8. Capacity-Building Workshop on Conflict Management, Human Rights, and Gender, Pretoria, South Africa (December 2015)

Conflict Management, Human Rights, and Gender Capacity-Building Workshop for Southern African National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Society Organisations, Pretoria, South Africa
8-10 December 2015


The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) held a three-day workshop in December 2015 on how to manage, mediate, and resolve conflict for national human rights institutions (NHRIs) civil society organisations (CSOs) from Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. Twenty-four representatives (12 women and 12 men) from human-rights institutions and peacebuilding NGOs attended the course, which also provided a platform for knowledge-sharing.

Workshop Objectives

Workshop participantsThe December 2015 workshop in Pretoria had the following four key objectives:

  • First, to build and strengthen the knowledge and understanding of participants of the concepts of peace, conflict, human rights, and conflict management, and to build their peacebuilding, mediation, and reconciliation skills in order to enhance their capacity to implement their mandates;
  • Second, to explore the specific challenges that participating institutions and civil society actors currently face in building peaceful communities in their respective contexts and in their work more generally, with a view to sharing solutions to particular human rights challenges and providing technical conflict resolution assistance (including reconciliation, mediation, and dialogue);
  • Third, to enhance the conflict resolution and mediation skills of all participants, equipping them with skills and knowledge to enable them to manage conflicts in their respective countries effectively and efficiently; and
  • Fourth, to incorporate a gender lens into conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and human rights work, and to explore the practical application of this lens for the day-to-day work of all participating organisations and groups.


The training was conducted in English using an interactive and participatory approach, with facilitator-led presentations, plenary and panel discussions, participant debriefing sessions, group discussions, and role plays to provide participants with an opportunity to contextualise key issues discussed. The workshop sought to foster a theoretical and practical understanding of conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation in the context of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania, and also provided participants with training materials tailored to their specific needs.

Thematic Areas Covered

The following four broad thematic areas were covered:

Workshop participants1. Enhancing understanding of concepts of conflict and peace, conflict resolution, and mediation

The workshop explored participants' current levels of understanding of conflict and peace. Conflict resolution and mediation skills were presented, according to participants' understandings and skill levels. The objective of this aspect of the training was to equip participants with skills enabling them to recognise and understand the underlying causes of conflicts they are required to manage as part of their work. The training further enhanced understanding of mediation and conflict resolution strategies and processes, around issues such as identifying roles, needs, and interests as well as understanding conflict management tools.

2. Challenges and opportunities facing NHRIs in building peaceful communities and countries

The workshop looked at the challenges these institutions face in implementing their mandates, including constantly being confronted with the task of managing conflicts given the role of NHRIs in interpreting and implementing human rights mandates. Receiving and investigating complaints of human rights abuses often entails addressing conflicts between complainants and respondents, establishing accountability, and providing remedies, including between institutions in conflict. The ability to reconcile individuals in conflict is also an important skill that NHRIs are required to provide, particularly during transitional justice processes. Many human rights issues are viewed as contentious and, as such, can easily give rise to further disputes, especially in post-conflict societies. The workshop facilitated participants' understanding of these challenges and knowledge of how to advance their roles utilising the existing opportunities in their respective countries.

3. The role of NHRIs in advancing gender equality in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes

Post-conflict reconstruction and transitional justice processes often provide unique opportunities to transform power relations across societal fault-lines such as class, ethnicity, and gender. The transformation of gender relations is often not seen as a peacebuilding priority, although it is key to sustainable peace. The workshop discussed and considered the role of NHRIs and civil society in advancing gender equality in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and addressed the opportunities for, and challenges to, enhancing women's participation in peacebuilding initiatives at all levels of society.

Workshop participants4. Linking human rights, conflict management, and peacebuilding

The Pretoria workshop explored the relationship between the promotion of human rights, conflict management practices, reconciliation, and peacebuilding processes in Africa, particularly in the work of NHRIs. The workshop emphasised the key role that respect for human rights plays in conflict prevention; the need to develop non-adversarial approaches to the protection of human rights by using conflict management and reconciliatory skills and techniques; and the use of such approaches to prevent massive human rights violations occurring during violent conflicts and in post-conflict settings.


Participants appreciated the relevance and timeliness of the workshop, as well as the knowledge and skills provided. They noted the importance of convening diverse organisations from different countries to share and learn from one another. For example:

Zondwayo NhlemaZondwayo Nhlema, Investigation Officer, Disability and Elderly Rights, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) in Blantyre, Malawi, reported that the workshop had increased his knowledge and skills in conflict management, which will be useful for his work with albinos and the elderly, who are often the victims of indiscriminate killings in Malawi. He committed to work with other organisations to bridge the gap between the MHRC and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Malawi, and reported that the CCR training had provided him with the opportunity to familiarise himself with other NGOs in Malawi as well as in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Patience ZirimaPatience Zirima, Chairperson, Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe in Harare, reported that as a human rights advocate, she had not considered the different approaches in advocating for the rights of people, and that the CCR workshop had equipped her with a wide range of alternatives in addressing human rights issues in her constituency.

Aaron TawakaliAaron Tawakali, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Officer, Malawi Human Rights Commission in Lilongwe, Malawi, reported that the CCR workshop had increased his knowledge in the various dimensions of conflict resolution.


Evans Mwila KundaEvans Mwila Kunda, Capacity-Building and Leadership Development Officer at the Zambia National Women's Lobby, reported that the CCR training had helped him to appreciate the efforts and programmes that other civil society organisations are undertaking in an effort to promote human rights and peacebuilding in the SADC region, and that he would seek to collaborate with various organisations in Southern Africa. He also committed to sharing the knowledge and skills that he had gained with different stakeholders working on peace and conflict at various forums both nationally and internationally.

Mwamba Banda EmeldaMwamba Banda Emelda, Capacity-Building Officer, Gender and Women's Rights at the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council in Lusaka, Zambia, reported: "I now have the enhanced ability to work in harmony with member organisations and other NGOs, even when they do not handle issues in expected ways."


Pretoria workshop participants 8-10 Dec 2015

Participants at CCR’s conflict management, human rights, and gender capacity-building workshop for Southern African national human rights institutions and civil society organisations, Pretoria, South Africa, 8-10 December 2015

Workshop photo gallery

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