Internationally known and locally respected

Poverty....disease... gender inequity.. illiteracy... drug and alcohol abuse... unemployment... resource differentials...race conflict... religion... historical inequalities and legacies of oppression. When one thinks about the potential drivers of conflict in a country like South Africa, these are often the first issues that come to mind. But when I asked Dr. Marion Keim in a recent interview what she would say were the primary drivers of conflict, the idea of generalizing about the South African context seemed irrelevant. In fact, these issues are the primary drivers of conflict everywhere. At the community, provincial, national, and continental levels, conflict is generalizable only insofar as it is multidimensional. As Dr. Keim wisely suggested, perhaps it is more instructive to ask what brings people together than it is to determine what pulls them apart.


That is why Dr. Keim and other educators, coaches, entrepreneurs and NGOs have looked to sport as a tool for community development and peacebuilding. Whether its rugby, basketball, hiking, running, or the most ubiquitous sport in South Africa – soccer – community leaders have found great success in harnessing the inclusive power of sport for good. While the social context may very from city to city or province to province, sport works similarly as a adhesive across localities. This can be seen quite clearly in the case of South Africa, where sports programs in the Western Cape and Kwazulu Natal (KZN) operate similarly despite very different circumstances. KZN has the highest rate of HIV incidence and prevalence in the country, widespread poverty and illiteracy and a very different demographic profile than the Western Cape, by far the wealthiest but perhaps the most unequal of South Africa's provinces. The Western Cape is the only province with a different government, run by the Democratic Alliance, where the rest of SA's provinces are headed by the ANC (which also has a majority in national parliament). And yet, despite these differences, NGOs like PeacePlayers International , Girls and Football SA and Hoops4Hope have successfully employed sport as an entry point to build trust, develop communities and empower youth.


A final lesson from Dr. Marion is that locally-led and locally-developed organizations are the ones that have the best chance of creating sustainable change over long periods of time. People on the ground are the best source of information for what social ills exist that should be corrected. The social legacy of the World Cup included the proliferation of projects that used sport for social transformation and economic development. Unfortunately, some of those initiatives wore out as quickly as they were begun. Many organizations that work in South Africa do so as part of larger international networks: perhaps they were started by foreigners, or maybe their funding comes from overseas sources. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But what seems to be a crucial ingredient for programmatic success is local ownership and local buy-in. Dr. Keim says it best... “to become a partner you have to be local, you have to be here working with us every day, or you can say you want to assist in a certain way but then ask first. What is it that is needed and how can we contribute?”

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Tags: Africa, Cup, South, World, basketball, community, development, local, ownership, peace, More…soccer, sport


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Comment by Morlee Gugu Zawoo, Sr. on June 8, 2011 at 8:44am

Hi Sarah:

You are just so correct in your analysis from the point that programmatic success is local ownership by the beneficiaries or the peple you work with or else there will be no achievement.


This is similar to the kind of problems we are experiencing in post conflict Liberia for the mere fact that United Nations and International Organizations will be leaving some days to come. But what can the people of Liberia count on as Local Ownership and Empowerment? This is the question that yet to be answered. If UN or INGOs leave, what will be the state or condition of Liberia? We must now begin to cultivate Confidence in ourselves in terms of socio-economic, peaceful and developmental realities in the absence of our partners............Thanks for that brillent analysis Sarah.

Comment by Jennifer Lentfer on June 6, 2011 at 7:44pm

See this great related post from the Chewy Chunks blog: 

"Innovative solutions seem to come to those who are emotionally invested in the problems they face."

And this related post on on overlooking the capacity of local, indigenous organizations:


Comment by Jean de Dieu Alingwi on June 6, 2011 at 5:18am

Thanks for your thoughts and the work you are doing. It was good to hear and read that together with the responses of all other friends.

We can yes generalize in the way that all the stuffs leading to conflicts are being experienced in many countries. But to some extend as said Francis the causes though similar vary from one region to another according to the historical, cultural and tradition elements of the region and of the population. Allow me to summarise those as facts that put the population in difficult life conditions rooting mostly from frustration. People have needs and interests to satisfy. Once not, the trend is to find the way out in whatever means. I always understand to all levels that the response to frustration if not in constructive way lead to violence. So I agree with all of you as the facts you mentioned are for me complementary. These activities we are undertaking at all levels and in different sectors are really very important since we seek reestablish confidence, connexion and social cohesion among groups of people.  

It has been noted that despite the evidence importance of building peace at a local level, so far national and international response to conflict/disputes have always been focused on military effort and on a high level political initiatives rather than on Grassroots work. Yet both sides should be combined to build a society in which identities and differences (cultural diversities) haves to be perceived as richness potential rather than foundations of frustrations, manipulations, exclusion and placement  that perpetuate  the cycle of violence which tears social tissues throughout the world.

 I have been working in peacebuilding projects, Grassroots sector for 3 years now in the eastern part of DR Congo. We work with community base groups made of people once in strong conflict. Considering the complexity of conflicts/violence and the context itself, visibly it seems not to be significant. But considering the results and the impact in regions where the activities are being developed, there is hope that the small positive groups can influence a whole society.  there is a strong need to work on local levels and with local communities. People once enemies can play, work and lead activities of common interests, can pay visit to each other. From this experience we have seen how “the members of small community based groups are perceiving their differences as sources of richness and there is a strong number of other people to adhere in”. We can see that the more we work positively on people via small activities of social cohesion, the more people adhere to positive visions. It is a process and let us engage in grassroots day by day, the challenges are enormous of course, but it works.  

Well done to what you have already done! Mrs padma, Good job! I will glad to hear more about your approach.

To what remains to be done, please, More courageous!

Sorry for some language errors,



Comment by Francis Okeny Silvio on June 6, 2011 at 4:41am

@Ameer ELnager thanks for your response to the example I brought forward, however, I notice that people usually don't want to admit to the truth. The example I brought to you was one out of many bad example I witness in person NOT told, but it was nice to know that even peace agents are not ready to compromise or tolerate the truth. Truth is one of the values I consider as a pillar of peace initiatives, and to think that I am not telling the truth contradict those values. 


Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on June 6, 2011 at 4:38am

Dear Sarah,


Your blog resonates with my way of thinking. I strongly believe that communities have potential to respond to their concerns whether its peace, gender or any other issue. Locally led responses are sustainable otherwise those supported from outside end when the external support is withdrawn. Thanks!




Comment by Dr. surendra pathak on June 6, 2011 at 3:33am
Sarah thanks for your insight article great to read it. you are doing great job.
Comment by Mark Clark on June 6, 2011 at 2:01am

Hi Sarah

Great to read your blog and the various responses to it.  Hope your study goes well. Looking forward to hearing more!

Best regards


Comment by Padma D. Jayaweera on June 5, 2011 at 11:51pm

I highly appreciate the practical nature of ideas regarding sustainable peace and development through locally based and locally owned grass-roots level comunity organizations. I have found that Cooperatives appears to be best form of locally owned , people controlled democratic organizations to perform the expected duties which is widely used by developing as well as developed countries. In Sri Lanka, there is a Women's Development Cooperative Society with more than 60.000 women membership allover the country. I has been doing a gigantic role to help resource poor women by empowering them through cooperative action. No political interference at all. If somebody is interested , I am prepared to make a presentation on how this Cooperative assist poor women to uplift their socio-economic status without any government support,

(Mrs) Padma Jayaweera



Comment by Ameer ELnager on June 5, 2011 at 9:06pm

Dear Sara

Thanks for great stuff  and really helpfully  for development worker. I agree with you on some of causes of conflict but also i agree with Francis about one of conflict causes in Sudan is Racially .

Dear Francis, i agree with you on the race problem in Sudan and coexistent problems and challenges in Sudan. But i don't agree with you when you mentioned on pray issues ,it is not True and i wish you could fellow truth resource.


Best regards 

Comment by Francis Okeny Silvio on June 5, 2011 at 6:00pm

Sarah thanks for your insight article that described "Poverty....disease... gender inequity.. illiteracy... drug and alcohol abuse... unemployment... resource differentials...race conflict... religion... historical inequalities and legacies of oppression" , as the primary driving force in conflicts. Although generally that is always the case, from the general view point, I would disagree on the generalization. I have studied carefully the root of conflicts in different geographical locations and my conclusion maintained that all roots of conflicts are not the same. They are as diverse as the human race, although there are similarities in most factors you mentioned,  however, religious conflict in my country is not the same as religious conflict in Nigeria or Senegal etc.

In my country Sudan, religious conflict is racially rooted. For example, a black African Muslim could lead prayers on Fridays, but the Afro-Arab Muslims would not accept the prayers as valid, so they would get back and lead the prayers again for the prayers to be considered valid. If you look into the conflict in Darfur, where 99% of the people are Muslims, but the majority of the inhabitants are black African, with minority Afro-Arab, you will notice that the conflict is racially rooted, between black Africans and Afro-Arab, and religion is used as a pretext, because there is no way one would say Allah do not listen to a black African prayers.  

Nevertheless, your method of sport as a tool to initiate trust and perhaps peace and development in Darfur would be very difficult from any perspective, but worth trial. I have notice that the Afro-Arab do not have the attitude of co-existence, as far as the conflict in Darfur is concern. We are really concern and would love to see peace return to Darfur. Your article has given me a unique method that I never thought was important in building trust among rivals in conflict situation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.


Francis Okeny,

South Sudan.

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