Strengthening Peace in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

Tuesday 27 January 2004

Background

Indonesia’s attempts to apply democratic reforms are at risk from religious and economic polarisation and smouldering regional conflicts. In Poso, Central Sulawesi there is an unstable peace after 5 years of violence that killed over 2,000 people and displaced up to 100,000 more. Alternatives is engaging in a conflict transformation project that will stabilise the peace by encouraging dialogues, increasing capacities for responsible media and supporting peaceful resettlement of the internally displaced persons (IDP).

Reconciliatory dialogues will be lead by moderate secular and faith-based organisations, cooperation between well-established local and national NGOs will be encouraged to strengthen local capacity to deal with the after-effects of conflict, groups will be established to involve tertiary level students in the community and NGOs, a Pan-Indonesia Media for Peace conference will be held, and IDPs will be offered training and new income generation opportunities to encourage resettlement. This project will foster cooperation between religious sectors, the government, the media and other community leaders, it will also introduce new economic possibilities for returning IDPs to help them re-establish their lives. By strengthening civil groups, increasing people’s well being and diminishing polarisation, this project addresses the ubiquitous roots of conflict in Indonesia, which will further strengthen the movement for democratic reforms.

Central Sulawesi has been witness to religious violence and conflict ever since Muslim and Hindu migrants began to enter this predominantly Christian region in the 1970s. Starting in 1998 the conflict entered a particularly bloody phase, wherein local militias and communities entered a cycle of targeted attacks and retaliations which came to resemble district-wide rioting. In 2001 the Malino peace accord established a shaky peace in the area which has allowed people to begin re-building their lives, but a recent upsurge in violence has many fearing the return of widespread conflict.

Project and partners

In April 2003 Alternatives, with the support of CIDA’s International Humanitarian - Peace Building Unit, initiated the Strengthening Peace in Central Sulawesi project in order to address the root causes behind the conflict. This project aims to encourage cooperative efforts between communities (along religious and socio-economic lines) to re-establish trust between former combatants and victims of the conflict. Engaging local communities in dialogues and bottom-up approaches to peace-building has shown many positive effects and potentials as is indicated by the fact that the resent flare-ups have not triggered violent communal responses and retaliation, which was a major characteristic of the earlier phases of the conflict.

Alternatives is currently intervening alongside a range of local partners to engage grassroots communities in dialogues aimed at reconciliation and ensuring that aid programs are distributed fairly within the community. Combined with this, is assistance for local communities to rehabilitate their economies and encourage internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) resettlement by working on new cooperative marketing and agricultural projects. Furthermore, Alternatives is working with local NGOs and community groups on capacity building programs such as improving sustainable agriculture methods, media for peace trainings, business planning, and peace-building dialogue tools and techniques.

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