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Bridging the trenches - The challenge of conflict mediation and resolution

Prof. Elazar Barkan, Columbia University, Professor of International and Public Affairs
Bridging the trenches - The challenge of conflict mediation and resolution / Elazar Barkan, Columbia University, Professor of International and Public Affairs | f.ize | Forum Internationale Zusammenarbeit für Nachhaltige Entwicklung

22.10.2008, 19:00 Uhr
GTZ-Haus Berlin, Reichpietschufer 20

“10 actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated in September 2008 and 2 improved. In DR Congo, a January peace deal lay in tatters after serious clashes between the army and CNDP rebels in the east. Violence surged again in Nigeria, where MEND rebels launched an “oil war” in the Delta with numerous attacks. In Pakistan, a powerful bomb in central Islamabad killed 53 people, heightening fears regarding the country’s insecurity. Violent demonstrations in Bolivia over an upcoming constitutional referendum led the country deeper into crisis. Deep-seated divisions may erupt into further violence, but the opening of talks offers a new opportunity to reach limited consensus. The situation also deteriorated in Sri Lanka, Ingushetia, North Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Yemen.”

This brief citation of the externer Link zu: International Crisis Group'sInternational Crisis Group's “Crisis Watch No. 62 (October 2008)” illustrates vividly how conflict and crisis situations still dominate the everyday life of numerous people all over the world. While some experts were hoping the number of violent conflicts would decrease after the end of the Cold War in 1989, reality quickly proofed them wrong with a continuously growing number of conflicts still going on today.

The fact that most conflicts of today are occurring between different power groups within states as opposed to traditional wars fought between sovereign states has neither a positive effect on lowering the scope of conflicts nor does it decrease the suffering of civilians in the conflict area. In many countries like DR Congo, Zimbabwe and Sudan the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is by now almost impossible due to the devastating effect of conflicts on the countries’ development.

The origins of the different conflicts usually are a mixture of economic, ethnic, religious and environmental reasons. In addition many conflicts also carry a layer of personal hatred and psychological barriers between different groups in them. All conflicts also have a historical dimension, from where conflicting parties draw legitimacy for the violence.

It is behind this complicated background that some governmental and non-governmental organizations enter in the challenging endeavour of conflict mediation and resolution. In the process of conflict mediation the different actors attempt to bridge the conflict gap and bring conflicting parties back to the negotiation table and away from armed conflict. While the solution of the conflict and an end of violence is the ultimate goal of conflict mediation often a simple truce can be considered a mile stone. The instruments of conflict mediation mirror the multitude of conflict dimension and can range from psychological pressure to reframing the historical context of conflicts.

Yet how do mediators operate in practice? How do they get irrational leaders of conflicting groups to sit together at one table? What are the limits to conflict mediation? Or does every conflict have the potential to be mediated?

It is these and other questions that we want to discuss with Prof. Elazar Barkan for International and Public Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University New York. Professor Barkan is founding Director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) at the externer Link zu: Salzburg SeminarSalzburg Seminar. The IHJR is an example for an institution that organizes and sponsors historical discourses in order to find “shared narratives” of the groups involved in the conflict. The history of the conflict and the narratives involved can subsequently be used for solving the conflict. Ultimately the aim of IHJR is to eradicate the root of conflict. Prof. Barkan has experience in the Balkan, the Israel-Palestine Conflict and recently in Georgia.

Die TeilnehmerInnenzahl ist auf 12 beschränkt. Um eine Interner Link zu: AnmeldungAnmeldung bitten wir Euch, bis zum 17.10.2008 unter Angabe Eurer Fragen zum Thema.

Für diese Veranstaltung verantwortlich:
Joanna Münker und Sebastian John

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