Sonya Reines-Djivanides Discusses The European Peace Mission

In a recent interview, Sonya Reines-Djivanides, executive director of the European Peacebuilding Liason Office (EPLO), explained her views on a variety of current issues and policies of concern to the European Union.

Reines-Djivanides began the discussion describing exactly what the EPLO is and does. She explained that the EPLO is “an independent platform of European NGOs, NGO Networks and think tanks that are committed to peace-building and preventing violent conflict.”

The organization was launched in 2001 with about 16 member organizations, more than doubling its membership to 35 in 2017. The EPLO is based in Brussels, and its guiding principal is to influence European policy makers to take a “more active and effective approach in securing peace and non-violent forms of conflict resolution in all regions of the world.”

During the discussion about the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, newly adopted last year by the EU, Reines-Djivanides

said it is too soon to gauge any policy impact yet. She did emphasize that taking on such a policy is an important signal to the world that eliminating the root causes of conflict and the promotion of peace are priorities for the EU’s external action. She hopes that the EU will use this policy to close the gap between policy goals and the real-life implementation of those goals on the ground.

Sonya Reines-Djivanides explained that civil society organizations (CSOs) should not take for granted the open-door communication policy they have now with the EU. She said that CSOs should continue to expand their role while being constantly nuanced about exactly what their role is. She added that CSOs are more than just watch-dogs, but also advisors with experience and expertise to lend to the formulation of policy in the EU. She also acknowledged that when CSOs present their information they need a flexible approach to people, staying aware of the impact they are making on others.

Finally, and at length, she discussed the EU’s new policy on resilience, including elements of conflict prevention. In her own words, and in summary:

“Finding transformative approaches to building resilience against violent conflict is positive and we need to look at local capacities: what’s already there and not just things that are imposed from the outside. We need to understand why in some of these situations of conflict is there not more conflict when all of the O drivers are there? What is it that makes societies, communities and people resilient?”

In summary, she discussed the principal of “First do no harm.” She stressed the struggle her organization is engaged in to create a resilient, conflict-immune society throughout the world:

“The CSO dialogue meetings that we put together on Central African Republic, (CAR) and particularly Syria, are good examples of getting humanitarian, development, human rights and peace-building organizations to sit together and we should do it more often. We owe it to the ultimate beneficiaries to get our act together on this.”