Capacity-Building Workshop on Human Rights and Conflict Management for African National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Society Organisations, Johannesburg, South Africa
25-27 November 2015
The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) held a three-day workshop in November 2015 on how to manage, mediate, and resolve conflict for national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) from Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland. Twenty-five representatives (16 women and 9 men) from these institutions attended the training, which also provided a platform for knowledge-sharing.
The November 2015 workshop in Johannesburg had the following four key objectives:
- First, to build and strengthen the knowledge and understanding of participants of the concepts of peace, conflict, human rights, and conflict management, and to build their peacebuilding, mediation, and reconciliation skills in order to enhance their capacity to implement their mandates;
- Second, to explore the specific challenges that participating institutions and civil society actors currently face in building peaceful communities in their respective contexts and in their work more generally, with a view to sharing solutions to particular human rights challenges and providing technical conflict resolution assistance (including reconciliation, mediation, and dialogue);
- Third, to enhance the conflict resolution and mediation skills of all participants, equipping them with skills and knowledge to enable them to manage conflicts in their respective countries effectively and efficiently; and
- Fourth, to incorporate a gender lens into conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and human rights work, and to explore the practical application of this lens for the day-to-day work of all participating organisations and groups.
The training was conducted in English using an interactive and participatory approach, with facilitator-led presentations, plenary and panel discussions, participant debriefing sessions, group discussions, and role plays to provide participants with an opportunity to contextualise key issues discussed. The workshop sought to foster a theoretical and practical understanding of human rights, conflict management, and gender in the context of Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland and also provided participants with training materials tailored to their specific needs.
Thematic Areas Covered
The following four broad thematic areas were covered:
1. Enhancing understanding of concepts of conflict and peace, conflict resolution, and mediation
The workshop explored participants' current levels of understanding of conflict and peace. Conflict resolution and mediation skills were presented, according to participants' understandings and skill levels. The objective of this aspect of the training was to equip participants with skills enabling them to recognise and understand the underlying causes of conflicts they are required to manage as part of their work. The training further enhanced understanding of mediation and conflict resolution strategies and processes, around issues such as identifying roles, needs, and interests as well as understanding conflict management tools.
2. Challenges and opportunities facing NHRIs in building peaceful communities and countries
The workshop looked at the challenges these institutions face in implementing their mandates, including constantly being confronted with the task of managing conflicts given the role of NHRIs in interpreting and implementing human rights mandates. Receiving and investigating complaints of human rights abuses often entails addressing conflicts between complainants and respondents, establishing accountability, and providing remedies, including between institutions in conflict. The ability to reconcile individuals in conflict is also an important skill that NHRIs are required to provide, particularly during transitional justice processes. Many human rights issues are viewed as contentious and, as such, can easily give rise to further disputes, especially in post-conflict societies. The workshop facilitated participants' understanding of these challenges and knowledge of how to advance their roles utilising the existing opportunities in their respective countries.
3. The role of NHRIs in advancing gender equality in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes
Post-conflict reconstruction and transitional justice processes often provide unique opportunities to transform power relations across societal fault-lines such as class, ethnicity, and gender. The transformation of gender relations is often not seen as a peacebuilding priority, although it is key to sustainable peace. The workshop discussed and considered the role of NHRIs and civil society in advancing gender equality in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and addressed the opportunities for, and challenges to, enhancing women's participation in peacebuilding initiatives at all levels of society.
4. Linking human rights, conflict management, and peacebuilding
The Johannesburg workshop explored the relationship between the promotion of human rights, conflict management practices, reconciliation, and peacebuilding processes in Africa, particularly in the work of NHRIs. The workshop emphasised the key role that respect for human rights plays in conflict prevention; the need to develop non-adversarial approaches to the protection of human rights by using conflict management and reconciliatory skills and techniques; and the use of such approaches to prevent massive human rights violations occurring during violent conflicts and in post-conflict settings.
Participants appreciated the relevance and timeliness of the workshop, as well as the knowledge and skills provided. They noted the importance of convening diverse organisations from different countries to share and learn from one another. For example:
Nelsiwe Phumlile Zwane, Human Rights Officer at the Swaziland Human Rights Commission, Manzini, Swaziland, reported that she now understands the relationship between human rights and conflict management following the CCR training.
Querida Saal, Researcher: Economic and Social Rights at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Johannesburg, reported that the CCR workshop had provided her with a solid understanding of conflict management in the context of human rights-based approach.
Tsikoane Peshoane, Social and Environment Justice Department Head at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) in Maseru, Lesotho, reported that he had gained knowledge and skills regarding the differences between and overlaps among human rights defenders and conflict management practitioners.
Iyaloo Ndapewoshali Pendapala Ngodji, Project/Community Development Officer at Community Development Associates, Windhoek, Namibia; Harvey Clifford Seckel, Life Coach and Facilitator at Mashup, Johannesburg; and Nelsiwe Phumlile Zwane, Human Rights Officer at the Swaziland Human Rights Commission, all reported that the CCR workshop had provided them with the opportunity to network, build relationships, and share experiences with colleagues from different countries. Ms Iyaloo committed to conducting training workshops, community meetings, and steering committee meetings in order to share the knowledge that she had gained from the CCR training.
Harvey Clifford Seckel, Life Coach and Facilitator at Mashup, Johannesburg, noted: "In my capacity as a facilitator in the youth programme, I will use the opportunity to engage in these issues ... as well in the schools [that] I am involved with."
Participants at CCR’s capacity-building workshop on human rights and conflict management for African national human rights institutions and civil society organisations, Johannesburg, South Africa, 25-27 November 2015