A private sector representative may not quite be the person one would expect to find at a peace building workshop.

However, Willie Kwansing, the General Secretary of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is at home with the participants of a regional peace building workshop, discussing the root causes of conflict and designing responses to address conflict and strengthen peace.

The workshop, organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre, started on May 3 and is attended by more than fifty participants from Bougainville, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga.

"Often the private sector underestimates its contribution to the peace process. What we must understand is that business thrives where there is stability and we suffer when there is conflict," said Mr. Kwansing.

The workshop discussed the roles of the civil society, of which the private sector is a part, in the peace building process.

"One way the private sector can contribute to the peace process is to remain engaged and participate actively in policy formulation that will contribute to prosperity and stability," said Mr. Kwansing, who is also a committee member of Dialogue Fiji, a non government organization working on promoting dialogue in Fiji.

Discussions on policy formulation for peace highlighted the need for better communication between civil society and the government.

One of the intended outcomes of the workshop is to enhance communication and knowledge sharing among the civil society, relevant government departments as well as other peace practitioners through the creation of a peace building community. The details of this community will be further refined by the participants before the workshop closes tomorrow.

The workshop is part of the Strengthening Capacities for Peace and Development in the Pacific project. It's objectives are to strengthen the cadre of peace practitioners from the Pacific whose work and approach will hopefully be further strengthened through skills building, up-scaled policy interventions, the regional sharing of good practices and effective peace building mechanisms suited to the Pacific - and through improved access to resources and experts made available through a peace-net portal supported by the project.

One of the key issues is not to duplicate work being done at the regional level or the national level, but rather to complement and add resources to current initiatives.

Source: Press Release, UNDP Pacific Centre