What’s Next in the Escalating Violence in Israel and Palestinian territories? No one knows …

Many don’t know that Cure Violence has had a presence in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region since 2008 when Cure Violence began a five year program to train Iraqis in conflict mediation to ratchet down tensions in Basra and later Baghdad.  Over 1000 conflicts were interrupted and tensions calmed without violence, and 14,000 people were reached through community and training activities.  The program resulted in thousands of Iraqi lives saved.

Few would guess approximately 20% of Cure Violence social media followers on Facebook and Twitter are from the MENA region and speak Arabic, with many speaking English as well.  Cure Violence has worked hard to bring the health approach to violence prevention to the region, partnering with Non-Violent Peaceforce in a 2015 EU-sponsored conflict mediation and peace-keeping initiative and in collaboration with the Syrian coalition of civil society organizations, Madani.  This builds on Cure Violence’s 2013 pilot project funded by the State Department that trained over 130 Syrians in the health approach to preventing violence.  In addition, Gary Slutkin and Cure Violence leadership staff have made two assessment and planning visits to Palestinian territories and Israel in 2015 and are working to raise funds to hire and train credible messengers using the health approach to reduce the escalating violence in the East Jerusalem/West Bank area.

A reporter recently asked what makes the health approach to violence prevention so successful. The answer: the extensive training of credible messengers in high-violence communities to serve as community health workers. Cultures and norms can’t be changed from the outside. They change from the inside, out.  It is clear that the two main options traditionally used by nation/states and NGOs in the MENA region to bring an end to violence focus on diplomacy and use of the military, neither of which has proven effective in the long term.  “There’s a void we are trying to fill with a new type of worker, that of a highly trained violence interrupter, whose role is cool down their own clique and/or subgroup,” Gary Slutkin told Huff Post Live in a recent interview.   Adding another tool to the collective of options available to MENA leaders and the global NGO community to reduce violence in this tumultuous region is necessary.

A health-based violence prevention model will work to interrupt violence in tightly contained communities in Israel.  It’s not only been proven to reduce violence time and again through multiple, independent external evaluations, but it has been tested and deployed in Iraq and now in Syria.  Given that diplomacy and military intervention have not been effective to date in preventing the current escalation in violence, it is imperative to try a different approach.   Furthermore, it costs so little to deploy a, health-based violence prevention strategy to calm tensions and create an environment where diplomacy, and eventually peace, will flourish.  Peace in the MENA region is PRICELESS, not only to those who live, work and raise their children in that region, but to the world as well.

For more information about Cure Violence and its work in the MENA region.

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