You are here: Uniting for peace and prosperity: Barrie Oxtoby on UNA Church Stretton’s vision

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UNA-UK’s Chairman, is visiting Church Stretton from 25 until 26 October at the invitation of the local branch. He will be the principal speaker and guest at a forum, supported by UNA Central Region and aimed at the wider community, entitled “United for Peace and Prosperity”.

The purpose of the forum is to create a plan for contributing to a peaceful Middle East, with particular attention being paid to the capacity of young people to contribute fresh perspectives, ideas and solutions to such long-standing issues. The event will also pay tribute to the impressive reputation of local community organisations for their practical concern for, and support of, humanitarian causes.

Partnership working

One UNA value that is cherished locally is partnership working. Initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) highlight a need to forge collaborative arrangements. Local community organisations with distinct aims related to the essence of any of the eight MDGs are important. Partnership working must be mutually beneficial, with equal benefits to all involved, and it is important to realise that relationships can often take years to grow in terms of trust and shared activities.

The Church Stretton community is wellblessed with such bodies working voluntarily for humanitarian causes. Opportunities to support a cause related to MDGs have been welcomed by the branch – what matters to us is to have successful outcomes, much more than who deserves the credit.

A local forum

Our October forum will therefore feature examples from four local voluntary organisations engaged in humanitarian activities, whose mottos resonate with UNA-UK: Fairtrade/Traidcraft, Rotary, Stretton Climate Care and, of course, UNA Church Stretton. At least a dozen other organisations are equally well-qualified to share their experiences and they have been invited to attend.

A unique perspective on peace will also be introduced by students with an international outlook. These students have participated in Model UN competitions, designed to enhance diplomacy skills in young people by seeking solutions to specific world problems. The students are from Concord College and North Staffordshire UNA Youth. They will be invited to offer ideas and solutions to prevailing circumstances in Middle Eastern countries.

So “United for Peace and Prosperity” will be a whole-community forum, hosted by the Town Mayor, Councillor Tom Beaumont, with 20 local voluntary organisations involved. Participants from UNA Central Region with an interest in the Middle East are also registered to attend. The event itself will take place at three local community centres: Silvester Horne Institute for a supper and presentation; the Parish Centre for experience-sharing; and the Mayfair Community Centre for planning.

Peace and prosperity

Peace is more likely when different people with distinct ways of life share a common purpose. Prosperity may be realised when differences are harnessed as an asset channelled towards a common purpose and applied in an atmosphere of trust. Peace and prosperity are as important internationally as they are locally. The principles are the same but the application needs to suit the prevailing culture.

What could emerge when a recognised international statesman on diplomacy and the Middle East shares his views and interacts with a cross-section of people from recognised and established voluntary organisations? Can we make a difference?

Barrie Oxtoby, a Visiting Professor at the University of Chester, is Co-Chair of UNA Church Stretton. In 2011, he was presented with the UNA-UK Award for Distinguished Service by the UNA-UK Board of Directors

(Picture from the ‘Afghanistan Livelihood Project’,which is supported by UNA Church Stretton and the wider community. Through the UN Refugee Agency, the project supports the retraining of returning Afghan refugees in poultry-raising and other trades © UNHCR)