Sunday, April 22, 2012

National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence

I was browsing Google for news on "violence" today (something I have not done in quite some time) and came across this post from Robert Listenbee Jr., of the Defender Association of Philadphia. Mr. Listenbee writes about the ever-present issue of violence in our inner cities and the impact that violence has on children.

Rather than just being another in an endless stream of articles on how violent our society is, Mr. Listenbee offers some hope in a new program from the U.S. Attorney General - the National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence (a.k.a., "The Defending Childhood Task Force"). Fans of the NY Yankees (a.k.a., "The Best Team Money Can Buy") will be pleased to hear that Joe Torre is involved in this.

As Mr. Listenbee writes:
Not only are we highlighting the scope of the problem, more important, we are highlighting solutions.
The DCTF sounds a lot like what the Youth PROMISE act is championing - bring together representatives from all segments of the communities that are impacted by violence and help them identify and implement solutions to their unique problems.
We need the faith community, businesses and all levels of government to be a part of the solution.
As of now, the DCTF is still just in the analysis-and-report phase of their charter. They owe the Attorney General a report by the end of 2012 with recommendations about what communities can do to address the impact of violence on children. If you're in Detroit on April 23-24, you may want to check out the hearing to see how this might play out.

What do you know about this initiative?

(Note: The DOJ web site lists 58 agencies, of which "Defending Childhood" looks like it's supposed to be one. However, the site addresses seem to be a little screwed up. The Detroit hearing link works fine, but the other DCTF links are non-responsive as of this writing. I hope this is a sign of how new this program is more than an indication of the relative importance of this agency in he midst of everything else the DOJ is responsible for.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day, Peacebuilders!


I hope this Father's Day brings special recognition to the Dads and other father figures (and their supporters) out there who are helping spread the spirit of nonviolence and building a culture of peace. Many guys are doing this everyday without the slightest bit of recognition. You guys rock! Thanks for being out there!

Here's a story about the types of things peacebuilding guys are doing around the world. Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Department of Peace Act is Reintroduced in the 112th Congress

In a timely response to recent budget slashing that included eliminating financing for the U.S. Institute of Peace, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has re-introduced legislation to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace. You can read the details of the bill - H.R. 808 - at thomas.gov, but a summary of the key provisions follows:
Establishes a Department of Peace, which shall be headed by a Secretary of Peace.
Sets forth the mission of the Department, including:
(1) cultivation of peace as a national policy objective; and
(2) development of policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful conflict resolution, and structured conflict mediation.

Establishes in the Department:
(1) the Office of Peace Education and Training;
(2) the Office of Domestic Peace Activities;
(3) the Office of International Peace Activities;
(4) the Office of Technology for Peace;
(5) the Office of Arms Control and Disarmament;
(6) the Office of Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution;
(7) the Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights; and
(8) the Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Peace.

Directs the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to consult with the Secretary concerning nonviolent means of conflict resolution when a conflict between the United States and any other government or entity is imminent or occurring.

Transfers to the Department the functions, assets, and personnel of various federal agencies.

Establishes the Federal Interagency Committee on Peace.

Directs the Secretary to encourage citizens to celebrate the blessings of peace and endeavor to create peace on a Peace Day.
Rep. Kucinich has introduced this legislation in each of the past four sessions of Congress and has gained grassroots support from across the country, mostly via the Peace Alliance. The legislation will need all the support it can get to gain traction in the current environment of budget cutting, but the investment in nonviolent conflict resolution now will provide years of positive returns to U.S. taxpayers, both financial and humanitarian. Please contact your Representative today and ask that they cosponsor H.R. 808!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dona Nobis Pacem

Happy Blogblast for Peace Day!

What, you may ask, does "Dona Nobis Pacem" mean?

According to the Blogblast For Peace site, it's Latin for "Grant Us Peace".

From some of my previous posts, you might know that I'm not a big fan of verbal pleas for peace that aren't backed by some sort of action. Countless peace marches, sleep-ins and candlelight vigils have done precious little to actually reduce the level of violence in our world.

Still, by participating in this global action, my hope is to raise awareness of legislative initiatives such as the Department of Peace and Youth PROMISE acts and, perhaps, enlist the skills and resources of some new activists who can help make a difference.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Dirty Water -> Despair -> Conflict -> Violence

This year's Blog Action Day topic is "Water", plain and simple. Many blogs will point out that access to clean water is a human right. They will say that getting clean, potable water to those living without is the first step in improving their living conditions. And those bloggers are right! For my part, I choose to focus on the chain of despair that leads from lack of access to clean water to conflict and, potentially, violence.

Mankind has a long, depressing history of fighting over resources - land, gold, diamonds, oil, you name it. Although my research hasn't yet turned up any evidence of wars having been fought over water, there is increasing evidence that the risk of such a thing happening is increasing daily as we ignore the plight of those most in need of clean water. Alexander Bell (no relation), in his March 2010 article on NewStateman.com pointed out that the lack of clean water is already causing conflict in Cyprus, Yemen, and Pakistan. According to Bell:
The most bitter conflicts of the next 50 years won’t be over oil. The prize commodity of the future is the stuff of life – water.
John Taylor's post "War Over Water" includes a quote from Boutros Boutros-Ghali that:
... the next war in the middle east will be fought over water, not politics.

This was from 1985, so he obviously got that wrong. But it's just a matter of time. Taylor also quotes a statistic from the Conservative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) predicting that if trends continue one in three of the world’s population will be affected by water shortage by 2025, with Africa having as many as 500 million people without access to clean water. If anyone thinks this type of situation will evolve peacefully, I'd like a hit of whatever it is they are smoking.

Check out some of the other Blog Action Day posts on Change.org and read what more eloquent authors are proposing to deal with the looming issue of Water. With all of the other problems we are facing - climate change, sustainable energy, Fox News - it's going to be tough to get any attention for the topic. But it's something we're going to have to address eventually, and the outcome will be far more humane if we deal with it sooner rather than later.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

The "First Aid" Model for Peacebuilding in Communities

As often happens, I recently found myself wandering the corridors of the internet inspired to learn more about the story behind one of the cool videos posted on DoPeace. The producer of the video hails from TheRSA.org, a U.K. group that describes itself as:

"... an enlightenment organisation devoted to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s pressing social problems."

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) has been around for more than 250 years and is currently exploring the concept of 21st Century Enlightenment. One of the pamphlets they commissioned for this program caught my eye - The-Woolwich-Model-Can-citizens-tackle-anti-social-behaviour.pdf.

The Woolwich paper points out that there is a long list of "anti-social" behaviours that degrade the quality of life in communities but fall short of the types of crimes that police forces are most concerned about. These types of behaviour (petty vandalism, underage drinking, loitering, civil disturbance) are mostly perpetrated by young people - often unemployed or otherwise lacking in constructive alternatives. Although some young people will grow out of this behaviour, some will carry this dysfunctional trait into old age while others will get caught up in the escalation of criminal activity and ultimately end up as wards of the state.

The Woolwich Model refers to the development in the late 1800's of citizen capabilities that came to be known as "first aid". Health officials in the town of Woolwich recognised that trained professionals cannot be everywhere all the time in order to respond to life-threatening emergencies. They further recognised that there were plenty of capable citizens available in these communities that, given the proper training and incentives, could provide the basic treatments (i.e., CPR) necessary to deal with injuries and stabilise the patient while waiting for the professionals to arrive. In the 100+ years since, the practice of lay people getting trained in CPR or First Aid by groups like the Red Cross is woven into the fabric of many societies.

Now, here's the good part! The RSA asks, "What if we apply this model to addressing anti-social behaviour?" Train people who are already embedded within the micro-communities to stabilise anti-social situations while waiting for police to arrive, or to defuse the situation and avoid the need for police action altogether! What a concept!

RSA identifies two main groups of potential "first responders" (think of the types of people who learn CPR):
  1. Public servants who already have frequent contact with the public as part of their jobs - parking enforcement officers, librarians, teachers, city/county employees, newspaper/postal delivery
  2. Citizen leaders who want to make a difference - shop/restaurant owners, parents, neighborhood watch groups
People would be motivated to participate in the program to gain skills that look good to employers and to help make their communities more desirable places to live.

The RSA approach also spells out three type of training that would be required for this model to work:
  1. Self-protection and restraint, which would provide responders with the skills and confidence they need to engage in an anti-social event
  2. Situation Assessment - knowing when to engage, when to walk away, and what techniques to apply
  3. Conflict Resolution - the techniques of meditation and nonviolence
(Are you as excited as I am at this point?)

The paper points out that these ideas need to be proven out in real-life and tweaked to each local environment. One organisation is already doing this - Dfuse out of London. (Maybe someone else will blog about this group?)

So, what do you think of this idea? Has anyone heard of this model being applied in the US? Does anyone have any thoughts about how to introduce it? Perhaps this is something the local "Promise Coordinating Councils" created as part of the Youth PROMISE act can tackle?

Are there any Social Entrepreneurs out there listening?

For further information, check out this video from RSA.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dollar "Billboarding" for Peace

Awhile back, I read an interesting article entitled "When Dollars Call for Change" by Emma Dumain on Congress.org. Ms. Dumain chronicles how activists and activist groups have been using dollar bills as inexpensive and effective means to get their message out to the public.
With a lifespan of close to 18 months , a typical $1 bill passes through hundreds if not thousands of hands and can travel pretty far around the country. Using a popular dollar-tracking website, WheresGeorge.com , a group of mathematicians determined that a single dollar bill can travel between 30 and 500 miles across the United States over a period of nine months.
Although Ms. Dumain mentions several interesting stories about different causes and how they have marked currency, she doesn't mention anything about the peace movement using this messaging channel. I would think that the peace movement would be all over this - it's a simple message, no cost, and there's an element of spreading the seeds of intention just by writing the phrase on paper. Kind of like a Buddhist prayer wheel.

As it turns out, at least one activist is supporting the peace movement through "dollar billboarding". I came across a random post on Twitter today from "The Survivor":
@christoferdrew i found a dollar bill that said "imagine a us department of peace" in pen. it made me think of you =D
She received the dollar in change from a bookstore in Bethesda, MD, and thought one of her favorite singers (Christofer Drew of "Never Shout Never") would like to know about it. She also posted a picture of "the magic dollar" - and vows to never spend it. Although that would be counter to the intent of dollar billboarding, you've got to love the spirit!

Now, some of you may be charged up by this as a opportunity for civil disobedience, while others of you may shy away from the approach because of concerns over legality. Ms. Dumain covers this in her research:
But technically speaking, it's not against the law unless perpetrators deface the currency "with intent to render such bank bill(s) ... unfit to be reissued."
So, grab your ultra-fine point red Sharpie pen, add your message of purpose to your currency, and get out there and stimulate the economy! I look forward to hearing of your Adventures in Dollar Billboarding!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Department of Peace Act Makes the Top Ten!

... list of Most Hopeless Bills on Congress.org. According to the author, Kristin Conyer:

"During 2007 and 2008, 11,077 bills were introduced in Congress, while just 460 were signed into law. That means for every new law that session there were 23 bills that didn't make it out of Congress. To be fair, some of those bills were resolutions congratulating sports teams that wouldn't have gone to the president or bills introduced just to make a point. Still, some of those unenacted bills stand out for their sheer hopelessness."

Perhaps I'm more than a little biased, but I don't think I would use the term "hopeless" to describe the DOP idea. Instead, I think I would go with "inevitable". What would you say?