by Vic Crockford

Yesterday was the second day of the IPSI Bologna Symposium. Wow. Personally, I feel like I have been here so much longer – the ideas that have been sparked in my brain, the in-depth discussions I have had with other participants and the friendships I have made are all so incredible for such a short amount of time; not to mention my faux pas in the Italian language! Yesterday’s session kept up the themes raised yesterday, in particular the difficulties of translating conflict theories into practice.

The well-experienced Professor Terrence Hopmann conducted a lecture on the theoretical foundation for the prevention of inter/intrastate conflict, before facilitating a conflict prevention simulation. Both have left me with much to consider. First, Professor Hopmann’s emphasis on the importance of regional institutions resonated with me. I am from NZ and a large part of our national identity is built on the ANZAC narrative and our relationship with Australia and increasingly the Pacific Islands. I agree strongly with the idea that regional organizations have the potential to bridge the gap between the issue of international ‘interference’ and state sovereignty and providing objectivity in conflict prevention. Second, Professor Hopmann’s anecdotes made me wonder: which carries more weight in conflict prevention and mediation processes? Social forces or single powerful actors? I certainly don’t have the answer! But, I think that in the absence of robust international systems for conflict prevention, single actors will continue to have a disproportionately large role in shaping history, for better or worse.

Finally – the simulation. This was a completely new experience for me and I learned a lot about the process of negotiating a conflict agreement and about myself as a communicator.  I was representing Sweden in a hypothetical peace conference on the violent conflict in the former Yugoslavia in 1993. Although we, as Professor Hopmann pointed out, repeated many of the mistakes of the Dayton Accords, it was an invaluable experience. And there are more to come! I am looking forward to more dinner-time
laughs and cultural exchanges over the next three weeks. Not to mention gelato and espresso!! ‘La grassa’ indeed!