Ten days ago, I attended the Northeastern meeting of the International Studies Association to give a paper. Afterward, I stayed long enough to attend one more panel. I chose one on gender because I knew I would be writing about its role in peacebuilding in my textbook sometime in the next few weeks. It was a great choice because a number of the presentation forced me to (re)think about the role of gender in international relations in general and how we peacebuilders have (and haven’t) dealt with it. Three issues stood out, all of which will appear in expanded form in the book.
The Alliance for Peacebuilding held its annual conference last week. With more than 600 attendees at an open day at the United States Institute of Peace and more than 300 at two more days for our members, it was by far the largest such event we’ve ever put on. We also learned more than we have in any other year. Some of that came in larger sessions, some of which had keynote speakers. These will appear on the AfP web site sooner rather than later.
I attended the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) conference last week in order to learn more about up-to-date tools used by mediators for my book and to begin the soft launch of a new initiative being led by ACR, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, George Mason's School for Conflict Analysis and resolution, and Rowman and Littlefield publishers. We have all decided that we need to expand the work that is being done so that win/win conflict resolution and the like become more central components of everything from our popular culture to our political decision making. We have a pretty good idea of what the problems we face happen to be. What's less clear--and what this initiative will address--are the unique skills we "bring to the table" and how we can best put them to use. While there, I listened a lot and gave two short talks which I've summarized here.
Peacebuilders’ interest in social psych has a long history. During the Cold War, we learned a lot about concepts like the image of the enemy. After it, we had to deal with qualitatively different kinds of conflicts that revolved around race, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, and other “identity” issues. We made huge progress during the 1990s as we developed analytical tools and embarked on programs that attempted to bring people on all sides of these emotionally charged issues together.