Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Role of the Government in Conflict Resolution?

**This blog is my personal opinion based on my studies, readings, and experiences in Conflict Resolution. I have only studied this field for one semester. It is also based on conversations from outside students studying conflict resolution at different schools. **

During my semester of Intro to Conflict Resolution and on the Cambodia trip, I have often wondered about how the government fits into this field. I wonder because as a conflict resolution student, I rarely hear about the government. I do not think this is because of lack of work in the field by governments around the world. The field likes to use terms like social reconciliation, for example the Cambodian government's partial funding of the Khmer Rouge trials or Australia's apology to the Aborigines people. Restorative Justice can be seen in judicial systems in South America that have incorporated indigenous practices into the legal system. This is similar to the United States justice system that uses community conferencing (similar to mediation) for juvenile cases, because it has proven to have more effective results in keeping youth out of the prison cycle. Perhaps this perspective is taught in more advanced conflict resolution classes and if so, I look forward to learning it.

The perspective I have learned is mainly that of an NGO perspective. Much of the teachings during the course were illustrated through programs facilitated by NGOs and independent practitioners. I encountered this same aspect during our Cambodia trip. The majority of the organizations we visited were NGOs. Besides visiting the Khmer Rouge trial location, there was no other governmental visit.

One of the best qualities of our class was it's careful analysis of conflicts, incorporating historical, social, and political factors. It is very good in understanding the many levels of a conflict. It is also very conceptual, with terms like social reconciliation, trauma, justice, truth, symbolism, memory. I found our Cambodia group was very good at asking the right questions to Khmer people about some of these topics. They are important in a a society attempting to recover from a genocide. However, there was no talk about what to do with that information. How does this play into policy? What exactly do these programs look like?Recognition of the importance of some of these topics is the first step. The next step is formulating that information into effective policy.

Thank you for reading the thoughts of a student who believes wholeheartedly in the utility and necessity of conflict resolution. I will continue to push for a wider perspective and a government angle that can maximize the effectiveness of the teachings of this field.