Through much of the twentieth century and now into the twenty-first, the United States, as a superpower, has assumed the role of “international peace keeper.” While the motives, intentions, values and results of some of the US’s interventions have been often questioned, the example set by the US government and the genuine compassion and philanthropy of many individual Americans have fostered the growth of a large conflict resolution community within the greater American charitable and non-governmental community. Yet, despite the millions of dollars of charitable donations, the tireless, hard work of generally well-educated but low-paid NGO staff, and the leadership and guiding theory of some of the nation’s most brilliant minds, “conflict resolution” has fallen out of favor with funders and philanthropic foundations because of a lack of results.
A commitment to our peers…
As part of its mission statement, the ICfC is now actively promoting and teaching our unique approach towards identity-based conflicts to other conflict resolution professionals. Over the past several years, we have been in the process of demonstrating that our approaches yield better results and are capable of renewing the interest and faith in the ability of non-governmental actors to contribute to peace making. At the ICfC, we have great respect for the many other organizations that seek to prevent and resolve conflict, both domestically and internationally. By introducing focus on historical narratives and collective memory, and integrating these into a systemic process and skills-oriented packages, we hope to help others in their quest to resolve protracted conflicts between communities divided by historical, cultural, or religious issues.
The process begins…
The ICfC began the process of actively and systematically disseminating our methods to other conflict resolution professionals in the summer of 2006, with our first Workshop for Advanced and Skilled Mediators. The workshop, held in Boston, gathered participants not only from conflict resolution organizations in the United States, but also from peacekeeping organizations from many different corners of the world. The workshop focused on examining new approaches in the mediation field and guiding the participants in practicing their new skills through role plays and exercises. The high level of diversity of our participants created new opportunities for learning, for participants and for the ICfC staff, as the participants were able to share their own experiences from various parts of the world, and discuss how they would creatively apply their new skills in the context of their region’s specific problems. The feedback from the evaluations following this workshop has been overwhelmingly positive, and plans for the second annual workshop are underway for October of 2007.
In February of 2007, ICfC conducted our first “Mediating History, Making Peace: A Training in Conflict Resolution” workshop, for graduate students and recent graduates at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in New York City. This introductory workshop for young people going into the conflict resolution field augmented and enhanced the significant and comprehensive education in international conflict resolution that they received in school. This workshop also signified the beginning of collaboration between ICfC and SIPA. ICfC is now planning a similar workshop for the fall of 2007, also to take place in New York.
In addition to the October of 2007’s second “Mediating History, Making Peace: Henry Everett Workshop for Professionals Working with Issues of Conflict, Justice, and Peace ” and continuing workshops at the Columbia University, the ICfC is undertaking our pledge to help re-educate and re-train conflict resolution professionals in other ways.
We are currently in the process of writing a Historical Conciliation Manual – a comprehensive guide that includes conceptual background, defines historical memory and its role in conflict and conflict resolution, and outlines ICfC-developed practical approaches and skills aimed at achieving acknowledgment and establishing empathy between groups in conflict. The Manual will be completed in the summer of 2007, and will be available to the public through the ICfC website.
We also are establishing a think tank to develop post-conflict strategies for intractable conflicts around the world. Post-conflict initiatives, such as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, International Crimes Tribunal for the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and the International Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda have all served important purposes in rebuilding post-conflict societies with peace, truth, and justice central to their operations. However, we believe that they alone cannot establish the standards and practices that are appropriate in all post-conflict situations to ensure that the settlement does not precipitate the next round of violence. All too often, peace treaties do not signal an end to conflict. Instead, conflict continues to fester in the hearts and souls of citizens who experience the cumulative hatred passed down from generation to generation; it is this hatred that the ICfC will address through effective memorialization and education.
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