Welcome to my blog! Every week, I will post at least one article on something involving wicked problems either in peacebuilding or comparative politics. I define those fields very broadly, so you’ll probably be surprised by some of the topics I end up covering.
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Could a Prime Minister Trump survive?
Using Improv to Work With Those We Disagree With In his class, Doug Irvin-Erickson gave his grad students an assignment half way through the short summer semester. He broke them into teams and asked them to make presentations to the class on how peacebuilding and human rights overlapped—or didn’t as the course may be. Because I had had to miss the previous class, the students had decided that I would serve as a discussant and respond to each project. During the course of the semester, we had mostly focused on how the two fields differ. Human rights advocates focus on rights that they assume to be universal and innate—and all too often denied by the powers that be. Peacebuilders, by contract, try to build agreements among all parties to a dispute, including those that limit some people’s human rights. Intersection Sets The three groups did a remarkable job of seeing how little overlap there is between what the two communities do but how much there could and should be. One of them actually drew a Venn diagram of the two fields showing a very small intersection set suggesting that there is next to no overlap between them. This is a problem we run up against almost any time peacebuilders who have a background in consensus building try to work with colleagues who come from an advocacy background, especially one that focuses on rights, inequality, injustice, and the like. Often those discussions don’t go very far. The other night, [...]
How can peacebuilders work for social justice as well as peace?
Advocacy and Peacebuilding The Peacebuilder's Dilemma In the last few months, I've been involved in dozens of discussions about creating a peacebuilding architecture in the United States. No matter what the topic or venue we keep running into a dilemma. How do we reconcile two goals that seem to conflict with each other that are near and dear to our hearts: Most of us became and remain peacebuilders because we believe in social change that would lead to a more inclusive and just society. Despite the fact that most of us are advocates for change, our work has brought people on all sides of an issue together in an attempt to reconcile their differences. In the simplest possible terms, as we advocate for social change at home, we run the risk of alienating the people we disagree with, thereby making the goals in the second bullet point harder to achieve. We haven’t run into the dilemma that often in the past, in part, because our analytical models and our toolkits are based on the often unspoken assumption that we did our work abroad in places where we did not have a huge stake in the outcome which meant that we could focus all but exclusively on the second bullet point. That is a lot harder to do now that we have decided to work at home. Under those circumstances, I do have a stake in what happens—in who wins and in the policies that get adopted. In the [...]
An Architecture for American Peacebuilding Last week, two of my AfP colleagues and I joined about 70 other people at George Mason University’s Point of View retreat center to take the first steps toward building what we are calling an “architecture for peace” in the United States. The conference was run held using strict Chatham House rules, so I can’t talk much about the specifics of what took place. I can however, talk about What we mean by an architecture for peace Some concrete steps we have already taken and others whose next steps will follow soon and will be discussed in future blog posts I first began thinking of the importance of workshops like this when I attended the launch of Douglas Irvin-Erickson’s biography of Raphael Lemkin at the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration. During the course of the discussion, Doug mentioned architectures or institutions and policies that a number of governments had created to prevent the repetition of genocides and other mass atrocities they had experienced. Needless to say, my thoughts immediately turned to the United States and the threatening times we were moving into. So, after the formal talk ended, I spoke with Doug about creating a grass-roots based one in the United States. To make a long story short, my wife and I began sitting in on his graduate seminar and we began thinking about what such a bottom-up architecture would be like and how it could amplify peacebuilding efforts that were already underway here. To make that long story short again, a foundation [...]
How peacebuilders deal with power is an increasingly important question, especially when we work in our own country and deal with issues that touch us personally.