has involved a dynamic street ministry, community organization and development, youth and police leadership awards, summer programs for youth, and more.
Perhaps more than any group in Boston, the Ten-Point clergy can take credit for the recently reported drop in juvenile deaths and related crimes in Boston. For it is through the street, home, and prison ministries of these ministers that the most at-risk youth and families in the city are offered a road to hope and healing.
Adapted from a presentation by Ms. Randi Donnis.
A former gang member working with at-risk youth in Boston.
Photo: Teny Goss
Boston Local Coordinator:
Sri Lanka has a pluralistic society of several different ethnic communities. The Sinhalese, the majority of whom are Buddhists, form the main ethnic group with 74 percent of the population and are concentrated in the south, west and central parts of the country. The Tamils with 18 percent of the population form the next major ethnic group. Most of them are Hindu, and live in the north and east of the island. The Muslims form the third major ethnic group with 8 percent of the population. While a minority of both Sinhalese and Tamils are Christian, they are not considered to be a separate ethnic group.
Sri Lanka's ongoing ethnic conflict and the separatist war it has given rise to is the country's most intractable and destructive problem. The war that has raged between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has gone on for over 14 years causing around 50,000 deaths and incalculable damage to personal and public property. Some one million persons have been uprooted and displaced internally, with another half million leaving the country to claim refugee status abroad.
The National Peace Council, the country's only full time peace organisation, was formed by an inter-religious group of organisations and individuals at a peace conference in February 1995.
Especially in the aftermath of the breakdown of peace talks between the government and LTTE in April 1995, the NPC virtually stood alone in opposing the government's declaration of "a war for peace." The NPC's position then and now is that: 1) the only way of ending the war is through negotiations; 2) that peace without the LTTE being brought into the process is not possible; and 3) that the negotiated political settlement should address the national aspirations of the Tamil people.
The focus of the NPC's multi-faceted programmes is to build the will and capacity of both the government and the LTTE to end the civil war and arrive at a negotiated political settlement. Over the past two years, the NPC has developed three main program areas to educate the people about the need and possibilities for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict: peace education through information sharing, workshops, and media campaigns; networking of peace organisations and activists; and consultations, advocacy and informal diplomacy with representatives of the parties to the conflict.
The uniqueness of the NPC's achievements have been due to its credibility and relevance in the peace process due to the consistency of policy and attitude of opposing the war. It has succeeded in developing an ideological coherence and organisational effectiveness despite the most complex conjunctures in the overall situation. The NPC is composed of persons from diverse ideological, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Its strength is that they are all united by a conviction regarding the need for a negotiated settlement of the ethnic conflict.
Adapted from a presentation by Mr. Tyrol Ferdinands, National Peace Council.
Colombo Local Coordinator:
Much destruction has been caused by political violence in the Durban Functional Region in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Thousands have been killed, many more thousands have been injured, and untold numbers of homes, properties, community facilities, clinics and schools have been destroyed. The region's experiences reflect the fragility and incompleteness of the peace that has been made, and the fact that there are continuing threats to that peace: nearly a half-million people displaced from their homes by the violence; a very large number of "no-go areas" for one or the other political party; a high degree of political intolerance especially at the community level; the lack of effective and non-partisan weapon control; an inadequate policing and judicial system; the fear of increasing tension as elections approach.
Peacemaking in this region has involved a variety of levels and sectors of society making different contributions: grassroots communities, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, churches and religious organizations, business, political and religious leadership. The backdrop of this peace-making have been dramatic constitutional and legislative changes at national, provincial and local levels. These changes have laid the basis for peacemaking and yet at times have increased the tension, for example, the violence related to the 1994 and 1996 elections.
No one group can take credit for successes achieved in peacemaking; it has been the cumulative effect of many different initiatives.
One example of the work in the region involves the Community Policing Forums (CPF) as a means of overcoming political and criminal violence. During the Apartheid, era the disenfranchised and oppressed people saw the South African Police Force as the enemy and tool of oppression. Each side viewed the other with great suspicion and hostility.
To change attitudes of both police and community members, the current ministry of Safety and Security introduced Community Policing Forums. One area where the CPF has been successful is in KwaMakhutha, a black township in the Durban region.
KwaMakhutha has over the years been torn apart by violent conflict among the African National Congress (ANC), the Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) and the Apartheid-sponsored Security Forces. The CPF has since 1995 brought together these three and relationships have improved among them. For example, they managed to reach consensus on a local CPF constitution, an achievement due also to the impartial facilitation of the church.
While the relationship built between these three groups has eliminated political violence, criminal violence has followed. Additional efforts were needed to change attitudes between the community and the police. In the past it was impossible to get community people to cooperate with the police for fear of being labeled an informer and risk being killed. Now people are more willing to pass on information to the police, resulting in arrests of criminals and a general reduction of crime in the area.
In 1997 the KwaMakhutha CPF was awarded by the Department of Safety and Security in the Durban region as the best CPF in this area.
Adapted from a presentation by Mike Vorster and the November bulletin from Durban.
Kingston, with a population of approximately 750,000, is the largest population centre in the English-speaking Caribbean and exhibits extremes from tiny exclusive communities, rural pockets, inner city areas, commercial and industrial areas to middle and low-income areas. The people of the island and mainland Caribbean are made up of small pockets of indigenous inhabitants and descendants of "the people who came" from Asia as indentured servants, from the Far and Middle East as entrepreneurs, from Europe as conquerors, servants, convicts and landowners and from other parts of the globe for various reasons, and of the "born ya". The region was forged in institutional violence that served a political and economic system, which, despite emancipation and universal adult suffrage, remains unchanged in many of its core practices and values.
The violence faced in Kingston, which has been characterized as urban violence, includes youth, gang- and drug-related, political and household/domestic crime. Of the major crimes reported in 1997 for Jamaica, the Kingston Metropolitan Region accounts for 83% of the murders; 86% of the shootings, 69% of rape, 68% of carnal abuse; 70% of robberies; 46% of breaking and entering; 58% of larceny. Police statistics show that of the people arrested, a high percentage are in the 16-30 years age group: 78.3% for murder; 83.9% for shooting; 87.6% for robbery; 66.3% for rape.
The frequent use of roadblocks, strikes, demonstrations, police power, radio talk shows, violently to express views of violence and disagreement, coupled with scandal-mongering, all contribute to a climate of intolerance and vigilantism.
In response to the violence, projects have been developed, experimented with and implemented. One sign of hope and model for rebuilding broken communities are local peace treaties which have been developed between communities torn apart by violence. Modelled on a public commitment to end the violence between two infamous antagonists in the 1970s, a number of peace treaties have been brokered in the 1990s by communities themselves who are declaring that the violence around them is unacceptable are taking charge of finding their own solutions.
The Peace Treaty with all its denotations and connotations is the activity that now defines attempts at peacemaking within communities and has offered a model for future behavior. We may very well be at the point where the Peace Treaty coalesces into a way of life, a model from the grassroots, available to the grassroots people as a method for ending their own violence.
Adapted from articles by Ms. Donna Parchment and Rev. Althea Spencer-Miller.
A local coordinator for Kingston will be named in March 1998.
"The Marvelous City" is the name proudly given by the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro to their sprawling, dramatically beautiful city. During the past two decades, a sharp increase in crime and overall violence in Rio has dealt a sharp blow to the city's image as a tropical paradise--a privileged place where the living is easy. Suddenly, it appeared, Rio de Janeiro had become a dangerous place to live in and an easy place to die in.
The problems of underdevelopment and insecurity common to all third world cities took on an uglier and larger dimension in the 1980s, transforming Rio's newspaper headlines into a rosary of atrocities: kidnappings, the assassination of street children, the arbitrary killing of shanty-town dwellers by police death squads, stray bullets maiming bystanders, shoot-outs in the streets. It is estimated that an average of 4,000 people are killed each year in the "Marvelous City". In a listing of Latin America's most violent cities, Rio de Janeiro ranks third, just behind Cali (Colombia) and San Salvador (El Salvador).
The majority of the victims of Rio de Janeiro's urban violence are young, lower-class males. Many of these victims are amongst the poorest of the poor, marginalized from the mainstream of society and often living in shanty-towns, or "favelas". The victims of violence are also victims of social neglect. They have had little or no schooling, health care, job opportunities... nor faith in the future.
Viva Rio believes that the lack of social opportunities is one of the factors linked to the problem of increasing violence. As a movement for the city of Rio de Janeiro, created at a time of crisis, Viva Rio aims at reversing the self-destructive tendencies of social polarization by promoting solidarity and by generating positive dynamics to face and overcome existing problems.
As a non-governmental movement, Viva Rio functions within the diversity of civil society and aims at the common good, bringing together individuals and institutions which represent different social classes, races, religious faiths and political tendencies.
Emphasizing citizenship and solidarity, Viva Rio develops concrete actions in two main directions:
human rights, justice and public security - often providing an immediate response to a problem resulting from a disrespect for individual rights through programs of direct judicial assistance and witness protection. Viva Rio also leads the field in campaigns aimed at modifying state policies on issues of public security to re-establish a dialogue of trust between the police force and civil society.
community work and community integration: to re-establish the torn relations within the society in order to prevent and reduce the fundamental, underlying causes of violence. Viva Rio coordinates and provides support for several community actions and has developed a city-wide network of basic education assistance operating in over 100 classrooms.
Viva Rio is a facilitator and an agent of communication, acting as a link between initiatives aimed at restoring peace and justice to Rio de Janeiro.
Adapted from the December Bulletin from Rio de Janeiro Peace to the City Campaign.
Suva is the capital of Fiji, whose 330 islands, about half of them inhabited, have a population of about 750,000. Fiji's population comprises 49% indigenous Fijians, 47% Indo-Fijians and 4% from other ethnic origins. The Indo-Fijians are descendants of indentured labourers and other migrants from the Indian sub-continent under British colonial rule in the late 19th and early 20th century.
During the colonial period a policy of separate development for the two major ethnic communities was pursued, creating disparities between them. The Independence Constitution of 1970 designed to accommodate a multi-racial Fiji was shattered by the military coup of 1987. The 1990 Constitution prescribed a large majority for indigenous Fijian parliamentary representation and condemned the Indo-Fijian to be in opposition in perpetuity. Since 1987 peaceful multi-racial co-existence in Fiji has deteriorated and the climate of hostility between the indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijians precipitated by the coup has continued.
This environment has led to the increase in violence in the city of Suva, especially immediately after the coup with daily bombings of Indo-Fijian businesses and beatings of members of that community.
To secure and maintain peace in Fiji, a mutually agreed constitutional arrangement promoting and protecting the political rights of indigenous Fijians as well as accommodating the desire for equality of the Indo-Fijians is imperative. For the last four years various non-governmental organisations, including churches, have engaged in programmes to create the climate that will enhance trust between ethnic communities as well as increase the knowledge of political, business and community leaders of different elements of constitution making and good governance.
The efforts of the NGO community in recapturing the spirit of multiracialism in Fiji since the coups of 1987 have been varied and invaluable. Three of these are the Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF), Interfaith Search Fiji and the People for Intercultural Awareness.
CCF's main aim is to facilitate dialogue and debate between diverse interest groups to promote understanding and build consensus and agreement on issues of common or national interest. Formed in 1994 by religious, community, women and youth leaders and academics in response to Fiji's longstanding constitutional crisis and in anticipation of a review, CCF has worked to redefine the debate in nonracial and secular terms in shaping Fiji's constitutional framework.
Interfaith Search Fiji consists of 16 religious organisations and communities searching for ways to build bridges of respect and understanding between people of different religious traditions for the wider community. Interfaith Search resulted from a call made by Church leaders in June 1987 for leaders of different religious traditions to pray for the good of Fiji and to find ways of increasing such prayer and understanding.
People for Intercultural Awareness (PIA) developed out of a two-week intercultural course which was started by the Columban Fathers in December 1990. This has since become an annual event. Dedicated to promoting better community relations in Fiji, the organisation recognises that this requires dialogue and regards the promotion of tolerance and mutual understanding as an essential ingredient in the process.
In July 1997 the political leaders reached a mutually agreed Constitution for a multi-racial democratic Fiji. It prescribes a creative adaptation of the Westminister model addressing primarily the issue of nurturing peaceful co-existence between the two major ethnic communities. The over-riding lesson is that it is possible given the right climate and goodwill to have a constitutional arrangement that enhances diversity and pluralism in a nation.
Ms. Amelia Rokotuivuna
Suva Local Coordinator:
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