There is still a 'divide and conquer' culture in many conflict and post-conflict countries. Building bridges between groups which are ethnically and religiously different is almost an act of peace in itself. PAX believes that strengthening the sense of togetherness - social cohesion - contributes to the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
PAX works with partner organisations, local authorities, the army and police to give communities greater control to tackle violence against minorities, women and other vulnerable groups. We thereby contribute to the development of a legitimate government which is accountable to its own citizens. Dialogue and collaboration between local communities and representatives of government, whether national or local, is one of the areas in which PAX provides assistance.
PAX involves local administration, civil society and armed groups in the process of transition and peacebuilding from the bottom up. This strengthens social cohesion. We also do this in areas where it is difficult to work with the central government. It can be a tool for strengthening the democratic space and the rights of minorities.
Civil society is struggling in many fragile and repressive countries. That is why it is important that PAX applies pressure at the international as well as the national level through lobbying and advocacy. The international community can then counter repression by governments and create space for civil society.
In Iraq, for example, mutual trust between various population groups has been seriously damaged. PAX helps partner organisations with negotiation, mediation, human rights education, monitoring, security and human rights violations. We thereby stimulate civic activism.
We have done a large amount of work in the Western Balkans, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. In some cases this resulted in an exchange with municipalities in the Netherlands, and in all cases there was an exchange of knowledge about local administration.