Last month, Masters in Mediation and Applied Conflict Studies program director Julian Portilla and MSMACS faculty Jared Ordway travelled to Morocco to facilitate a workshop for 35 global United Nations and European Union staffers on how to improve their approaches to peace building in violent contexts. These staffers are located in some of the most sensitive areas in the world including Yemen, Honduras and Tunisia to name a few. Their focus at the workshop was how to support what they call insider mediators, people who are building bridges across divides in these conflict contexts. As outsiders they’ve come to realize that making peace in more traditionally diplomatic ways—think Kofi Annan or Lakhdar Brahimi trying unsuccessfully to broker peace in Yemen—is less effective than finding quiet ways to support these insiders. The recent Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Tunisian Dialogue Quartet is one example of the kinds of people and institutions these international actors are seeking to support.
One of the many fascinating things about the conversations in Casablanca during the three-day workshop was the role of women in peace processes. Some excellent research by Thania Paffenholz (click here for an example) has demonstrated that peace processes that make deliberate efforts to include women are more than twice as likely to succeed as those that do not. It’s not that women are so much more peaceful than men, simply that excluding women from peace processes means that more than half of the members and perspectives of a society are missing! Additionally, the roles women play in many societies are missing: mothers, teachers, health workers, etc. Bringing these perspectives in allows for better understanding of a given context and therefore better and more sustainable planning and peace programming. It’s another example of the power of diversity at work!
Other fascinating dimensions of the time in Casablanca included nuanced interpretations of the importance and nature of impartiality, of how to build “infrastructure for peace”, and the appropriateness (or not) of outside intervention to pressure national actors to participate in local insider mediation processes. It was a proud moment for Champlain College to have one of its own at the front of the room guiding the conversation and creating the report that contained the learning from the workshop.