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ACCORD director visits Holland and Finland to speak on African conflict management

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The Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Vasu Gounden, was invited by the National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO), who are based in Amsterdam, to be a resource person at the Dutch Africa Day, which was held on 14 April in The Hague.

 Dutch Africa Day has become the biggest Dutch event on development cooperation and Africa, with about 1500 visitors, the cooperation of more than thirty organizations and guest speakers from the Netherlands, Ghana, South-Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia and Benin. The meetings is structured so that concurrently with the main plenary sessions, there are also about fifty individual workshops on a variety of topics. Mr Gounden was invited to be the keynote speaker in the workshop on “African Solutions to African Conflicts” which was held on the afternoon of the 14th. Mr Gounden’s session proved so popular that tickets sales to the session saw the venue increase from accommodating forty five people to a venue that could accommodate over one hundred people.

Chairperson of the Conflict Management Initiative’s (CMI’s) International Advisory Board (and Founder of CMI), the former President of Finland, H.E. Martti Ahtisaari officially opening their annual seminar on “Private Diplomacy: Track II mediation as an instrument for peace”. The Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Vasu Gounden, is seated second from the left at the speakers table.

As peace and security was one of the key themes discussed at Africa Day, the sponsors of the book “Shaping a New Africa” (NCDO, the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa [NiZA] and the Dutch Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation [ICCO]) decided to launch the book during Africa Day. Mr. Gounden (along with two senior ACCORD researchers – Venashri Pillay and Karanja Mbugua) contributed a chapter to the book entitled “African Solutions for African Conflicts: Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding in Africa,” and Mr Gounden was invited to officially launch the book by handing a copy over to the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr. Bert Koenders. Mr Koenders was one of the key main plenary speakers. The handover took place at the end of the Minister’s address in the main plenary session.

Some of the other key speakers in the main plenary sessions included former Ghanaian President H.E. Jerry Rawlings and Dr. Mo Ibrahim, the founder of Celtel.

While in The Hague, Mr Gounden had several meetings with individuals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs focusing on Africa. He was also interviewed by several reporters, including reporters from the two biggest Dutch daily newspapers the Volkskrant and the Trouw, as well as Radio Netherlands and the Africa Bulletin.

From The Netherlands, Mr. Gounden traveled to Helsinki, Finland, where he was invited by the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) to be a resource person at their annual seminar on “Private Diplomacy: Track II mediation as an instrument for peace,” on 17 April. Mr Gounden was a presenter under the session “Case Studies of Private Diplomacy” focusing on The Burundian peace process. The aim of the session was to focus on the methods, challenges and possibilities of Track II actors in responding to the changing nature of conflict. The seminar was attended by about 150 CMI members, mainly from Finland, who focus on foreign and security policy.

Vasu Gounden making his presentation on the Burundi Peace Process during the session on “Case Studies of Private Diplomacy”.

ACCORD has been active in supporting the Burundi peace process since 1995. This has included organizing exchange programmes to South Africa for Burundi Members of Parliament; Burundi military officials; Burundi women parliamentarians and youth exchange programmes. ACCORD also facilitated the visit of South African political party leaders to Burundi. In 1999 ACCORD worked with the facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process, the former President of South Africa H.E. Nelson Mandela and in 2000 ACCORD helped to facilitate the involvement of civil society organizations in the Arusha Peace Process. In 2003 ACCORD opened its first country programme office in Bujumbura, Burundi. ACCORD also worked with the South African Government in preparing the Burundi rebel groups for negotiations. In 2006 ACCORD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Burundi. This agreement provides an extension of ACCORD’s work in Burundi to assist the new government to increase their capacity to plan and implement national-level policies, and to build capacity in areas critical to a successful post conflict period. The agreement also aims to reinforce the capacity of the Burundi government to develop and implement short, medium and long-term strategies and implementation plans, as well as other activities identified by ACCORD and the government of Burundi.

In recognition of the willingness of parties to the conflict to resolve their conflict peacefully and move Burundi towards a democratic society, ACCORD presented its 2006 Africa Peace Award (APA) to the Nation of Burundi. The awarding of the APA to Burundi was not only an affirmation of their successful efforts towards the peaceful settlement of disputes and the national promise to move towards good governance of public affairs by the hosting of democratic elections, but also of the activities that ACCORD has undertaken and will continue to undertake in the post conflict peace building climate in Burundi.

In early 2007 Mr. Gounden was invited by CMI to join their International Advisory Board (IAB). The Chairperson of the IAB is the founder of CMI, the former President of Finland, H.E. Martti Ahtisaari. The role of the IAB is to support and advise CMI, in general, and its Martti Ahtisaari Rapid Reaction Facility (MARRF) in particular. The board is comprised of 10-12 members who are appointed for a period of two years, and who are selected based on: their experience in the field of security, development, crisis management and/or conflict resolution and their willingness to share their experience; their ability to think strategically – out of the box – on novel issues and challenges that could help find solutions to contain or resolve crisis; experience in working with local actors in conflict situations; excellent networking in specific field of expertise/policy; and, the ability to identify funding sources for specific interventions or for the MARRF programme. Mr Gounden therefore attended his first IAB meeting which was held on 18 April. During this meeting Mr. Gounden was asked to make a presentation that looked at the needs which might be there to support development of African crisis management capabilities and the implications they may have for CMI.