Why does Harmoneat need to exist?
The world continues to be divided by difference. More than ever, we need opportunities and ways to bring individuals and communities together. Harmoneat exists to provide opportunities to unite individuals and groups.
Food is a universal need, an everyday passion. Harmoneat recognises how powerful food can be in uniting people and providing a reason to come together, share stories and create a platform for community action.
Rather than focusing on our differences, Harmoneat has seen how transformative it is to facilitate projects where we explore our commonalities. Food offers a medium to explore and discuss deeper issues and our projects provide a platform for individuals and groups to overcome simplistic stereotypes and begin to appreciate the richness in diversity.
Above all, our events and projects provide a safe space for people to come together. Connections foster good health, create meaning in individuals' lives, and unite people through a common experience. When united, these people can work to develop their own communities, wherever they may be in the world.
Our approach is to train Ambassadors in how to use Harmoneat's innovative community building methodology. These Ambassadors are trained in how to facilitate a range of activities in their own communities, using food to foster connections and build trust and tolerance from the ground up. We then provide seed funding to these individuals so they can carry on their important community-building work, using food to continue to bring people together.
Harmoneat also runs our own projects focused on building skills (in the hospitality industry), delivering peace education through food in informal care settings and working with diverse communities to deliver community events and listening projects.
Harmoneat in Myanmar
Myanmar has been engaged in various forms of internal conflict for over 60 years. By most calculations, its the longest ongoing civil war in the world. On top of that, communal violence between religious groups flared up in 2012 and remains a huge barrier to Myanmar’s future development.
Between 1996 and 2006 alone, an estimated one million people - many of them from ethnic minority areas - were displaced. All told over 200,000 have been killed as a direct or indirect result of conflict and over 600,000 remain displaced. Six decades of conflict have devastated infrastructure and services in Myanmar’s poorest communities. Even today, Myanmar has one of the lowest global expenditures on health care in the world.
But change is happening. In 2012 the government began an ambitious peace process. 14 of 16 armed groups have now signed ceasefires with the government and negotiations for a comprehensive political agreement to end the conflict will begin in the next 18 months.
Harmoneat recognises that, in addition to high-level political change, change needs to happen between individuals at the local level. Harmoneat believes in conflict transformation. That means that we work with individuals and communities to change perceptions and behaviours that can cause tension and conflict.
How are we transforming conflict?
At its most basic level, conflict is fuelled by individual actions, perceptions and relationships. Transformative peacemaking empowers individuals to nurture strong, interconnected communities. Only then can society truly confront and resolve their common problems.
We recognise that conflict cannot simply be ‘resolved’ or ‘managed’. Sustainable peace needs more than just a high-level political agreement. It needs a fundamental change in attitudes and actions from every individual in society.
So how is Harmoneat tackling these issues?
- First, through our food. Harmoneat showcases and serve cuisines from a range of different communities across Myanmar, enabling individuals to develop positive associations with each other and to start a conversation about tolerance. It's a subtle message - but one that will enable positive conversations and associations to develop between communities over time.
- Second, through conversation. Harmoneat aims to run and supports a wide range of events and supports other local partners in Yangon. By doing so, we aim to bring people together in a collaborative and positive way.
- Third, through our team. The Harmoneat team is locally run and led and are a shining example of cross-cultural collaboration. Harmoneat is dedicated to building the capacity of local changemakers.
- Fourth, through our partnerships. Harmoneat aims to support local, sustainable producers and organisations who come from a range of communities across Myanmar. In this way we are building local industries and creating sustainable economic development.
- Lastly, through our educational cooking courses. Harmoneat wants people who come to visit Myanmar to understand the culture and history, and how food represents the country's diversity. By raising international awareness we hope that visitors are respectful of Myanmar's history and culture and come away with a unique perspective on local-level peacebuilding.
Using a ‘common ground’ to break down cultural barriers isn’t new. Here are some other organisations taking a similar approach. Check them out.
Want to know more? Visit our frequently asked questions page.
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