Through the FS International Advisory Services, Frankfurt School is currently supporting the EU to enhance its dialogue with South Africa (SA) on a number of peace, security, human rights and governance issues via the initiative: “Gateways for Peace: EU-South Africa partnership for peace and security”.
In recent years, the African continent has seen a spike in the number of armed conflicts; Ethiopia, South Sudan and Mozambique, among others, their associated fatalities and a decline in the quality of democracy. There has also been an increase in forced migration and population displacement in hybrid democracies and a resurgence of the coup phenomenon (six coup attempts in 2021 alone). In this context, FS is working to promote and deepen a mutual understanding between the EU and South Africa on key challenges on the continent, with the aim to identify commonalities and areas of possible joint actions for more sustainable peace and economic development in Africa.
Since 2021, our team of experts has been collaborating closely with the European Union Delegation to organise roundtables and webinars in South Africa on key topics such as human rights in Lesotho and Eswatini, violent extremism in Mozambique and the peace-building interventions of the EU and the African Union (AU) in the Sahel region and in Somalia.
Our next big event will take place on 26 April 2023 at the Javett Art Centre in Pretoria, in conjunction with the University of Pretoria and the Centre for Human Rights. We are cooperating to organise a public debate with key experts on the sensitive topic of migration and xenophobia and bring together representatives of the South African government, diplomats, researchers and the student community. Our aim is to increase awareness of the messaging and spread of xenophobia as well as on how to create counter-narratives in the spirit of “Ubuntu”, a Nguni Bantu term meaning “I am because we are” or “I am because you are” and often translated as “humanity”.
This debate will be linked to the opening, also at the Javett Art Centre, of a photography exhibition, sponsored by the EU and coordinated by FS, on the notions of Home, Identity and Belonging. Six pre-selected artists based in South Africa from different contexts will present their work, developed beforehand during a 3-month long mentorship programme.
We have elaborated this photographic mentorship programme together with the collaborative educational and developmental photographic space “Through the Lens Collective” in South Africa to support the art community, which has been significantly impacted by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently in need of strong backing. It has mainly consisted of regular meetings with a team of professional photographers to discuss and work with each artist on both concepts and visuals of their artwork.
The exhibition will feature 30 photographic pieces and intends to facilitate public debate and dialogue around these complex notions. It also stands as a form of visual activism against xenophobia, as well as an opportunity for the public to reflect on its own position in this regard.
On Freedom Day (27 April), one day after the public debate and the exhibition opening, we will invite the public to engage and discuss with the artists about their artwork. Entrance on this particular day will be free of charge. Freedom Day commemorates South Africa’s first non-racial elections in 1994, post-apartheid. It celebrates democracy and human rights and will be an ideal opportunity to reflect on greater inclusion and social cohesion. The exhibition will run for a period of two weeks until 10 May 2023.
Our experts have already formulated a number of policy briefs identifying areas for potential partnership between the EU and South Africa to bring more sustainable peace and security to the continent. It has particularly highlighted the need for a comprehensive and coordinated response to the situation in Cabo Delgado (Mozambique) and a strong desire on both sides to develop an EU-South Africa roadmap for further women’s engagement in conflict prevention.
Furthermore, discussions between government representatives and diplomats have highlighted the need for peace processes in Africa to be rethought and have led to a number of key conclusions: Peace agreements can reduce violence, but if inadequately established, they can also set the parameters for the next war, as experienced in South Sudan. The notion that a flawed peace process is better than no peace needs to be dismissed. The ownership and inclusivity of peace processes are crucial elements that need to be better enforced.