by Emma Hodder, New Zealand 

Today had to be one of my favourite days of the symposium thus far. In the morning we were treated to the beautiful and engaging Dr Valérie Rosoux talking about reconciliation. After many years studying the Congo and Rwanda, Dr Rosoux’s thoughts on the relationship between reconciliation, memory and conflict resolution, punctuated by personal testimonies, were both thought
provoking and moving. We realised that even within our group, conceptions of what reconciliation entails are wide-ranging.

I enjoyed Dr Rosoux’s realism when talking about the limits of reconciliation. Some wounds cannot be healed, people do not always want to forgive, and an outsider’s desire for reconciliation as closure on a conflict situation can be simplistic, patronising and, as the video we saw on an attempted reconciliation between a perpetrator and the victim’s family in South Africa, ultimately damaging.

In the afternoon we were invigorated by the passion of John Prendergast, the so-called “rock star” of the humanitarian world. John has dedicated his life to helping Africa and his knowledge on the causes and attempted resolution of conflicts in Sudan and the Congo is impressive. His skill as an advocate for Africa was evident and I was heartened by the tangible impact his campaigning has had on public policy in the United States. This is seen most recently in the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires companies to print their supply chain on products and thus show that their practices are not contributing to conflict in the Congo, and encourages all of us as consumers of electronic products to think about the real price of our laptops.