Conflict Resolution Transatlantic Conference First of Its Kind

Posted: October 24, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

It seems logical that experts from around the world should join forces to raise awareness of the benefits of conflict resolution. But this happened for the first time only last week.

Conflict resolution experts from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean gathered last week for an organized, international workshop to discuss how to best integrate their research and ideas into foreign policy.

The four-day workshop, “Partnering for Peace: Transatlantic Concepts for Conflict Resolution in Public Policy,” was held in hotels in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) cohosted the event with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, an organization engaged in projects in the fields of sociopolitical development and economic and social promotion.

“Having a conference like this was a historic moment,” says Richard Rubenstein, the conference’s organizer and professor at ICAR. “Never before have European and North American diplomats, researchers and professors gathered to advance the cause and raise the profile of conflict resolution.”

One main focus of the conference was to inform the U.S. government that it needs to further develop its conflict resolutions skills. Those in attendance agreed that the conflict resolution processes are generally far more effective in resolving violent conflicts around the world than military intervention.

However, Rubenstein notes, convincing politicians to believe that those skills will be effective is a major obstacle.

“Because of so many military failures of the past, it’s time to look for alternatives,” Rubenstein says. “Many [politicians] think that because the U.S. has this large military, we have to use it. But military powers should be a last resort.”

The conference included plenary sessions on European and U.S. perspectives, the intersection of conflict resolution and public policy, new approaches and the role of media and early warning.

Many representatives from ICAR attended alongside foreign representatives and dignitaries.

Ambassador Friedrich Däuble, the German commissioner for civilian crisis prevention, conflict resolution and postconflict peace building, spoke during the first plenary session. “The German government is making progress in mainstreaming conflict prevention in its foreign policy. Civilian engagement is the top priority,” he said.

The North American researchers at the conference hoped to take their research to a much more public level and intensify American interest in conflict resolution.

Some U.S. agencies have begun educating their diplomats on conflict resolution techniques. But the United States lags far behind Europe in that area. Many European diplomats who have begun training in conflict resolution include it as a component of their foreign policy work and have already seen the benefits.

“The conference helped us conclude that the time has come to make conflict resolution a prominent part of foreign policy,” Rubenstein says. “I was very encouraged by the strong network we established for joint research, education and program planning.”

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