On October 9, the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies hosted its annual "All Conflict is Local: Personal Experience, Reflection and Conflict Resolution" conference.
Professor Zheng Wang, director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, opened the discussion and stated the significance behind the choice of the conference's unique name. He emphasized upon how for each one of us, any conflict – big or small – is defined in terms of our individual interaction with it, thereby highlighting the local or limited, particular exposure that outlines our understanding of it. Next, the School of Diplomacy's Acting Dean, Professor Courtney Smith, provided the opening remarks and spoke of how the best way to learn something is to be able to teach it, as sharing knowledge requires thorough understanding and mastery over it.
The conference included three panels that discussed and addressed conflict in different ways. The first panel unraveled the impact of conflict on societies and the state while mulling ways of mitigating its impact. Opening panelist Houssam Eddine Beggas presented on the Algerian Civil War's (1992-2005) impact and the grassroots implementation of national reconciliation projects and methods. Next up, Peter Okafor, discussed the harm inflicted by the Boko Haram conflict on the Nigerian's psyche and better ways to understand and address it. Last on the panel, Tien Phan coved the vast period from Vietnam's last empire to the current times and discussed it in terms of the peculiar societal aspects linked to conflicts there. The panel's discussant, Professor David Wood, indicated four common themes; state functioning and fairness, reeducating people through narrative control, damaged relationships and violence normalization and the international community's role, that together tied these globally widespread conflicts.
Dr. Roger Alfani, M.S. '19
The second panel for the day explored the process of peacebuilding in communities, the possible tools available when relationships have been damaged by war and lessons from their real-life application. Dr. Roger B. Alfani employed his new book Religious Peacebuiding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to elaborate the importance of the top-down (leadership) and bottom-up (grassroots) role of religious actors in peace practices in DRC. Next, alumni Dosso Kassimou, spoke of using soccer to bring together conflicting ethnic and tribal groups. Citing the example of Ivory Coast's Saioua, he spoke of sports' strength to tide over religious, ethnic and tribal identity-based differences. Boko Haram was back in focus when the next presenter, Vincent Hassan Bulus, recounted narratives of North-East Nigeria's direct sufferers of the Boko Haram conflict. He explained their coping strategies and resilience leading to restorative justice and a harmonious community. The panel's discussant, Professor Joseph Huddleston, elaborated upon how peace processes require downplaying of certain identities such as ethnic while focusing upon others like religious or sports-related identities for identity is a powerful force for peace.
MA Candidate, Nutan Sharma
The day's third panel focused upon living through conflict, its effect on individuals such as soldiers, refugees and victims and possible actions to better support them. First presenter, Thomas L. Comer, recounted his experiences during the war in Afghanistan, (2011-2012) and vividly expressed the differences between the war he has prepared for versus the one that he encountered. Recounting observations, experiences and personal reflections he expressed both hardships faced by the locals as well as the American army men deployed there. Next, Nutan Sharma, spoke of the pitiable plight of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and their harrowing experiences during the resettlement process. The day's last presenter, Ricardo Sanchez, described the twenty years of terror in Peru that witnessed internal armed conflict resulting in over 69,000 deaths and disappearances and thousands of incidents of sexual violence, torture and forced displacement. The panel's discussant, Professor Zheng Wang, pointed out the central role of identity in all the conflicts discussed and spoke of its understanding and importance in managing conflict scenarios and peace practices.
Categories: Nation and World