Self-Assessment: Being the Change you Hope to See

July 29th, 2014 No comments

by Thea Price, United States 

This week at the 2014 IPSI Bologna Symposium we were so fortunate to have the opportunity to hear from an incredible mediator and peace builder with over twenty years’ experience, Joyce Neu. Joyce has spent her life working on conflict assessment, mediation, facilitation, and evaluation in addressing conflicts across the world and bringing a unique level-headed approach to conflict. We were incredibly lucky to have Joyce for not only one, but two full days. We covered both theoretical and practical information.IMG_4059

As we dug into some of the nitty-gritty elements of mediation and diplomacy, we had a thorough discussion of the nine tracks of diplomacy. This turned into an interesting conversation about gender in high-level mediation. While Joyce has worked with women in conflict for many years and has extensive experience on gender issues, this element of her career developed naturally and much of her knowledge comes from her personal experiences in the field.

We discussed UN Resolution 1325 which guarantees increased representation of women during all phases of conflict and inclusion at all levels of the peace process. However, although this resolution was a huge accomplishment, there is still a lot of work to do. High-level mediation and negotiation positions are still primarily held by men, often former ministers or deputies who, interestingly, rarely have actual mediation skills. I found this surprising, yet it actually makes perfect sense; the career paths that often provide the ‘clout’ to rise in the ranks are not in peacebuilding or conflict resolution. I wonder if this structural rigidness in the international system has the ability to change. If so, and if more value was given to the skills that comprise this type of work, would international missions and mediation be more successful?

After Joyce laid the groundwork about what mediation entails, how to prepare for it, and the characteristics that make a good mediator, we were tasked with a simulation she created, called the Case of Gloccamora. The simulation gave us the opportunity for constructive group work, brainstorming, and implementation of the skills and qualities we had been practicing that are necessary for success. It was as much a personal exercise as a group one. The afternoon was spent responding to mandates given to each group based on their role as the UN, NGOs, the regional organization, the government of a neighboring state, and the government of Britain. Our goal was to present recommendations for action that should be taken concerning the conflict in Gloccamora, and to assess the situation as if it were occurring today. Though the case came out of Joyce’s creative imagination, it was informed by many different conflicts around the world including the Central African Republic, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Mali, Niger, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda, Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe. I enjoyed the exercise and found that the skills and elements of facilitation and negotiation, which were taught earlier in the symposium, became very relevant and useful.14716074641_86139b201c_z

As a final thought, the last task we were given was probably the most important without many people realizing it.We were asked to fill out a reflection form. This was not a typical reflection in the sense that we were judging first our own behavior in the simulation and then our other group members. Constructive input was important on one side of the matrix, and respectful listening and encouraging participation on the other. We were then instructed to talk about our scoring and see if there was a mismatch in how you saw yourself and how others saw you. I thought this was brilliant and challenging. It was the first time we were forced to really reflect on how the group had worked, or not, and to recognize that while we list all of these great personal qualities on a white board, they are much harder to enact and recognize within yourself. It takes a conscious effort to be aware of your behavior, your language, the level of your voice, whether you’re talking over someone or realizing someone is not participating. So much is happening in any mediation or negotiation that this final task was a fantastic way to end an insightful two days. As we move forward with the symposium, but more importantly out into the world, the crucial element of being self-aware has the ability to help you be the change you hope to see in this world.

Categories: Bologna 2014 Tags:

Learning from the Field

July 29th, 2014 No comments

Felix Papineau, Canada

IMG_5063It is sometimes stated that the 20th century, which brought us the First and Second World Wars as well as the Cold War, was the century of conflicts, while the 21st century will be remembered as the contrasting century of peace. With respect for diverging opinions, it sadly appears clear to me that such a position reveals itself to be impossible to uphold as of now, especially after meeting Lieutenant General Ton van Loon, former commander of NATO’s International Security Armed Forces, Regional Command South in Southern Afghanistan, and former commander of the 1st German/Netherlands Corps in Münster, Germany, who was accompanied by his legal adviser, Major Machteld Bots-Bottinga.

A priceless source of exclusive knowledge and captivating yet often very dark experiences, listening to yesterday’s speaker at the IPSI Hague 2014 Symposium was as enriching as it was a pleasure for all participants.

 This is particularly true considering how this session was the first opportunity for participants to adopt a military perspective on the post-conflict transitions and justice topics for which we traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to study. In response to the numerous current international conflicts, our guest shared with us his vision of an unpredictable and unsafe world, before asserting that the idea of stability, for instance economic stability, should be enough for developed countries to have an interest in helping those demanding peace.

Having been deployed in Kosovo and South Afghanistan previous to his days in Germany, it was no secret that Lt. General van LoonL1490749 had an accurate point of view of what war really consist of, which we were able to seize by identifying some crucial realities of the military take on such conflicts. First, we tackled the notion of multi-nationality, portrayed to us as the rule, not the exception. Simply ignoring this conception being unthinkable, it was explained to us that each military mission requires more than one nation for any success to be achieved, while we however need to grasp the fact that the more countries are involved, the more time and efforts will be necessary for any decision making process. Giving preponderancy to a precise and strong communication in any military collaboration, our speaker made clear that national secrets had, in his opinion, to be moderated, cooperation being far more important.

Second reality mentioned by our speaker, the difficult identification process of the enemy, and of his resources, objectives and options, revealed itself to be a very equivocal task. Under what conditions do we recognize someone as an enemy? Who are his allies? Who are his rivals? By their nature, these few questions can relate to our third reality, the complexity of the conflicts in which military missions are involved.

10580256_10152635154134083_8883502047881600585_nTo fully comprehend this idea of complexity, it is fundamental to be conscious of the fact that everything that happens in a conflict has an effect on the rest of its various components. Lt. General van Loon mentioned here a bowl of spaghetti, symbolizing how intertwined every single element is with each other. In such a context, the idea of having to establish a priority as a military actor can only appear to be a very intricate and uneasy task. This being said, the Lt. General was still able to identify the building of police capacity as the number one priority in many cases, according to the numerous experiences he faced. Adding to the complexity of any military activity are, to name only a few of the factors touched, the concerned government’s capacity, the necessity of adopting a comprehensive approach when intervening, the discernment of what does the people really need and the fact that every environment is different in terms of politics, security, economy, etc. Remembering that what works somewhere may not necessarily work somewhere else is key here.

 After having the chance to listen and discuss with Lt. General van Loon, it is with a better understanding of the thinking process that must go behind every single military intervention, as well as with a better comprehension of the many challenges that soldiers and their superiors must face constantly, that I can affirm that it was an absolute privilege and enjoyment to learn from such a prominent expert on the topic. Once again, IPSI was successful at delivering a stimulating and substantial session to its participants.

Categories: The Hague 2014 Tags:

Transitional Stabilization

July 29th, 2014 No comments

Sophia Carrillo, United States of America

One of the highlights of The Hague Symposium is the immense breadth of experience the speakers divulge during topic lectures, translating to an incredible opportunity to glean best practices and policies from experienced field practitioners and theorists.  This Friday’s lecture on Transitional Stabilization was no exception. Justin Richmond of Palantir Technologies led a disaster relief simulation modeled after the response to the devastating Typhoon Haiyan that struck The Philippines on November 8, 2013. Richmond shared his expertise having served both in the U.S. military and as a Truman National Security Fellow, which helped guide our perception of the first initial steps and long term planning for post-disaster relief.

While preparing a transitional stabilization plan for the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record may seem overwhelming, the overview of best guidelines and frameworks, peppered with real-life stories and tips from the field, readied our groups to provide our best efforts to organize, coordinate, and collaborate cross-sectorally. The Hague Symposium was split into five aid sectors: Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Health, Food and Security, Livelihoods, and Shelter. Each sector was charged with creating and implementing a three-phase plan to progress towards regional stability. The simulation was interrupted by real time updates and data releases, forcing flexibility between the sectors while contributing to the larger goal of stabilization. As our impact indicators evolved from the preliminary planning, we worked to ensure our suggested policies and actions combat everything from water insecurity to emerging political issues.

The most beneficial aspect of the simulation was collaborating with specialized groups consisting of individuals with various levels of applicable field experience. I enjoyed hearing my classmate’s experiences in East Timor and other individuals with field experience relay what their stories from their respective fields. I often reflected on the lessons learned from my experience in bi-national relations and strategic management.  The sharing of experiences in this exercise, as in all our class work, has been a very beneficial aspect of the symposium.

Regardless of our cumulative experiences, we still faced a strategic uphill battle. A lesson everyone faced was the reiterated importance of focusing on a long-term, local solution. Although equipped with advice and the best intentions of securing stability, during the simulation we faced pressures of addressing competing policy proposals, leadership styles, and reacting to unanticipated consequences of other group’s decisions. Pressure abound, it became too easy to revert to preparing a string of sound disaster relief policies and creating temporary aid programs for implementation. During the first round, my sector, the Health Group, was excitedly discussing the fantastic health programs we planned to implement, until we stumbled upon the realization that as we were still in the first month of the simulation, the needs of the community would be more reactionary. Our focus on programming was the incorrect approach. No matter how much thought focused on these feel-good aid programs, they were not rooted in local need nor did they address the systemic needs. Ultimately, the simulation demonstrated that for local resiliency to take place, the planning must be sustainable, legitimate, and effective activities that specifically targeted and aimed to mitigate local systemic causes.

As we made mistakes, reacted to the faux news reports, and collaborated with other groups, crunching each other’s data, we learned through practice to avoid programming based on assumptions, ignoring the local perspective, failing to establish a functionality baseline, not monitoring your progress, and not working holistically across sectors. In short, in a day we implemented lessons learned to compile a logical framework for field implementation.

The most distinguished lesson of the day was realized during our simulation that for a successful transitional stabilization, local resiliency and functionality setup for success after aid groups leave is key.  Although impressive metrics of aid distributed and supplies on the ground, the indicator of a successful transition from disaster relief to peace and stability can only be found in the resiliency of the affected society.

Categories: The Hague 2014 Tags:

Without Justice There Is No Peace

July 28th, 2014 No comments

by Oscar Sánchez Piñeiro

As we have seen from the 2014 IPSI Bologna Symposium speakers who have presented their work in the last few weeks, there exists a proliferation of NGOs and private entities involved in the conflict and peace business. As presented during their training, Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is interested in transforming conflict. For instance their mission “is to transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches, toward cooperative solutions.”14465104158_fcc11ba1d7_z

Conflict transformation is a praiseworthy activity. However, sometimes it does not always bring immediate hope to the victims of conflict who seek to heal their wounds. During the SFCG presentation, we were introduced to the “Lenses for Analysis” approach they use in their interventions. These lenses include, gender, generational, conflict senstitivity/Do No Harm, and the Common Ground Approach.

These lenses are all important when intervening in a conflict, but there is at least one missing lens. Contrary to the standard principles and the transformative agenda set by the UN in 1997, what must also be considered in every post-conflict context is the Human Rights Based Approach.

The risk of impunity after violence is quite high in general and such impunity may be further legitimised through the work of non-state organizations and entities that may, at times, be a part of the conflict in the first place. With a vested interest in ending the tension without concern to resolving the root causes, the sustainability of long-term peaceful solutions coming out of any conflict can prove dangerous.

In the book A Bed for the Night by David Rieff, the limitations and misperceptions of international NGOs are outlined. Recounting many modern conflicts (Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Afghanistan), Rieff notes the lack of capacity and will on the part of the international community to find durable solutions to conflict. Considering the historical outcomes of ethnic cleansing and genocide, we can see that the work of NGOs are not always capable, on their own, of stopping wars or bringing social justice.

It is of the upmost importance that we continue to foment the discussion regarding this false dichotomy so as to really build a constructive debate regarding the issues at hand. As the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Jan Eliasson, said during his keynote speech “the answer is easy; rights, poverty, equality. But the how is the difficult part.” Alvaro de Soto mentioned too that, “there needs to be unity and integrity in mediation.” In this regard, the international human rights framework should guide the path to all private endeavours in the peace field.

14607428415_a36830eb17_zIn my opinion, NGOs need to engage with Human Rights institutions so as not to fall into the trap that believes peace is achievable without justice. These NGOs need to be part of the discussion of how to bring about durable peace in a scenario where war crimes are punished and victims find justice. Peace and justice are not antagonistic concepts, rather, they should be perceived as mutually reinforcing; long-term peace can only be achieved by removing the root causes of conflict.

Categories: Bologna 2014 Tags:

Refreshing Perspectives at the Half-Way Point

July 27th, 2014 No comments

Adriana Abu Abara, Australia

July 24 began with a site visit to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. It began like any other introduction to a tribunal: the logistics, the courtroom, and the cases before the Court. I slowly realized, however, that there were some differences between this tribunal and the International Criminal Court that we visited last week. The starkest difference was the mandate of the Court and the rules to which it adhered. The STL has a very specific mandate and its jurisdiction is to only apply Lebanese domestic law. The most memorable thing for me was not the structure or the mandate of the Court, but the people we met and the conversations we had. It was admittedly refreshing to hear representatives of both the Office of the Prosecution and the Defense team speak so honestly and engage so vibrantly in talking about the limitations of the Court and the reality of the structure of international criminal law. The conversation extended from the evidentiary limitations to why the UN Security Council chose to create a tribunal about the assassination of Rafic Hariri and not for other more severe crimes committed in recent history. The response was a realistic and honest one on the part of both the OTP and Defense representatives that acknowledged their own limitations, as well as the political implications of the international legal system.

While this was similar to conversations that I have had in the last two weeks on a number of different occasions with my colleagues, it was not something I imagined to hear from someone who worked in the Court. In a symposium focused on the post-conflict transitions and international justice, it is important to recognize the limits and factors that control the system we operate in, as well as the political realities that exist within that system.

 JUSTINJustin Richmond, an embedded analyst with Palantir Technologies, led the second half of the day. His focus was on stabilization in societies that experience disaster. After a brief introduction into his work, we were split into groups for the first part of our simulation that was modeled on the typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013. My group was focused on Food Stability in the month immediately after the typhoon hit. This was very challenging, even after Justin took the time to describe the way we should approach the issues. The hardest thing for me to do was abandon my assumptions on so many of the local issues that we had to address, as this would likely mean that my solutions would assist my reality rather than the reality of the people in the situation we were dealing with. The simulation has been telling of just how much the international community overlooks the issues that are the most relevant to the communities most affected, and how difficult it is to reconcile this in disaster zones.

 If I could reflect more personally for a moment, we are now about half way through the program. Temporally, it does not feel like it at all, but thinking of all the things we have done and the issues we have been exposed to, it is easy to believe. I have learnt more from the people around me in the last two weeks than I could have imagined. All these people, each from a different background, have so much to contribute to this experience and have their own stories to tell.  When I leave this place, I leave with new stories, new attitudes, and new friends.

Categories: The Hague 2014 Tags:

A Revised Agenda for Peace

July 26th, 2014 No comments

by Stephen Wilson, Australia

The year was 1992. Senior Political Advisor, Álvaro de Soto was accompanying recently-appointed United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on a long-haul flight. With the recently achieved El Salvadorean Chapultepec Peace Accords in his mind, Boutros-Ghali talked to de Soto about his conceptualization of a new range of activities that would heavily shape the future of the UN: ‘post-conflict peacebuilding’. IMG_4044

While seemingly innocuous at the time, Boutros-Ghali’s conceptualization of ‘post-conflict peacebuilding’ is arguably a significant turning point for peace and conflict studies. De Soto credits Boutros-Ghali with the foresight to recognize the change needed for the international community to relate to conflict in the post-Cold War environment. Specifically, Boutros-Ghali realized that the main agenda of the UN in the future would concern internal conflict, and require a different approach, with new mechanisms for resolving conflict and building sustainable peace that grapple with the root causes of conflict.

In this way, the end of the Cold War (according to de Soto) was not a return to normality, but, a transformation demanding institutional change. This mirrors the adaptations at both the end of the Napoleonic Wars (creation of the Congress of Vienna) and the conclusion of World War II (the formation of the UN). Despite Boutros-Ghali’s conceptualization of post-conflict peacebuilding and the diffusion of ‘peacebuilding’ throughout the international community’s vernacular, de Soto fears that the international community has not adapted to the new context. Instead, the plethora of international actors mainly rebranded existing activities as ‘peacebuilding’ while avoiding a substantive engagement with the emerging challenges.

What does this mean for us, the peacebuilders of tomorrow? To answer this question, we need to deconstruct both the continuing and emerging obstacles in the peacebuilding field. De Soto highlights key issues complicating the building of sustainable peace in the post-conflict arena. They are:

  • Firstly, peacebuilding must come to terms with the frequently contradictory objectives of peace versus justice and accountability. It is a dynamic aggravated by the catharsis required to overcome the trauma of violent conflict.
  • Secondly, deriving from the belief that it is better to keep states together than create new, smaller states, permutations of managing diversity within nation-states have become increasingly important.
  • Thirdly, the emergence of the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect, while mandating military intervention against mass atrocities, has produced little progress practically in cease such violence.
  • Finally, conflict resolution has been further complicated by the reinforcement of discourses of terrorism that segregate certain groups from resolution processes, as well as the proliferation of mediators on the ground whose abundance engenders fragmented and asynchronous negotiations.

Àlvaro de Soto grins at students during his lecture at the 2014 IPSI Bologna Sympoisum.


Employing such an analysis as a point of departure enables substantive engagement with the panoply of issues identified by de Soto, as well as a range of other complexities such as the matter of local-international hybridity.

Adapting to a new context demands such engagement, coupled with an audaciousness and ingenuity to imagine new practices and techniques that build sustainable peace. While this mandate is no small endeavour, developing and delivering effective initiatives that realise the objectives of Boutros-Ghali’s Agenda for Peace is a challenge that myself and fellow peacebuilders need to start contending with today.


Categories: Bologna 2014 Tags:

The Importance of Building Relationships as Peace Leaders

July 26th, 2014 No comments

by Shirin Khosropour, USA/Iran

The rain came down fast and we welcomed this change in the weather. On this Monday of our third week, some braved the rain to walk the 20-minutes to the John’s Hopkins SAIS Bologna Center as usual and some of us divided up into taxis. By now it’s easy to fall into step with any one of the other participants and walk …to the SAIS Center, to lunch, to the Coop supermarket, to plan a weekend trip with whomever wants to go, or to deftly—diplomatically—avoid doing any of the above!IMG_4408

We are people of different nationalities, genders, ages, and backgrounds, but we share a passion for peacebuilding and a keen interest in our world, and our world is huge—it’s the whole globe.

We have shared a lot of experiences over the past two weeks—has it really been only two weeks?  We are not afraid to get a little uncomfortable as we plod through this work. This is a group of courageous and passionate individuals. How do I know that? Together we’ve strategized, negotiated, and butted heads over a wide range of topics. During our first days at IPSI we were assigned simulation exercises, but more recently we have taken up new causes and issues on our own.  I credit the simulations for speeding us through relationship-building. The structured format and explicit instructions to challenge one another gave us permission to go where fragile new relationships don’t dare to go.

It seems our relationships have moved beyond the initial guarded, polite, and collegial interactions. They’ve morphed into the comfortable patterns that emerge after you’ve made it through some genuine long-term ups and downs together.  In only two weeks our cliques have turned into fluid groups with blurry boundaries. We know each other better and tolerate each other’s (charming) quirks.Over the past two weeks we have learned the utter importance of individual and group relationships to the work of peacebuilding. I’ve been taking detailed notes during the sessions (it’s how I stay on task—mostly!) I did a search for the word “relationship” in my notes and counted 12. Every presenter talked about the importance of relationships.

Over the past two weeks we have learned the utter importance of individual and group relationships to the work of peacebuilding. I’ve been taking detailed notes during the sessions (it’s how I stay on task—mostly!) I did a search for the word “relationship” in my notes and counted 12. Every presenter talked about the importance of relationships.

In psychology, we study conflict’s emergence at various levels—each level having the potential to feed higher levels of conflict. An intra-personal conflict (being at war with oneself) can lead to interpersonal conflict, which can lead to discord within a group and can feed between-group conflicts. Our presenters have emphasized that relationships form the core of all conflicts.

Conflict ‘resolution’, ‘negotiation’, ‘facilitation’—all of these terms refer to conflicts that involve people. There is much to learn and know about theories, methods, and strategies for tackling conflicts but these are not a set of strategies and methods that can be copied and pasted across different situations. A prerequisite for this work, in the words of our experienced speaker, Dr. Joyce Neu, is that “you must like working with people”. When Jan Eliasson talked to us about the “how” of international negotiations, three of his four points were directly related to people and their relationships: “use of language”, “cultural sensitivity”, and “personal relations”.

The simulation exercises have helped me to internalize this notion, and to experience its impact on a personal level in the safe environment provided by IPSI. Even during the most benign of these exercises, it hasn’t been easy to stay in character; when you try on another persona you can keep it up for only so long. When the stress builds up, out pops the real person.  I realized during our first simulation that, try as I might to represent the interests of Armenia, I slid into representing my own point of view. I’m happy to see that with each simulation it gets a little easier to (privately) acknowledge my lack of “neutrality” while remaining “impartial”—a skill that every facilitator and mediator must have.

Whether you play a role in a simulation exercise or negotiate how much aid to give to a country in real life, even the most skilled, experienced or highly positioned person ends up playing him/herself—an individual.  It is these individuals with their own personalities, backgrounds, expectations, wounds, hopes, aspirations, short or long tempers, and all those other things that make us human who are present in negotiations.

Peace and Conflict Studies covers a field of scholarship and practice that is truly multi-disciplinary. Psychology is among a diverse array of disciplines in the arts and humanities, social and physical sciences, and workforce education to overlap with Peace and Conflict Studies. Psychological science, in particular, needs to take a more direct role. But that’s for another blog!

I’m grateful for the relationships we have been building here and proud of my fellow participants for their hard work, empathy, and compassion in cultivating these relationships.



Categories: Bologna 2014 Tags:

Conflict Resolution & Human Rights: Complementary, but Distinct

July 26th, 2014 No comments

by Mara Goldberg, United States

I first interacted with Dr. Joyce Neu in March. I had recently completed my undergraduate degree and was searching for organizations that could provide me with career advice in conflict resolution. One that particularly sparked my interest was Facilitating Peace, a network of consultants who practice mediation and work to resolve conflicts. I typed a message into the “Contact Us” box, doubtful of any personal response. The next thing I knew, a woman named Joyce Neu had emailed me. To my pleasant surprise, she was friendly, thorough, and had attached a self-created career guide for my use. She even mentioned the IPSI Bologna Symposium as a step in the right direction! I thanked her and assumed this would be the last time I heard from her.


Fast forward to the Bologna Symposium. I had previously discovered that Dr. Neu would be lecturing for two days about international mediation. Excited about meeting this generous stranger, I conducted a quick Google search. I could not believe her range of experience and expertise in mediation. I wondered why someone with such an impressive CV would respond to my “Contact Us” message. Yet once I experienced her genuine humility and charm in person, I had my answer.

Dr. Neu gave us helpful advice and useful techniques for practicing mediation. The last point she made during her presentation was pivotal for me. After studying and working on both human rights and conflict resolution, I often wonder why these two fields tend to be paired together in various academic programs and NGOs. Dr. Neu addressed this matter eloquently and clearly. She first explained that human rights activists and conflict resolution practitioners need each other and must work closely together. That being said, the two disciplines are very different. The main commonality is that practitioners in both fields represent victims of conflicts. However, conflict resolution and mediation practitioners must also represent the perpetrators of human rights abuses. Even if they committed crimes that go against the mediator’s personal values, he or she must empathize with them. This task is difficult but crucial for a mediator who may not show preference toward one side or the other.

Here is an example: A mediator’s job is to empathize with the victims, as well as try to understand the motivations of conflict perpetrators. The goal of mediation is not to advocate one side, but for all sides to humanize and understand each other’s positions, interests, and needs. The parties may still clash at the end of a mediation but at least they see where the other is coming from.

In contrast, the field of human rights focuses on one side – the victims. The role of human rights workers in conflict is extremely important because they seek justice and advocate for the needs of individuals and communities. It is likely impossible for a mediator to do his or her job without the efforts of human rights workers to empower victims. However, Dr. Neu asserts that the fields of conflict resolution and human rights should not be lumped together because they require different skills and strive for different goals.

If you want to read more on this topic, Dr. Joyce Neu recommended Bridging the Divide by Michelle Parlevliet. You can find it here:



Dr. Neu adresses 2014 IPSI Bologna participants at SAIS Bologna Center.


Categories: Bologna 2014 Tags:

Establishing Governance in Transitions

July 25th, 2014 No comments

Catarina Inverso, Brazil


How, and from where, do systems of governance emerge in a post-war context?Is a top-down or a bottom-up approach better equipped to establish a new government? What about hybrid approaches of governance?

Dr. Gemma van der Haar exposed key concepts and discourses stemming from social science in relation to processes of state formation, systems of governance and asked questions, which challenged our varied understandings and opinions about the topic. Establishing governance in transitions is by no means a clear-cut process, as the lecture demonstrated. From an understanding that ‘governance is bigger than the state’, Dr. van der Haar encouraged us to enquire about this idea, touching on the dominant good governance discourse, and to consider non-state forms of governance. For aspiring peacemakers, trying to understand what conflict does to institutions and governance is fundamental if we are to develop knowledge and skills to act in post-conflict transitions. Going a step further, we come to realize that the disruptive nature of war establishes systems of local governance that sometimes challenges top-down approaches of institutional building.

From the perspective of the international community involved, the need to build physical infrastructure and to establish multi-party elections is a common pre-condition for a legitimate government. On the other hand, the perspective from ‘below’ where the society level is concerned, systems of power, profit, and protection develop at the local level outside of the formal realm of institutional governance.  This is a context in which post-conflict societies find themselves organized within states, where there might be a ‘governance without a government’ situation. This thought-provoking concept prompts questions surrounding issues of legitimacy, accountability, the delivery of public goods and many other aspects involving the functioning of the state. This makes one rethink what is needed in a transitional period. Established systems of local governance may not be seen to be legitimate simply because they do not conform to the norms of a stable society.

IMG_4948By presenting two short videos related to how governance is created through a rather romanticised idea of democratic decision-making, and the reality of a scenario where popular protest exerts its right to demand government accountability, the state-society relationship proves to be more complicated in reality than how it is presented to us. The lecture was an attempt to cover a wide range of subjects in the governance literature, and despite a very engaging environment, much remains to be discussed. There isn’t however, straight answers to the many questions we faced today, and that indicates just how complex real life situations are making our jobs as peacemakers all the more challenging. How do we make the right choices in post-conflict situations, when parallel forms of governance are in place, and we have to consider a new dynamic where the multitude of actors is increased? The ability to address different interests and needs in societies is to me the key dilemma in transitioning process of institutional building. But to assume that we can have an answer on what can be done and how can we guarantee a successful system of governance that is sustainable and accountable to a plural society, would be too ambitious when there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’. We are instead to acknowledge a context-specific scenario, where perhaps hybrid political orders could be upheld as new forms of governance to address different grievances at different levels of society, although even such approaches remains problematic.

Overall, the lecture gave us the chance to engage in deep discussion and push our mind to find solutions that are simply not easy to find.

Categories: The Hague 2014 Tags:

A Time for Peace

July 24th, 2014 No comments

Victoria Barker, United States of America

IMG_4996As I biked to the Clingendael Institute of International Relations this morning, the city seemed eerie — I hardly passed anyone else on the usually bustling bike path. The whole city seemed to be hardly moving. As I arrived at Clingendael, I took in the incredible beauty of the campus that strikes me every morning. Even here something was different. I noticed the Dutch flag flying at half-staff and realized that it must be to honor the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. This “National Day of Mourning”, as it is known, is the first time in over forty-two years that the entire country of Holland has stood still to mourn for the victims of a horrific event. The feeling of loss and shock is truly palpable around The Hague. As 4:00 pm approached and the nation grew silent, I reflected on this tragic event and other tragedies that are occurring worldwide. Thousands of lives have been lost over the past week as a result of violent conflicts. What do these disasters mean for the international community?  Two weeks ago, my answer would have probably been politically charged and perhaps bitter about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that had affected so many people that I know. Today my answer is different.

Victoria BlogFor the past week and a half, I along with thirty five other “peacemakers” have been studying in The Hague, The Netherlands. Led by the International Peace and Security Institute and taught by various professors, lawyers and social scientists from across the globe we have focused on post-conflict transitions and the role of international justice.  It came as no surprise last Thursday afternoon when we worked on a simulation focused on the role of the International Criminal Court in the current conflict in Eastern Ukraine — it was a relevant topic, to say the least. Later that day, the media was flooded with reports of a plane crash in Eastern Ukraine. The shock increased upon learning that this plane left from Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam — the same airport where five days prior we had all arrived to embark on this month long peace training program. The magnitude of the crash hit close to home, in a sense, as I learned that some of the victims were from The Hague. People in the community where I am living are mourning the loss of a seventeen-year old girl, her younger brother, and their parents. And the rest of Holland is mourning the deaths of nearly two hundred men, women and children who had bright futures ahead.

This horrible event furthers everything that I have been learning over the past 10 days in The Hague and in time will serve as a call to action — people matter and peace as difficult (or nearly impossible) as it might be to create, is vital. We have spent the past week and a half discussing former and current conflicts. In every instance, we have read about and discussed the loss of lives that these conflicts have caused. Human lives matter regardless of the area or the conflict, be it Syria, Israel or Palestine, Ukraine or Holland, The United States, or South Sudan.

Historically, Holland has had its share of violent happenings. The Clingendael Institute was the home of a prominent Nazi leader during the occupation. Some of the buildings on these grounds were used as interrogation rooms. This place was home to so much violence and hate. Today, it is an institute dedicated to studying and creating peace worldwide and one of the most serene places I have ever been. It is a reminder that even the most horrendous places can become harmonious.

 While there are undoubtedly foreign policy implications for the actors involved, and justice to be had for the families and victims of the attack, today is a day to simply reflect on the lives of the people who were on board the plane and to unite with their families and friends in mourning their passing. It is also a time to stand behind the people who continue to be affected by the violence in Ukraine, regardless of whose side they are on. I think I can speak for all of us at the IPSI Symposium here in The Hague when I say, that we all stand for peace in conflict areas and since The Hague has become our home for the summer, we stand with Holland and the rest of the international community in mourning the loss of the victims of the MH17 crash. It is instances like these that further the mission the 36 of us came for — to learn “transitional justice skills and pragmatic peace building work”.

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