International conflict mediators hone their skills at a local conference.
Thursday, May 5, 2005
But they’ll talk to Joyce Neu. When Neu’s cell phone rings in the middle of a San Diego supermarket, it might be family or it might be an LRA senior officer ready to discuss the preconditions for negotiations.
Neu is executive director for the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego and an advocate for nonviolent conflict resolution.
This weekend Neu and dozens of other mediators and academics from around the world are gathering at the Monterey Institute for International Studies around an ambitious common goal: to raise the international profile of skilled mediation as an alternative to armed conflict—in other words, to convince the world to make nice, not war.
The members of Global Majority, the newly created nonprofit hosting the event, acknowledge it’s an idealistic mission.
“On one hand it can seem sort of hippie dippy: ‘Oh, we’re all signing petitions for peace,’” says conference organizer Kristen Farnum, who graduates from MIIS this month. “Or at the macro level, there are only these behind-closed-doors state-to-state diplomatic talks nobody knows about.
“But there’s a vast range of activity that goes on between. One purpose the conference will serve is to show practitioners that nonviolent conflict resolution can happen at other levels and still be very effective.”
In panels on Colombia, Africa, Islam, South Asia and the role of the media in promoting nonviolent resolution, participants will examine the obstacles to negotiation and what works and what doesn’t.
Guests include Colombian Ambassador Luis Moreno, Rep. Sam Farr and folk legend Utah Phillips, who is scheduled to perform Friday night. MIIS conflict resolution specialist Bill Monning told the Weekly that United Nations Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland—who ruffled Western feathers in January when he called rich countries stingy with foreign aid—was set to attend until UN business interfered.
There are local luminaries to take the sting out of that no-show, though, and remind everyone that all politics is local. Former Assemblyman Fred Keeley, Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio and former water board member Molly Erickson will sit on a Saturday morning panel on local water issues, a prime example of environmental conflict. In some places, people would be cradling shotguns over it.
“We’re fortunate enough that everybody’s at an economic level that it’s not a violent conflict here locally,” Farnum says, “but it still represents a microcosm of water and security at the global level.”
By the end of the conference, organizers hope, an international network of mediators will be in place, taking to their home countries or organizations a plan for educating the public on the value of nonviolent conflict resolution. They will also be armed with a set of principles drawn up at the conference that will guide a global movement promoting mediation. If all goes as planned, the individuals attending the weekend’s conference will train governments and nongovernmental organizations in conflict resolution.
“We hope to promote a global norm to stigmatize the use of violence,” says Bosnia native and MIIS graduate Lejla Mavris, vice president of the board of Global Majority.
“We’re trying to give voice to the global majority,” she adds, “to make the majority of the world heard, because the people who are making policy decisions are not the global majority. They’re the minority in power.”
The Global Majority Inaugural Conference runs May 5-7 at Irvine Auditorium, Pierce and Jefferson streets, Monterey. For more information and registration materials, see www.globalmajority.net
The average number of arrests made each week by the
Seaside Police Department. Source: Kathy Simpson,
Records Director for the Seaside P.D.