Archive | September, 2012
21 Sep

Happy Friday!!!

As I step off the bus, a herd of cyclists shwoooshes by! Whitecross street market serves delicious lunch, the streets are lined with fair trade coffee shops. I LOVE Old Street!

This is my 3rd week working for the Oxford Research Group (ORG) at Development House in the Old Street area, East London. For the next 12 months, I will be working for ORG’s Sustainable Security programme. The programme focuses on an alternative approach to security which centres around preventing violent conflict (instead of merely reacting to its symptoms) by addressing the underlying causes for insecurity. My own project is called “Marginalisation of the Majority World” and has to do with researching the ways in which political, economic, social, religious and cultural marginalisation may lead to violent conflict.

I will be researching and writing up brief country case studies that will culminate in an end-of-year global report on marginalisation and- violence, which will also contain policy recommendations for addressing the problems at stake. In the meantime, however, you can check out our website www.sustainablesecurity.org for my weekly entries!

I’ve already attended a security briefing for the Thai Security Council, had an office BBQ and participated in setting a chutney making world record!

I am particularly looking forward to making links between ORG and Quaker meetings as well as individual Friends, who would be interested in sparking up a conversation on “sustainable security”.

I think Owen, Rhiannon and I are even planning on attending Young Friends General Meeting in Liverpool next month together- so some of you might see us there!

I am SO excited about this coming year and look forward to learning and sharing. I just received my very own business cards!

Hope you have an amazing weekend and of course- HAPPY PEACE DAY!

Love,

Alissa x

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Why I’m taking a day off after only eight days in the new job

13 Sep

Dear readers,

In the first post of our joint blog last week Rhiannon said that she was leaving you in my ‘capable hands’. I  think that at the beginning of our two-week peaceworker preparation period we were all a bit anxious about living up to expectations over the year – aware of the Quakers’ investment in us. But after the friendships I made in those two weeks, perhaps the most important thing I took away was the confidence that we would do ourselves justice, and knowing how supported we were. So I’m not going to worry about my hands not being capable enough after Rhiannon’s great start!

I’m placed with two organisations: War Resisters International (WRI), and ForcesWatch (FW). WRI (est. 1921) is a network of people from around the world who refuse to take part in war or the preparation for war. It promotes nonviolent action against war’s causes.

FW challenges the ethics of military recruitment and questions the climate of uncritical national pride in the armed forces. 

War Resisters and Forces Watch made a joint bid for a peaceworker because the work I’ll be doing for each has considerable overlap: it’s all about the militarisation of society (and especially of young people). In the UK the armed forces are becoming increasingly visible and influential in so many parts of our lives – from television programmes to workshops in schools – and this raises some big ethical questions, partly because it will probably facilitate recruitment, and it may make going to war more acceptable. 

The specific projects that I’ll be working on over the year are yet to be finalised, but the proposals are exciting. Dividing my time between the two organisations won’t be difficult, because they’re based in the same building, the aptly-named Peace House on Caledonian Road.

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And why am I taking the day off in my second week? Because tomorrow I’m going to Bilbao for WRI’s annual Council meeting, where I’ll get to meet some of the members of the network who are working for peace their own countries and supporting each other internationally. I’m there until next Wednesday, and so this is a concerted effort not to get into the bad habit of letting TOIL (time off in lieu) build up!

Thanks for reading. Please tell anyone you think might be interested to follow our blog.

Owen Everett, War Resisters International and ForcesWatch.

A new batch of Peaceworkers…

7 Sep

Welcome to P.O. Box Peace!

This blog is a manifestation of the work that Quakers are doing towards building a more peaceful world. It has been voluntarily set up by the 7 current Quaker Peaceworkers for 2012 to enable us to share our stories of peace work from across the world – see more info. on our ‘about us’ page.

We come from varied backgrounds, and have spent the last two weeks together in preparation for our new roles before stepping out into the big wide world of peace work. Meeting on a Tuesday morning over breakfast at the Penn Club, we started our preparation with a busy first week at Friends House in Euston, London. Here, we spent our days learning about the broad work of Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW), trying to get a grasp of the nuances between different strands of Quakerism worldwide, meeting with various international peace organisations, meeting our soon-to-be managers over Skype, and exploring our common ground within our shared values of peace, equality, simplicity and truth. One of the most useful parts of the week was having the chance to connect with the current outgoing Peaceworkers, to ask them questions, and hear about their year and where they are off to, now…it helped to put everything in perspective for me.

After collapsing at the weekend and re-couping some energy, I met with the others at Woodbrooke, the Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, for our second week of preparation. The emphasis here was to take stock, reflect on the year to come, and relax. I particularly enjoyed the depth of our sessions with Woodbrooke Tutor Michael Eccles, where we looked at our activism; the meaning of Peace, conflict and non-violence; took inspiration from our forebearers and explored our commitment to this work. After spending 5 days enjoying the company of the other Peaceworkers, with plenty of time to read, sleep and play outside in the sun, and a cheeseboard at every meal, I floated out of Woodbrooke well fed, nourished and ready to start the next part of the journey. I can’t speak for the others, but I’m sure something along those lines was the general consensus of our time there.

Some of us have started work this week, and I have started my post as Campaigns and Policy Officer at Gender Action for Peace and Security UK! GAPS UK, established in 2006, is a network of NGOs who work in the fields of gender, peace building, humanitarian, development and human rights issues. Perhaps it’s not one that you have heard of before. We are an expert working group on issues of gender, peace and security, providing support to policymakers and practitioners who are engaged in work surrounding women’s rights in conflict affected countries. We do this by building on key policy instruments like UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security through advocacy, collaborative research and campaigning. Perhaps that sounds a bit jargonny – my posts will become more detailed as we move through the year and I really start to know what I’m talking about. All I do know, is that I’ll be building on the GAPS campaign No women, No Peace.’, and doing some policy, advocacy and research work. I’ve spent most of this week learning the ropes, finding my space in the office, reading up, and working out what my role will be in the coming year. I’ve already been down to Parliament for a meeting with some GAPS members, formulating a strategy that will aim to raise the profile of Afghan women’s rights on the agendas of key UK diplomatic vehicles. And this morning, I spent some of this sunny Friday with our friends at Amnesty International UK learning about campaign strategy, the importance of collaboration in campaign work, and getting clearer about our aims and objectives.

If our carefully crafted plan works, another of the UK Peaceworkers will be writing a post next, so I’ll leave you in their capable hands!

// Rhiannon at Gender Action for Peace and Security, UK

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