by Brigid Furlong, Australia

Writing now, during the warm evening at the end of the first day of class, it feels like the Bologna Symposium for 2012  has commenced in an exciting blur. Much of the chatter has revolved around the fact that we feel like we have already been here for a week. In reality we have only been here for three days, but these have been three very animated and action packed days. We are slowly getting to know each other, Bologna and our own expectations for what we want to gain from the next four weeks.

Today was the first official day, in regards to classes and training. Combined Bologna and the SAIS centre make an impressive setting to be training and studying for the next four weeks. On top of this Dr. Hopmann, the first of many experienced speakers, delivered an engaging lecture which I think will outline and set the tone for the duration of the Symposium.

Conflict prevention and management is a developing field with a constantly evolving scope. I think the wide background of participants reflects this. There is a strong mix of people from recent graduates to those who hold masters, from those looking to start work in the field to those who have years of experience and training. Yet, as Dr. Hopmann emphasised today, there is no one approach which will work, no one tool which can end all conflicts or which will stand the test of time, and no one person who will hold the elusive solution to global conflict resolution. Society is evolving and changing, and also is the nature of the conflicts we seen in the world today.

Thus, as the approach taken to conflict resolution must always change, I feel that the people who are engaged in managing conflict must change too. I mean this in terms to their goals, their inspirations and their approach to the process. Overall, I feel that this is what I, and I hope most of the Bologna 2012 participants, are broadly hoping to gain from this experience. We are here to be challenged, to be engaged, to be enlightened and inspired.

After meeting many of this year’s participants I am confident in the fact that the through the IPSI symposium we will all gain valuable and tangible lessons to be applied in the realm of conflict prevention and management. I joked with fellow participants when I first arrived that I was here for IPSI to inspire me. We have just completed day three, and the little taste I have had from the Symposium (the staff, the topics, the planned speakers and my fellow participants) has already inspired me.

The 2012 Bologna Symposium is exceeding, but also challenging my expectations of what I can and want to gain from this event. Perhaps the best thing we gain is not the current skills we are being taught, but we gain from each other. We are a great mix of unique participants from all over the world and together I fell we will challenge each other to see conflict prevention, resolution and reconciliation in a whole new light.