Graduation Student Keynote Address.

July 24th, 2011 Comments off

by Vic Crawford, New Zealand

It is an honour and a privilege to share my graduation address as the final entry for the 2011 IPSI Bologna blog.


Do you remember
that wild stretch of land
with the lone tree guarding the point
from the sharp-tongued sea?

The fort we built out of branches
wrenched from the tree
is dead wood now.

Allow me to mend the broken ends
of shared days:
but I wanted to say
that the tree we climbed
that gave food and drink
to youthful dreams, is no more.
Pursed to the lips her fine-edged
leaves made whistle – now stamp
no silken tracery on the cracked
clay floor.

in this drear
dreamless time I clasp
your hand if only to reassure
that all our jeweled fantasies were
real and wore splendid rags.

Perhaps the tree
will strike fresh roots again:
give soothing shade to a hurt and
troubled world.

The poem I opened with is called Friend and it was written by Hone Tuwhare – one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important indigenous poets. Through his poetry I came to understand perspectives on NZ’s staunch anti-nuclear stance, our participation in the so-called ‘Vietnam War’ and the ongoing tensions between his people, the Maori, and my ancestral people, the white settler population. From this particular poem, I have taken the most important idea of all – the idea of ‘jeweled fantasies’ and it is to this idea that I will write.

We all came to Bologna from different backgrounds and for different purposes. Some of us for advancement in our education, some of us to try and figure out a new direction in life, some of us to network and build alliances and most of us to eat a lot of gelato.

But, from what I have observed, we all came with jeweled fantasies. What do I mean by jeweled fantasies? Dreams that are lofty, aspirations that seem distant, ideas which challenge the status quo. And for some of us, ambitions that are completely unacceptable to others in our society. Ambitions that we have paid for with our freedom and with personal loss.

I want to encourage all of us to hold onto these jeweled fantasies and to keep them at the core of all we do going forward from here.

It is all too easy to become exhausted, compromised, frustrated, feel under-valued, futile in the face of power and ideology, morally outraged by seemingly senseless violence and limited by narrow mandates.

But, we have all come to this path because of a valid and important vision, no matter how big or small, and we owe it to ourselves and to the people whom these dreams serve to remain positive and committed to our visions.

I am not encouraging an uncritical idealism – that does not serve our purposes well and can in fact be detrimental. Rather, I am encouraging all the participants not to discount themselves and their personal power. We have seen and heard that everyday acts have a huge impact. We have seen and heard that one single person or event can change the course of history. We have seen and heard the power of pragmatism paired with creativity.

My personal jeweled fantasy belongs to that much talked about, but woefully ill-defined field of gender equity and I want to consider the topic in this forum. In particular, I want to consider a form of violent conflict which was not covered much among the ‘high politics’ and bloody ethnic wars we focused on: gender-based violence. I heard from many of the participants that they cannot speak to violent conflict, as they do not come from societies where violent conflict is present. I disagree wholeheartedly with them. Violent conflict is present in all societies, because in all societies women, men and children suffer from physical and sexual abuse – not at the hands of a dehumanized ‘other’, but at the hands of people they trust and love. My own country is considered one of the most ‘peaceful’ countries in the world, but, we have a very high rate of family violence and child abuse. There is something wrong with that picture.

I encourage all of the participants to further consider these ‘conflicts underneath’, as I term them. The conflicts which occur behind closed doors, because, from personal experience, I can tell you that these are just as viscous, just as psychologically traumatic and just as political.

When I first came to feminist and gender-based theory five years ago, I came across a maxim that has underpinned my entire approach to this field: “the personal is political.” To me, this means that everybody’s personal stories of conflict in some way reflect wider, even international, issues. It is something which I witnessed at the symposium regularly as people began to see outside ‘the bubble’ of their own conflict and found connections with others.

A huge lesson I have learned over the past month is that a commitment to my jeweled fantasy is difficult to achieve in an unfamiliar context. I have been guilty of sidelining my own issue and, as Joyce Neu pointed out, of avoiding being ‘the gender person’.

So, something that I have taken away from IPSI is the resolve to be a persistent and consistent ‘gender person’. I resolve to remain open-minded in the face of tired and outdated arguments and to continue to strive to temper my passion with reason in order to engage as wide an audience as possible.

I also learned other important life lessons over the month in Bologna, which I will take forward with me as I attempt to hold onto my jeweled fantasy of gender equity. First, that it is paramount to think creatively in order to avoid repeating past mistakes. That a common adversary can be as important as a common cause. That external does not necessarily mean imperial. That so much of our work and approach remains US-centric and we need to work on balancing this. That we are working in a field that uses an extreme amount of bizarre acronyms.

On a final note, recurring phrases that I noted during the course of the simulations was ‘but this would not happen in real life’ and ‘that doesn’t reflect reality’. While a grip on reality is of course necessary, I challenge everybody to think beyond ‘real life’, to think of the possibilities of our field, not the limitations. We experienced many of the possibilities over the course of the month in Bologna and they give me a lot of hope for meaningful change. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela: don’t be afraid of yourselves and your potential.

in this drear
dreamless time I clasp
your hand if only to reassure
that all our jewelled fantasies were
real and wore splendid rags.

Perhaps the tree
will strike fresh roots again:
give soothing shade to a hurt and
troubled world.

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Getting to Agreement.

July 21st, 2011 Comments off

by Amy Thomson, New Zealand

Three days of trying to end the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict (in our universes this equated to about 20days) and I’m shattered. Acting on behalf of a small nation without international recognition (Abkhazia) is beset with problems. Balancing interests that are in some ways contradictory and then getting other stakeholders to even consider those interests is a complicated and frustrating process. In the end due to time constraints my universe ended up supporting the status quo as the next best alternative to a resolution of the conflict. Given that during the past three days Georgia and Russia have been close to full-blown war, this was a successful mediation process. For Abkhazia it meant failing to achieve all the goals it had, but leaving their achievement a possibility for the future.

Once each universe had arrived at their final statements, we were provided the opportunity to see what agreements all the other universes had come to. Some of them were close to being realistic and others were nice fairy tales. In some Russia and NATO forces had clashed and full out war was declared. In others Abkhazia gained everything it had dreamed of from Independence to economic prosperity without having to lose out on some interests.

The majority of this final day of the simulation was taken up with debriefing. It was a very useful process as it helped me to understand what some of the things that were realistic about our simulation, how I could have negotiated better and what to expect from mediation processes at an international level. I learned that if you keep a group of diplomats in a room for days and days until all hours of the morning and you don’t let them out, they are more likely to come to an agreement. They are human after all and fatigue works on us all. I learned that the perception that the mediator is listening to your concerns is an important factor in cooperating in the discussions. I learned that getting to an agreement is one thing, but actually implementing that agreement will be quite another. I learned that personalities are hugely important to the success of the discussions. I learned the importance of changing the situation from a zero-sum game to a win-win scenario.

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Unsettled Channels.

July 20th, 2011 Comments off

by Shalva Dzidziguri, Republic of Georgia.

While talking about the simulation “Unsettled Channels” over the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia during the introduction of the IPSI program on the first day of the symposium, Cameron announced that they would give me a role of the Russian representative. I did not know that he meant it seriously. Truly, the trainers decided that I had to act against the interests of my actual country –Georgia. I accepted this decision without protest, because I thought it was just a game and it would not be difficult for me to “simulate”. I was completely wrong! Even though, yesterday and today, I did my best to defend fervently the Russian position (according to the tasks given by the trainers), in the bottom of my heart I was always sympathizing the Georgian side. Knowing that it was a game, I still felt a little pang when blaming the Georgians for aggression, violation, massacre and sabotage.

Nevertheless, this assigned role had also a positive impact on me. Firstly, it helped me to understand how important it is to discover the genuine underlying interests of your rival, which in turn enables you to prepare better for a negotiation with him. Secondly, it reaffirmed in me that the world’s big powers are often manipulated by the fates of small states and use them as bargaining chips to achieve their own goals. Thirdly, it is essential to know that you might have to give some things up in order to achieve overall positive results during the negotiations, no matter how powerful you are and how painful it must be to make a concession.

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Dang It Feels Good to be a Peace Nerd.

July 19th, 2011 Comments off

by Charly Jaffe, United States of America

Last night when I called home, my mother asked what I had done today. “Just started a three day attempt at solving the Abkhazian-Georgian conflict,” I replied, “No big deal.” As I was handed my briefing packet this Monday morning, which was over twenty pages of press releases, news articles, and analysis, I couldn’t wait to begin. Scouring through the pages, I tried to pick out the most relevant information and analyze what it meant for my approach to the round table talks I was about to enter. It really did feel like an accurate portrayal of what the prenegotiation preparation period would feel like. There was a fair deal of missing information, something that, although frustrating, is a very real issue in negotiations. But this was only a taste of the frustration to come.

The complexity of our grievances and positions became clear before the negotiations began. We couldn’t even get topic names written down without argument. And after the talks commenced, every bit of headway was met with a piece of breaking news that thwarted the progress we had made. The complex nature of these talks were both frustrating and enlightening.

After the long day of simulating, I was lucky enough to have a speaker dinner with the Julia Szedga and Sara Shokravi from LINC and gain some insight into the creation of these simulations. They explained the lengthy process of not only crafting the complex details of a simulation, but creating entire countries and economies as well. It was like I was listening to a real live ‘peace nerd’ version of Inception, not just solving conflict but designing them as well. And as Cameron Chisholm, the President of IPSI, proudly announced to all of us today, “We are all huge peace nerds.”

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The ICC.

July 18th, 2011 Comments off

by Catarina Stewart, Portugal

On Friday morning we had Dr. Rod Rastan, a legal adviser for the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) come and speak to us.  After a brief presentation about the ICC, participants were permitted to ask questions.  After the coffee break we were all told to split up into small groups and come up with questions that we were burning to ask, and all the questions were collected.  At this point there was a wide variety of questions asked about how the ICC works, what it can do, how credible it is under certain circumstances and so forth.  The participants seemed to have many more questions than there was time to answer them. Dr. Rastan very kindly was willing to stay through lunch in order to speak to more of the participants and to answer additional questions that he had not been able to answer previously due to time constraints.

Unfortunately Dr. Rastan was only able to be with us for the morning, as he had to return to The Hague that afternoon.  Overall it seemed like people enjoyed having him there and being able to ask questions about the ICC to someone who works there.

In the afternoon we were then given the opportunity to choose an affinity group relating to five of the major topics that had been discussed throughout the past three weeks — some of the topics included Peace vs. Justice and Responsibility to Protect (R2P), among others.  After being given two hours to discuss our topic of interest with our group, we then had one person from each group sit on a panel and present the groups discussion and opinions.  The rest of us then got the opportunity to ask questions and to share any additional information with each other.  Three weeks in and we are still captivated by our learning during this year’s symposium.

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The Truth We Are Looking For.

July 15th, 2011 Comments off

By: Lina Imran, Ethiopia

What an amazing Thursday! With a very interesting lectures from William Stuebner and Dr. Valerie Rosoux who have so much experience in the field of Peace and Security, DDR, and Reconciliation.

In my view, the ideas I have learned about DDR theoretically do not necessarily apply to real world contexts. Understanding the specific contexts like the livelihood, power structure, attitudes and culture of the people could help us identify the need and the timing in doing re integration processes. One-size fits all approach can have the opposite result in actual implementation of the DDR processes.

During Valerie Rosoux’s lecture we learned about the ranges of issues reconciliation involves. To deeply understand the scope and limits of that particular case is important. She highlighted the point that the peace process does not always go in linear form starting from conflict management to reconciliation. It may as well change under circumstances and go along spiral. The process of reconciliation could take years and even generations to settle.

She chose to end her session with an insightful quote: “The truth we are looking for is like butterflies; in trying to fix them, we kill them.”

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Faith, Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

July 15th, 2011 Comments off

by Chané Ramadahya, South Africa

In response to a lecture by Valérie Rosoux

In our continued search for the global resolution of conflict, we have fortunately progressed from seeking solutions that are universally applicable to acknowledging that one size does not fit all, with ‘context’ being the buzzword of the century.

Over the course of the last three weeks of the symposium, it has become my sincerest wish for all the conflict stricken pockets of our world to enjoy the joy of transformation that was experienced in my own country, South Africa. I idealistically entertained a notion that an intimate examination of the dawn of the new South Africa could take us one step closer to ‘world peace’. I wanted to believe that what was possible for South Africa would be possible elsewhere. In truth however, the path to peace is like a recipe, those who stick to measurements may never get the taste quite right, but those who cook with passion and are sometimes brave enough to try something new may just create a delicacy!

There are some clear factors that contributed to South Africa’s transformation: individual experiences, a population’s expectations of the process and strong leadership (Rosoux). South Africa certainly had a strong, credible leader; and what the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process reveals is that victim needs were neither static, consistent or constant. They were complex and changed over time, very much in keeping with complex human identity, shaped by the enduring and complex impact of trauma”. The mechanism of the TRC particularly appealed to the religious nature of our society by promoting and attempting to facilitate ‘forgiveness’. As such faith became instrumental in the rebirth of the country.

In world history there have been at least twenty-four wars waged in the 20th century with a religious dimension, nevertheless religious organizations, as a rich source of peace service, can function as a powerful warrant for social tolerance, for democratic pluralism, and for constructive conflict-management. They are peace-builders and peacemakers (Reychler). In fact in 1996 during the TRC, 95% of the South African population indicated their affiliation with some religious group. Was it wrong for the TRC to monopolize the dynamic of its society? Have we not learned over the past three weeks of this year’s symposium to use the information we have about another party at the table to reach an agreement? We do so with the danger of putting a band-aid on a wound that would heal better if it were simply allowed to dry out. We do a great disservice to the victims who together, with the pain of loss and trauma, are forced to forgive perpetrators even when they are not truly resentful of their actions.

I would suggest that in South Africa the proof is in the pudding. We live in a society with a contentious history and truth and painful memories. Budding through the cracks is a youth that is not consumed by hatred and revenge. They are nurtured by the rays of cultural sensitivity, watered by the celebration of our differences, and pollinated by promotion of dialogue to face our current challenges that sometimes find their roots in our past sketchy past.

In light of South Africa’s successes, it is largely disappointing to me to admit that we cannot take our approach and paste it over the conflicts of other regions. I further realize that we may learn more from our failures than our successes. Perhaps peace is really a dance with destiny that some achieve and others don’t purely because of a set of unique conditions that are impossible to reproduce but that exist intrinsically in the fabric of a society. This does not excuse inaction, and as peacemakers we make it our aim to deal with those uncertainties and hope that our choices and actions each day will make a difference. As South Africans, we need courage to look the monster of apartheid squarely in the eyes, stare him down, and search the abyss beyond him for a collective hope. To that end we remain faithful.

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Applying Theory.

July 14th, 2011 Comments off

by Jose Belo, East Timor

I came to this year’s symposium with the conviction that the event will hopefully enrich my insights and knowledge as well as validate my hands-on experience gained in my work with the government of Timor Leste (TL). A few of the sessions that have stood out for me have been on negotiation skills and social entrepreneurship.

It was what Raymond Shonholtz, from the organization Partners for Democratic Change, captured during his distinction between conflict and dispute and conflict resolution mechanisms (explained as Direct Negotiation, Conciliation, Mediation, Arbitration and Litigation) that I learned the most.

I now clearly understand how these mechanisms can be helpful to understand both nature of the conflict and its disputant. I applied this session to my own experience in Timor Leste and learned that rebuilding relationships, through conciliation mechanisms and conflict resolution through mediation, is sometimes not clear when it refers to the community, ethnic, family issues.

Further still, to be a Social entrepreneur you must be the type of  “…[person] who knows his capability and ability as a rising leader in his organization or society”. This is really inspiring and it looks very simple once we gained all tips and strategies on how to start with conviction. We can all give back in different ways of what we have gained generously from life.

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The Unconference.

July 14th, 2011 Comments off

by Sascha Nanlohy, Australia

The Southern African philosophy of Ubuntu is based on a simple premise. A person is a person through other people. The IPSI symposium I believe is based on a similar premise that a peacemaker becomes a peacemaker through other peacemakers. It is about the speakers, the staff and most importantly your fellow participants.

Yesterday I held an unconference. An unconference is essentially an opportunity for students to tell people about their experiences and share knowledge. For me it was about starting an NGO. My idea was that I would talk about my experience of starting an NGO. What I didn’t want however, was for people to come expecting the answers and expecting me to make a presentation. Simply because I didn’t know what people wanted. So I decided to make it an open forum designed for people to ask their questions about what they wanted to do.What happened was for me so much better. I was asked questions about what I was doing. What I realized was “I didn’t have the answers” and I should have them. Two staff members, both of whom had started their own organizations, talked about how they had experienced the same problems and what they had done. In the end I don’t know how much if at all others had gained from the twenty-five or so minutes I spent struggling to answer how my organization was going to be sustainable? How we are going to achieve our goals?

Learning doesn’t stop, even when you’re the person trying to give the lesson. When you’re a social entrepreneur your dealing with the unknown and you make so many mistakes. You need people to show you the traps you cannot see. IPSI Bologna is a hot house for social entrepreneurship, the most talented people with a shared passion sharing their wisdom and experience. I can say, that after two and a half weeks in this completely unique environment there is no better place to not have the answer, because more likely than not it is sitting in the head of the person sitting next to you.

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Afghan Local Police.

July 14th, 2011 Comments off

by Ahmadullah Archiwal, Afghanistan

In response yesterday’s lecture by A. Heather Coyne

The police, besides the judiciary offices, is considered to be one of the most corrupt institutions in Afghanistan. When people in Afghanistan talk about the government they mean police because it is police who impose law and order in the country and are always in close contact with the people. In the post Taliban Afghanistan one of the biggest mistakes that the international community has made was ignoring this important institution of the government. The Afghan government has been lobbying for the creation of a professional Afghan police from the day first but this demand has not been met (Rashid 2008, 204).

President Karzai tried to convince his international supporters for the formation of a strong police force from the very beginning but they did not pay any attention to his demand in the first five years of the intervention (Rashid 2008, 205). Germany initially took the responsibility of training the new Afghan Police in the post Taliban Afghanistan. It sent forty-one officers to train 3,500 new Afghan police officers over three years. But Germany was not willing to provide sufficient funds and personnel for training the Police (Jalali 2003, 176). Later in 2003, the U.S. was forced to train the Afghan police. The contract of training these 3,500 police officers was given to the U.S. private security company DynCorp International. DynCorp International hired officers who did not have any prior knowledge of Afghanistan. There was no plan to train the now 62,000-strong police force in Afghanistan, which was something that the international community had agreed to in the beginning (Jalali 2003, 176).

Furthermore, DynCorp’s training was three weeks, in which they trained police in counter insurgency and not in winning “hearts and minds”. After the training, when the Afghan police returned their homes; they started acting their same old rapacious way. The whole effort of training capable Afghan national police was useless (Jalali 2003, 176).

However, in recent years, due to the support of the international community, Afghanistan has a 70,000 strong police force in place. They cannot meet the challenges and needs of the country yet they are considered an achievement for a new state. Though the main job of police is to implement law and order in the society they unfortunately fall prey to the attacks of insurgents from time and time: as they are not well armed they are easier for the insurgents to hunt down.

As the insurgency starts from rural areas, the international community has come up with an idea of establishing a new kind of police known as the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in areas that are more volatile. According to the plan they should be 10,000 strong and will be getting a monthly salary of 75% of the regular uniformed police. They will be based in their villages and won’t be allowed to go to other villages and constituencies with their arms. Their main job is to fight against the insurgents and not to interfere in local police’s portfolio, which is law and order. The provincial governor, provincial council, and the Ministery of Interior identify selection of the district for deployment of the ALP. All the individuals who will join the Afghan Local Police will have to be recommended by the tribal leaders, who would have to certify their clear backgrounds. After the creation of the local police in all villages of a chosen district they would be uniformed and trained by the Police of the Ministry of Interior and will be commanded by an officer from the Ministry of Interior on the district level. The Afghan Local Police would have to wear a special uniform, be finger printed, and wear a special uniform. Their contract will be for five years and after the termination of their contract they can join Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police or adopt their normal lives. The ALP would be equipped with a Kalashnikov (AK-47) and rocket launchers.  If they need heavy weapons they will refer to their district level in charge who can make a decision of giving them heavy weapons at his discretion.

In theory the creation of the Afghan Local Police seems very beautiful but as Afghans have a bitter history of militias they are concerned about the ability of the Afghan government to control the ALP. They believe that the Afghan government is too weak to control and implement the plan in a proper way and they think that there is a possibility for them to become militias. The Communist government in the late 1980s established ethnic militias to defend itself against the Mujahideen holy ”warrior”. Later on the central government was not abale to control the militias and the militias joined hands with the Mujahideen to help overthrow the central government.

Militias also played very negative role in the Afghan civil war as people think that the ALP will be fighting for the interest of their clans or ethnic groups and not for the central government. The other issue, as many believe, is that it is a parallel structure with the existing police force, which undermines the authority of the Afghan National Police.

However, proponents of the ALP say that insurgency starts from within villages. To them, a local population’s support and loyalty is important and that the Afghan Local Police is a way to garner such loyalty. They see the ALP as an effective force to engage and fight the Taliban on a village level.

Afghan officials seem reluctant. However, General Petraus was able to convince Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to approve the idea. The ALP has been functional in some districts and are said to be effective in restoration of stability in their areas. Afghan government is concerned about funding this initiative after the international community’s specified fund for this imitative dries up.

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