by Katherine Stodulka, Australia

Pouring rain cannot dampen the friendships that are forming at The Hague Symposium, nor the eagerness to learn new skills and the feeling of privilege to be participating in such a unique forum. Our mandate is to develop a Framework to facilitate the transformation of societies transitioning from violence to peace; from dictatorship to democracy; from instability to growth. Pragmatic idealism and diverse personal experience generate the nascent formulation of this Framework which integrates the pillars of a successful transition: security, development, governance, justice and the rule of law.

Participants also learn about the power of visual media in the lunchtime sessions on film-making, whilst others organise weekend adventures to neighbouring countries. And it is this teamwork and camaraderie that I find most inspiring. Laughter echoes in the hallways of Clingendael as cultural differences are highlighted and new perspectives are shared. I feel like we have been living together
for many months, so it is startling and heart-warming to reflect that this is only Week Two of our four week program. I believe the importance of this interconnectedness cannot be understated. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote “you can’t be human all by yourself … we think of ourselves far too frequently as just separate individuals … whereas we are connected and what we do affects the whole world”.

The significance of this international relationship-building is driven home as we listen to candid anecdotes from Charles Villa-Vicencio about his experience with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is convinced that it was international solidarity in the form of economic sanctions, sporting boycotts and overwhelming global censure which ultimately provided the catalyst for the end of Apartheid. Articulate and captivating, Mr Villa-Vicencio emphasises the importance of inclusivity, acknowledgement of past wrongs, truth and reconciliation. He explains the southern African concept of ubuntu, a principle which is embodied by the notion: “I am through you and you are through me”. If our identity comes from those with whom we engage, it seems to me that the greatest privilege is being a part of the collaboration with everyone here. We are inspiring each other, and hopefully, what we are doing will positively affect the whole world.