There were over 2000 NGO representatives and other civil society organizations from more than 90 countries registered for this event. The opening address by Jan Eliasson, President, 60th session of the UN General Assembly, emphasized that there is no security without development and no development without security. His major points were that (a) water pollution is the main cause of mortality in many undeveloped countries and (b) girls and women should be educated so they can educate their children.
The workshops I attended were quite interesting and informative. The first was on “Redressing Massive Trauma” regarding genocide in Rwanda and elsewhere. It was stressed that genocide can sometimes be avoided, stopped by other countries aware of the plans and goings on. Healing actions now taking place are:
- Restore peace before trauma can be dealt with. This is very difficult.
- Training counselors.
- Socialization of trauma via public meetings
- Formation of national mourning so people can meet and share experiences. This is very traumatic but necessary.
- Unity and reconciliation commission- organized weeks of reflections and training to figure out what causes genocide.
- Victims of genocide need justice. Their main goal is to know the truth - What happened? Who killed my family? etc. It is impossible to prosecute all those who committed these crimes.
Dr. Yael Danieli, psychologist for trauma and Holocaust survivors, tries to teach lessons learned from previously traumatized groups. She also deals with the “Stolen Generation” in Australia and other countries where children were stolen from their parents and sent elsewhere away from their families. Australia still refuses to apologize.
Securing public records is of utmost importance for “Proof.” These must be held for historical prosperity outside of the countries involved, so they cannot be destroyed or altered and can be used for international education to prevent recurrences.
I thought the best workshop was “Promoting Respect for Cultural diversity in Conflict Resolution,” a roundtable of representatives from different backgrounds discussing efforts to increase the understanding of multiculturalism and promote respect for cultural diversity.
Conflicts erupt over a period of time. There is time for mediation, dialog instead of conflict. Religious differences are a big weapon for killing, ethnic and economic factors. Ignorance stimulates conflict.
Carole Frampton, of “Search for Common Ground,” an NGO dedicated to conflict dissolution and resolution, talked about her program. The principles of Search for Common Ground are “understand and respect the differences and act on commonalities.” All have value but are ranked differently. They have used music in Sierra Leone, wrestling in Iran, and sponsored a multi-ethnic radio station in to relate real news instead of rumor and propaganda in Burundi. Search for Common Ground stays in countries for long periods of time - setting up offices, training teams for peace building and cooperation, and constructive dialog. They immerse themselves in local cultures to reassess problems and use an integrated approach.
Another workshop was on Interfaith Youth. One key question asked was, Where are the interfaith people when young people are looking for answers, seeking an identity? Interfaith movements should try to illuminate universal values, use employment strategies, social entrepreneurship; young people should be trained as leaders and given opportunities for leaderships of other youth.