Previous Projects of Center for Peacemaking Practice
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In December 2008, George Mason University hosted a group of Georgian and South Ossetian peacebuilders at Point of View, the university conflict resolution retreat house in Mason Neck, Virginia. The meeting sparked a series of discussions that have enriched participants' understandings of the possibilities for confidence building in the aftermath of the August 2008 war. Ten Point of View Workshops have catalyzed numerous confidence building measures that bridge the Georgian-South Ossetian divide. The Georgian-South Ossetian Point of View Processcontinues with a goal of further catalyzing constructive confidence building, sharing highly informed understandings of the conflict dynamics with advisors and decision-makers on both sides of the divide, and ultimately contributing to peace and security in the South Caucasus and beyond. Some Point of View participants are partnering together on policy-related research.
The rising tension over the disputed islands – known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan – in the East China Sea has severely strained Sino-Japanese relations during the past few years. This tension illustrates a security crisis, with far-reaching implications for the two countries’ economic relations, domestic politics, and international relations. Importantly, the crisis has its deep historical roots in the collective memories of the two nations’ wartime experiences, and in their cumulative historical grievances that stand in the way of much-needed reconciliation. The renewed U.S. commitment to the Asia Pacific, in view of China’s rise and the U.S.-Japan alliance, adds to the complexity of the regional and global context in which the bilateral tension between China and Japan is evolving.
Given this background, this S-CAR-based initiative analyzes the multi-faceted nature of the conflict and explores practical approaches to its management and transformation. It brings together policy-oriented opinion leaders, scholars, students, and other stakeholders from different sides of the conflict for open and constructive dialogues. The initial phase of this initiative, in 2012-13, has been financially sponsored by Mr Yoshide Takeda, a George Mason alumnus and an advocate of Sino-Japan reconciliation, and coordinated by Dr Tatsushi Arai, a Fellow of S- CAR’s Center for Peacemaking Practice and Associate Professor of Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute in Vermont. Dr Arai, a Japanese citizen, partners with his long-term Chinese colleague, Dr Zheng Wang, Associate Professor in the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Drs Arai and Wang are both SCAR alumni and former classmates in SCAR’s PhD program.
In late 2012, Drs Arai and Wang co-facilitated a series of two small-group dialogues at S-CAR, engaging Chinese and Japanese graduate students to explore the role of perceptions and identities in the territorial dispute. In November 2012, Dr Arai facilitated a dialogue between Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, and Korean peace researchers and practitioners who gathered in Mie, Japan for a peace research conference. In addition, in January 2013, Drs Arai and Wang co- facilitated a one-day Interactive Conflict Resolution (ICR) workshop for Chinese and Japanese scholars at S-CAR’s Point of View in Virginia. This Point of View dialogue became the basis of a public seminar that the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC hosted the following day, in partnership with S-CAR. The Point of View dialogue also resulted in a publication, T. Arai, S. Goto, and Z. Wang, 2013, Clash of National Identities: China, Japan, and the East China Sea Territorial Dispute (Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars).Future activities under consideration include promoting sustained multi-track dialogue between China and Japan, engaging U.S. stakeholders in much-needed U.S.-China-Japan dialogue, and exploring concrete ways to enhance policy applications of lessons learned.
The following videos were taken during a seminar on China-Japan territorial disputes at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, January 2013.
Video: China-Japan Dialogue: Beyond the Territorial Dispute (3 parts)
The Center for Peacemaking Practice holds semi-annual retreats for peacemaking practitioners, each lasting around a week and bringing together individuals in the field of conflict resolution from around the world.
Our most recent retreat took place May 20-24, 2013, at theBlue Mountain Retreat Center in Knoxville, MD. The retreat focused on building resiliency and self-care for practitioners, as well as offering opportunities for reflective practice and shared learning among the community. Too often, the work of peacemaking is face-paced, intense, and draining, with little time for personal reflection and care. This retreat sought to address these concerns through building a culture of self-reflection and self-care for the practitioners present, and at the same time create a supportive community of peacemakers - with bonds that will last well beyond the one week spent together.
We hope to be able to share information soon about upcoming retreats, and invite individuals and organizations in the conflict resolution and peacemaking field to get in touch if you’re interested in participating in future retreats.
Skills Training Program
The Center regularly conducts a number of two-day, skills training workshops during the Fall and Spring semesters, focused mainly on introducing participants to the process of conducting problem solving workshops [PSWs] and the skills that are necessary in making these small group, intermediary initiatives a success.The Workshops are conducted in conjunction with the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program of the School of International Service at American University, with the Center for Conflict Analysis at the University of Denver, and with the Program on Conflict Management at the University of Baltimore. Students from all three programs take part, as well as others interested in this approach to peaceful conflict resolution. Faculty teaching these workshops are drawn from leading institutions involved in practical peacemaking as well as undertaking research and theory building into peacemaking and peace-building processes*.
The weekend workshops are typically conducted at S-CAR’s conference and retreat center at Point of View, Mason Neck, starting on Saturday morning and ending on Sunday afternoon. Typically, the Center organizes two Introductory Workshops, one in the Fall semester [late October] and one in the Spring [early February]. These are followed in March by at least one Advanced Workshop for those wishing to develop further skills in team facilitation and conducting workshops [and other types of facilitated dialogues] between adversaries involved in protracted, intractable and deep rooted conflicts. Arrangements can be made for students to take these weekend courses as part of a postgraduate degree program [usually for one credit]. As a follow up, it is hoped to be able to involve some alumni in on-going PSWs seeking to contribute to peacemaking processes in continuing deep-rooted and intractable conflicts in various parts of the world.
Notices about details, dates, and venues will be posted on this page as they are decided, and preliminary enquiries should be direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Faculty involved in this program include:
Professors Ronald J. Fisher & Mohammed Abu Nimer, American University.
Professor Tamra Pearson D’Estree, University of Denver
Professors Susan Allen, Arthur Romano & Christopher Mitchell, George Mason University
Professors Johannes [Jannie] Botes and Sascha Sheean, , University of Baltimore.
Professor Kate Romanova, The World Bank, Washington DC
The Learning from Practice Podcast, from the Center for Peacemaking Practice, is designed to share stories of peacemaking practice and practitioners from around the world. Podcasts are available below, along with additional information on the practitioners featured.
A series of analytical meetings of conflict resolution experts from the region of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, which seeks to facilitate the coordination of Track 1 and Track 2 efforts in resolving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
The Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation works in partnership with the Center for Peacemaking Practice of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of George Mason University in implementing this project.
The aim of the project is to contribute to improved effectiveness of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process through increased informal coordination between Track 1 and Track 2 levels, including between governmental representatives acting in their personal capacity, representatives of governmental think-tanks, conflict resolution experts, and representatives of the international community; development of a strategic approach to confidence-building that will complement and strengthen the official process.
The first meeting of Breaking the Impasse series took place in 2008 at Columbia University. Three Azerbaijani and three Armenian analysts jointly organized a panel discussion on the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Later, these six papers were published in a special issue of the International Negotiation Journal on Nagorno-Karabakh.
The second meeting of the series took place in September of 2009 at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and had two components. One was an open door symposium on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict called “Re-assessing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the aftermath of Russia-Georgia War” with the participation of eight Armenian and eight Azerbaijani diplomats, academics, and analysts. The second was a closed door meeting for the participants of the symposium using problem solving workshop methodology. During the closed door meeting, the topics for the next round of discussions were outlined. A periodical on-line publication focused on the analysis and resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict called Caucasus Edition has been launched as a result of this workshop.
The third meeting took place in Washington DC in Ocotber 2011 and was co-hosted by the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation. The meeting was titled “Assessing the Deadlock in the Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process.” Representatives of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministries, OSCE, US and UK governments, as well as a number of Armenian and Azerbaijani conflict resolution experts and civil society representatives participated in the meeting.
Initially, Breaking the Impasse was conceived as series of yearly conferences on the topic of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Later, taking into account the deadlock in the negotiation process and rising tensions, we discussed a possibility of taking a more pro-active role in the peace process.
Currently, the process represents regular meetings of experts from the region of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict working together toward development of recommendations for the local governments and international community toward the improvement the effectiveness of the peace process.
While numerous practices exist for individual moments of reflection, there are still relatively few safe and respectful spaces for honest reflection in conversation with others. This distinction is emphasized intentionally. There are many spaces in which peacemaking practitioners are asked to speak about and reflect on their work in conversation with others: in reports to donors, at conferences or conventions, and during public presentations and press releases, among others. However, none of these examples provides an an even moderately neutral space. In most cases, practitioners in each of these settings feel pressure to articulate their work in the best way possible: reflecting on successes, difficulties that were overcome, moving stories, etc. Although this is certainly not true of all individuals, many practitioners would hesitate to use any of these spaces to speak about ongoing problems they’ve been unable to solve, frustrations and fears, or past mistakes. However, in order for deep and broad reflection to be possible, these mercurial elements must have a place to be considered. While any conversational space may never be entirely neutral, one of the most significant qualities of a safe and confidential debriefing process is its openness. It is a process that can serve as an open space for reflection on all aspects of practice, without threat or fear of direct negative repercussions.
A process of peeling an onion
When all the layers are peeled apart, reflection helps to analyze each of them and internalize the knowledge behind them, thus turning passive knowledge into active knowledge. Open-ended debriefing styles can allow practitioners to penetrate deeper into their memory and experience and uncover previously untouched layers of knowledge.
While it may seem, after the session has ended, that the process of reflection has been completed, reflection in fact triggers continuous thinking, and oftentimes the brain continues to work on processing and internalizing information long after a particular debriefing session has concluded. Debriefing may focus on layers of experience that are typically under-addressed or examined
Reflective conversations can be used for a variety of purposes, including strategic planning, program innovation or evaluation, and increasing operational efficiency. The level of trust and respect that a debriefer can offer to the practitioner and bring to the process of debriefing, will directly determine the quality of the debriefing and how constructive it is.
Considering the many forms that debriefing can take, complexity can at times appear to compound complexity. This is certainly true in the field of peacemaking, where conflict dynamics are more often than not extremely nuanced and intense, and often intransigent. Within this context of complexity, an appropriate debriefing methodology to support peacemaking practice may often only be found with difficulty, with patience, and with trust. In this way, debriefing often mirrors aspects of peacemaking practice itself, in that it is grounded in relationships, carried out over the long term, and based on trust.
Sharpen program focus
Penetrate complex obstacles
Coordinate dynamic projects
Leverage systems perspectives
Structured debriefing processes, or semi-structured spaces for reflection, can provide opportunities and methodologies for analysis of this implicit knowing phenomenon.
an emergent process of inquiry that examines a wide range of factors, and has the potential to uncover previously hidden considerations
meta-analysis and introspection serve to elicit perspectives that were obscured by the patterns and inertia of daily life
reflection can assist in articulating that tacit knowledge
movement between coherence and complexity is one of the core elements of the debriefing process
The debriefer focuses on maximizing a reflective experience for the participant and eschews delivery of advice or recommendations based on content expertise. This process facilitates self-directed learning and supports the participant as they address their current environment and their response to it. The fluid protocol of emergent debriefing means that the debriefer may cycle through many of the steps of the debriefing process within a single session. The dynamic, responsive nature of this type of debriefing protocol is designed to facilitate identification of core considerations of a situation or challenge, and to increase clarity about participants’ responses to their environment.
provide practitioners a conversational space to vocalize implicit knowledge with a debriefer
This process ideally forces the practitioner to vocalize the implicit knowledge they’ve already gained from these experiences, and make it explicit. Once the knowledge is explicit, it’s much easier to use in terms of future planning, processing, and understanding one’s own work.
There are several settings in which this form of debriefing may be particularly useful. After a project is completed, a practitioner, or team of practitioners, may wish to process and understand the experience. Alternatively, practitioners who have been working for many years may be interested in debriefing these multiple experiences, drawing out the implicit knowledge of their own methods, goals, and approaches. This may be for the goal of bettering one’s work in the future, for conducting a thorough evaluation of past work, understanding the successes and failures of past experiences in order to adequately and ethically plan future work, or merely for the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of the multitude of processes that go into one’s peacemaking work.
an intelligence-gathering practice. Within an investigative setting, a debriefer would engage with a practitioner in a series of pre-determined but open-ended questions designed to facilitate a reflective process that would elicit knowledge from the practitioner for the benefit of the conflict resolution field as a whole.
seeks to facilitate a synthesis of the core lessons and learnings from the session, potentially for the goal of wider sharing
conducted internally by a team itself, without an external facilitator
there are cases when co-debriefing becomes particularly important. This includes situations that have clearly pronounced ethical questions, including those of safety; when there is a conflict in the team of facilitators; when the team includes new members; when the team is working in a new environment or a new conflict or in a violent conflict; or, when outside events have a direct impact on the facilitation process. In other words, facilitator co-debriefing is particularly important when the team needs to attend to ethical or relational dynamics, or when the context they are working in is volatile and the facilitation process might benefit from on-going rethinking and adjustments.
A team of facilitators is likely to encounter methodological, power or personal differences or dynamics which must be managed and navigated. The setting of co-debriefing can provide a safe reflective space where these dynamics are able to be brought up and addressed.
A co-debriefing process can offer at least one environment in which these ethical concerns can be examined and addressed.