Relational Peacebuilding Initiatives (RPI) facilitates behind the scenes consultations which aim to help turn major political conflicts into lasting and satisfactory settlements. Through sustained and comprehensive experience in its peacebuilding initiatives in South Africa, Rwanda and Sudan, RPI has developed a Track Two peacebuilding methodology which is applicable in many conflict-situations in the world.
THE SOUTH AFRICA BREAKTHROUGH
From 1986, a relational peacebuilding methodology was developed and implemented within the context of what then became known as the Newick Park Initiative (NPI). This continued until April 1991 and helped to ensure the peaceful transition there from white supremacist rule to fully racially-inclusive democracy.
The process involved both the original participants and leading to the involvement of senior members of the ANC together with SA Government officials. Through regular meetings held in England and South Africa, NPI provided a safe context in which discussion on difficult problems could be carried out amicably and informally, but also objectively, without the media pressure to make partisan statements.
NPI was an evidence-based process founded on the building of trust and the honest and open sharing of insights with the goal of a just and fully-inclusive peace. Each of the conferences was underpinned by detailed research and, as the process continued, drew on top-level expertise from leading South African and international experts.
Through these meetings goals and strategies were identified on which there could be a high degree of consensus on the basis of shared values, and at the same time narrow down areas of conflict and disagreement where further research and consultation was needed to bring the parties to the negotiation process closer together. NPI provided a crucial contribution to the peace process in South Africa and helped to ensure the peaceful transition there from white supremacist democratic rule.
A similar process was set in train in 1994 with a peacebuilding programme in post-genocide Rwanda, running until 1999. The Rwandan peacebuilding programme made important contributions in the areas of justice and agriculture.
The peacebuilding process in Sudan ran from 1999 until 2004, contributing to the key breakthrough at Machakos in July 2002 which led to the end of the Sudanese Civil War.
Our process starts with a careful identification of the main parties in the conflict and their competing interests and aspirations.
A group of participants identified as being close to the central protagonists, and yet not directly in the public eye, should be invited in their personal capacities and a programme undertaken to set out the issues to be considered. The focus of the discussions will be on middle- to long-term questions, looking beyond the immediate conflict to a long-term basis for its resolution and the associated benefits for all parties.
The process draws on widely inclusive ‘Relational’ principles drawn from the Christian and Jewish faith traditions, but not exclusive to them. These Relational principles can provide a key and distinctive point of entry for the Track Two initiative which is proposed.
The aim is to draw in high-level experts and people of influence for a series of consultations over 2-3 years, each of whom has a deep knowledge of the political, economic and strategic issues, and who are sufficiently close to the principals, but attending in their personal capacities. The objective is the creation of a body which can act in two ways:
1. as a catalyst, to resolve the key sticking points and so help to build confidence across the current divides and
2. as a consensus-builder, to draw on the non-partisan principles and our independent research to inform their principals.
For more information, visit the RPI website.
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Relational Finance starts from the assumption that finance is a means, not an end. A better society is not, in the first instance, just one with more resources, but one in which relationships work well.
- The financial system creates a set of powerful connections between people, between organizations, and between nations.
- It controls the percolation of monetary value through society in the form of earning, investing and borrowing. Using its labyrinthine channels, governments and central banks attempt to stimulate or rein in economic growth by manipulating interest rates and money supply.
- Individuals, families, companies and governments need money like they need oxygen: if earnings fall, they are forced to reduce costs, seek injections of capital in the form of loans or, in effect, beg. These processes are constantly visible in the working of the economy.
- Lending has become a key financial issue, with the widespread acceptance of borrowing in the form of consumer credit and national debt, and an increasing nervous dependence on current prosperity and hoped-for future growth.
- The financial crisis of 2008 was precipitated by the realization that yesterday’s borrowers in many cases were unlikely to be able to pay their debts.
The relationship between lenders and borrowers, at any level, is inherently unequal. When unexpected events leave the borrower unable to service the loan, calamity often ensues. Homes put up as mortgage security are lost. Companies unable to repay loans may wind up in administration and have their assets seized (in fact a number of company takeovers occur in precisely this situation). Nations are subjected to austerity regimes that all too easily slide into political instability and the emergence of violent extremism.
The role of money in securing individual and family wellbeing makes financial difficulty a major cause of stress. A Barclays survey showed that money was the most frequently cited reason for arguments between partners. The psychological pressure resulting from personal debt is linked directly with child abuse and physical violence between adults in households.
Slack lending practice
Debt finance also does little to reduce relational distance between corporate borrowers and corporate lenders. It is seldom associated with close involvement by the lender in the affairs of the borrowing company because the security provided for the loan acts as a convenient substitute for close monitoring. The lack of transparency associated with derivatives trading and packaging and selling on of debt has exacerbated this trend.
It is significant that an individualized economy removes financial responsibility from the lower levels of social organization. In most cases, families and small communities, as entities in their own right, are held together more by choice or custom than by finance; they are merely collections of individuals who are financially connected to forces that operate at a much higher level. This loss of financial overlap in relationships means that money weakens rather than strengthens social cohesion.
Living off future generations
Financial decisions by Government can also impact on relationships between generations. Increases in national debt in effect constitute a promise that future generations will meet the cost of the interest payments and eventually repay the debt. What would be considered a grossly unfair transaction between contemporaries is waved through because future generations have no voice.
The massive impact of finance on society means we should pay attention to the kinds of connections created by financial institutions.
Finance with participation
The potential of finance to build relational capital suggests that a private sector based on equity rather than debt would be stronger and more accountable. Investors are motivated to take an interest in company affairs – which could benefit stakeholders. Similarly, companies can build relationships with clients by extending payment terms, and foreign direct investment can build relationships across national boundaries.
It is worth asking whether debt finance is a sustainable way to run either national or household budgets. When Western societies are having to make painful decisions on public expenditure, and where a global economic crisis could be triggered by large scale debt default, it makes good sense to undertake wide ranging reforms that disincentivize further borrowing, whether by governments, by companies, or by individuals.
FOUR STRATEGIES TO REDUCE BORROWING AND BOOST EARNINGS
Follow the IIRC
To change the culture of companies so that they attach greater importance to relational issues, government can follow the proposals of IIRC (International Integrated Reporting Council). South Africa has already successfully changed its corporate governance code, requiring companies to report annually on the quality of stakeholder relationships.
Prefer shared equity
Shared equity as a form of home ownership would reduce household debt. In this financial arrangement, ownership of the house is transferred gradually between the bank and buyer. Government can promote and incentivize shared equity forms of home ownership debt by changing the accounting rules governing banks, building societies and pension funds.
SMEs are small and medium-sized enterprises (under 200 employees). Government can incentivize investment into these through FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), by removing Capital Gains Tax for investors who show that they attend company AGMs, and by establishing regional information hubs to make investment opportunities known at a regional level.
Explore family syndicates
Giving more financial powers and responsibilities to families provides a way both to strengthen family relationships and to reduce national welfare budgets. Government would support Family Welfare Syndicates through tax incentives for shared saving schemes and relocating closer to elderly relatives. Funds could be used to cover medical bills, care, and higher education.