The ACTION Support Centre (ASC)
The ACTION Support Centre (ASC) is the Africa regional hub of a global network of organisations and individuals committed to transforming conflict, ACTION for Conflict Transformation (ACTION). The ASC was established in 2002 on the basis of a mandate to set up a communications hub for the network members of ACTION Global. It has since transformed itself into a regional and continental base for organisations working in the fields of conflict and development.
ASC is a strong network movement that amplifies the voices of communities and links them to policy makers at different levels through a focus on; human rights, capacity building, lobbying and advocacy, people to people solidarity, development, grassroots mobilisation, building organisations and movements, facilitating dialogue, training and initiating innovative forms of organising.
ACTION has regional bases in Cambodia, Philippines, Guatemala, and South Africa where the ASC is based and strategic partnerships with organisations in Asia, across Africa and the Americas, and in the European Community.
ACTION partners, members, and regional bases throughout the world are committed to the following broad vision, mission, and values as they carry out organic conflict transformation strategies developed in response to local conditions. A global network of individuals and organisations built on shared values, working with communities and committed to positive action to transform conflict and build a world of justice and peace, where basic needs are met, and human rights and dignity are respected. To promote people-centered approaches to transforming conflicts through a process of learning, sharing and working together at all levels and to do this in a way that builds trust and creates a culture of peace.
- Justice, equity and peace
- Non-violence and solidarity
- Awareness, sensitivity and empathy
- Tolerance and respect for human dignity
- Universal human rights
- High quality of work and effectiveness
- Cooperation and collaboration
- Celebration of the richness of diversity
- Commitment to environmental awareness and active responsibility
- Openness, accountability and transparency
The Nature of Conflict in Africa
Large parts of the continent are still caught up in an ongoing cycle of deep-rooted or protracted social conflict. The transition processes that have sought to bring an end to violence at national and regional levels have often not been able to effectively contain the residual forms of tension that accompany political and economic periods of transition. The effect of change processes on communities inevitably leads to volatile contexts in which local level disputes can quickly spiral into widespread forms of escalated tension and violence.
Several contexts across Africa continue to be characterised by residual conflicts and tension connected to poorly managed transitional processes, including mismanaged demobilisation and integration programmes for combatants, ineffective reconciliation efforts and an insensitive handling of transitional justice issues. Recognising the fragility of state institutions and structures is central to understanding why so many mediated outcomes do not appear to be able to prevent communities and national contexts from slipping back into recurring cycles of violent crisis. Post-colonial states have for the most part been unable to transform weak, ineffective and partisan social, economic, political and judicial systems, inherited from a colonial era of domination. In some instances the systems that were designed to divide and rule have been adapted to be used in post-colonial contexts for the purposes of maintaining control.
With millions of people living in poverty on the continent, growing economic inequality that appears to be exacerbated by unequal economic development, and high levels of unemployment, the conditions are rife to make people, and youth in particular, vulnerable to external manipulation by stakeholders that benefit from instability and the lawlessness that often accompanies periods of violence. The devastating effect of war and violence on the webs of social relationships that enable human agency compounds the complexity of this challenge. The impact of violence has also had specific and different long-term debilitating effects on men and women.
The democratisation agenda, and the rapid introduction of polarising forms of multi-party politics into systems that are not prepared to manage the resulting tensions also exacerbates levels of tension. The heightened politicisation of all spheres of government that accompanies polarised party politics is often compounded when the private sector is weak and the state dominates most forms of economic activity. Escalated tensions and conflicts related to economic control, as well as within the relationship between the state and organised labour, and within the relations between the state, the private sector and industry also appear to be on the rise.
Current electoral models, including those that encourage a winner-takes-all approach and those focused on a power politics that builds support around personalities and identity or ethnicity linked political parties often become flashpoints for violence. State failure to effectively deliver on social services also creates the conditions for violent forms of conflict linked to the mobilisation of a frustrated and dissatisfied citizenry.
While poor service delivery is often the result of a lack of capacity within the state, it is also sometimes a deliberate intention to marginalise or contain the needs of specific groups of people, a form of structural violence. These conflicts are also connected to a lack of transparency over how and why decisions are made, and a breakdown or absence of inclusive and effective dialogue processes.
The resulting tensions and the forms of community organization that emerge around these structural and systemic failures, and the frustration and anger that accompanies the dominant unequal development trajectories of most African countries is an important emerging form of conflict that requires urgent attention. The relationship between the state and its citizens is central to this element. Economic migration and tensions connected to prejudice against migrant communities and tight competition for scarce resources and inadequate service delivery systems provide further examples of a rising conflict trend that needs to be more holistically addressed.
In response to these cycles of interconnected conflict dynamics and the systems that they form part of the ACTION Support Centre has sought to develop an integrated set of strategies that connect conflict transfromation practitioners and the efforts of civil society formations at multiple levels. A shift in approach that speaks to solidarity, capacity building and the forging of collaborative partnerships appears to resonate well with the needs of the context.
This analysis informs the basis of the three core strategies of the ASC, which guide its projects and focus areas: Bridging Gaps and Forging Partnerships The ASC aims to create and explore opportunities that strengthen partnerships horizontally amongst civil society formations and between civil society and the stakeholders from within government and the private sector that affect the lives of the communities they are working with. These new forms of innovative collaborative partnership are intended to enable grassroots civil society to engage more effectively with policy makers at national, regional and international levels. Skills and Strategies for Change (SSC) SSC uses a conflict transformation approach to facilitate training and learning processes with individuals, organisations and communities across the African continent, to inform, empower, connect and strengthen a pool of active Conflict Transformation Practitioners. Solidarity and Transformation Agenda (STA) supports communities in the region through transformative workshops, campaigning, strengthening networks and promoting functional partnerships. STA supports initiatives that recognize that transformation requires a collective effort from everybody committed to peace, democracy and human and peoples rights and a deepened understanding of people-to-people solidarity.