To begin this column, I will be presenting a peacebuilding organization working with youth in the Middle East. Here is the interview with the local director of OneVoice, Samer Mahlouf. OneVoice is an “international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of young mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representative towards the two-state solution.” They have offices in the West Bank, Tel Aviv, New York and London, where activities go on at both the regional levels and also in cooperation with international partners. The main programs OneVoice runs in Palestine include: street campaigns, town hall meetings, and youth leadership training. To date, more than 1,500 young Palestinians have participated in the public speaking, civic engagement, and media training that is involved in the leadership-training program.
In Europe and North America, the organization focuses on International Education and Political Outreach, which connects both the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas to each other, and emboldens moderate voices around the world which seek pragmatic, authentic attention given to negotiation on land usage and governance in the region.
Again, while OneVoice is explicitly a peacebuilding group, Mr. Mahlouf does mention the links he understands between health and peace promotion. To read more about OneVoice, and get a better idea of how exactly it all works, here is the link to their website: http://onevoicemovement.org/programs/onevoice-palestine.php
My Interview with OneVoice
In our interview, I asked Mr. Mahlouf the following questions:
Could you introduce and briefly outline your organization for me? [0:30-1:00]
Could you tell me why you started? [1:15]
What are the main activities of OneVoice? [2:10]
Do you feel that your activities overlap or have a relation to health services or health providers? Do you get input from them? [5:52]
Could you tell me the strategies that both Onevoice and other health organizations use that are the same? Are there similar actions that both health workers and peace workers do? [7:26]
And would you say in Palestine there is an appreciation for the holistic relationship between health and peace? [9:30]
Here is the link to my interview:
Starting the discussion…
As you watch the video, I would encourage you to think about whether similar initiatives are happening in your communities, and if so, how they are similar and different to OneVoice and what it is trying to achieve. I realize that OneVoice is still explicitly a peace-building advocacy organization. However, it does have close relations to health service delivery. Samer acknowledges this. I am also aware that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so seemingly intractable and complex, that everything relates back to the occupation and health, education and basic rights cannot be discussed without this lens.
The idea of this forum is to address and discuss the ways peacebuilding efforts build and support better mental and physical health outcomes in societies facing conflict.
How do we as peacebuilders and health workers make the case, or better yet, facilitate the framing of programming and strategies that engage health and peace promotion?
From my experiences in rural demilitarized Colombia, health services were often a pre-requisite for peace. Both the guerrilla FARC movement and the state-sponsored paramilitaries recognized that they could win over strategic areas by promising local people health care and services. If armed groups seem to understand that connection, why are democratically elected and university-educated people not being more intentional about their program planning?
I have seen examples in local community centres, such as the Stop in Toronto, Canada. They have programs like Sabor Latino, a bi-weekly community drop-in kitchen that brings newcomers from the Latin community together to cook healthy recipes together and learn about social services and educational opportunities for their families. This is only one example, and I would invite you to send me yours.
Cross linkages between health and peace
Coming from a health promotion background myself, it strikes me that OneVoice is doing many things right. They have a specific youth engagement mandate, and understand the importance of public engagement and positive messaging. Public campaigns can go a long way if the message is inclusive and touches the audience on a human level. The very name “OneVoice” is positive, strong and makes a statement of unity and mutual support.
Health education focuses on the same tactics. We as health educators and promoters have largely moved away from blaming the victim, whether that is from smoking, obesity or type II- diabetes. This relates to one of the things I really like about OneVoice, which is their refusal to apportion victim status to the Palestinians. By avoiding this, the organization instead offers a much more vibrant, interesting call to action and self-empowerment. I think that call can also tie into individuals taking responsibility for their health and the environment they live in.
What do you think?
Please take a minute to watch the video and let us know how you feel organizations that address health and peace can best frame their work.
How can OneVoice support other health movements that it itself sees as crucial to the overall goal of a two-state solution?
What have you seen in your professional careers regarding organizations that are able to bridge health education and delivery with peacebuilding efforts?
Thank you very much for reading, and please tell us what you think. If you have stories or other organizations that you see embodying this type of work, please send their stories to Anthea Darychuk, at email@example.com
 World Health Organization (2008). “Closing the gap in a generation,” Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Available at: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/thecommission/finalreport/en/index.html