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INCORE: Policy and Evaluation: LILP


In today's increasingly insecure world it has become clear that nations and peoples should and can work together, and learn from each other in order to secure peace and prosperity. LILP's concluding Symposium on 1 November 2001 sought to provide the opportunity to cascade the learning which had been achieved throughout the project and to consider the broader questions of transferability and comparative learning. Consequently the symposium programme was divided into three main sessions

Policy Perspectives on Learning from the International

The first session addressed policy perspectives of learning from the international. The speakers included:

  • The Lord Alderdice, Speaker, Northern Ireland Assembly, Belfast
  • Gillian Robinson, Director ARK, INCORE, Derry/Londonderry
  • Prof. Paul Arthur, University of Ulster, Derry/Londonderry (Chair)

Lord Alderdice reflected on the nature of modern society, and the reality that when conflict materialises it can become internationalised over night. The nature of modern conflict has meant that there is no option but to face the international. He highlighted the importance of broadening the horizon of reflection, if society does not look beyond itself then it becomes very difficult not to relive and repeat previous cycles and problems. In particular he referred to the South Africa case which has been a source of interest and learning for policy-makers in Northern Ireland, not least the issues of deadlines and policing. Lord Aderdice finished by pointing to the importance of identifying the 'essential feature' from other cases and to reflect on the importance of these.

Gillian Robinson pointed out that there is a growing international trend to analyse and understand what is happening in societies in transition. For example over the last two decades a comparative relationship has developed between Northern Ireland and South Africa, and more recently this analysis has been developed at the policy level looking at issues such as policing, criminal justice, restorative justice, dealing with the past and reconciliation. Ms Robinson pointed out that during transition learning from the international is particularly important as it enables policy-makers to move from their own situation and reflect on other contexts, consequently providing space to consider their own situations.

LILP International Experiences

The second session provided the opportunity for those who had been involved in the LILP exchange experiences to reflect on what they had learned and present this to the group. There were four exchange visit presentations:

  • Scotland: Jeannette Warke, Shared City Project & Brian Doherty, Tullyally and District Development Group, (Civil Society and the Role of Civic Forums)
  • Canada: Anna Visser, INCORE, Tony Langlois, Community relations Council, & David White, Civic Forum, (Multiculturalism and Diversity)
  • Croatia: Briege McClean, Creative Consultancy & Catherine Cooke, Peace & Reconciliation Group, (Realism of the Past)
  • Israel/Palestine: Anat Levy-Riesman & Zaki al Quaq, Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI), (Single Identity Work)

Practitioner Perspectives on the Uses and Abuses of International Learning

The third, and final session, addressed the role of learning from the international from the conflict resolution practitioner perspective. The panel consisted of:

  • Simon Fisher, Responding to Conflict, Birmingham
  • Billy Robinson, Counteract, Belfast
  • Prof. Mari Fitzduff, INCORE, Derry/Londonderry (Chair)

Simon Fisher began by asking the questions can a Fijian, a North American and a Colombian learn the same lesson? If it is a practical skill such as bandaging a wound then the answer is clearly yes. But what of the skills and mechanisms used for resolving conflict? He identified two approaches towards this problem. The first is that of those practitioners who believe that general approaches can be adopted, in other words models can be employed in various different circumstances. The other school of thought he identified as the 'trial and error people'; those who never do the same thing twice; an action research approach that is always being modified and adopted. It is important to recognise the necessity of the practitioner being aware of the approach they are coming from, as well as the approach the international partners are working from. Simon Fisher also identified two broad assumptions towards dealing with conflict, which impacts the nature of the intervention adopted. The first is the 'social worker approach', the goal of this approach is to get things back to normal. The second approach is that of the 'change agent', these people look below the surface at the attitudes and structure that have caused the problems so that they can be changed in a manner that will prevent the problem from reoccurring. Simon fisher concluded that if real learning is to be possible then it is necessary to develop a relationship of trust, so that the deeper issues can be addressed.

Billy Robinson pointed out that if you take broad problems and try to apply solutions to them it can cause problems, differences need to be taken into account, highlighting in particular the role that can be played by diverse cultures.

He identified a 'toolkit' necessary for any conflict resolution practitioner aiming to utilise their experience in other contexts. This toolkit includes:

  • Relevance - the issues must be relevant to the lives of the people you are working with.
  • Credibility - no one is completely impartial, but if that is understood from the beginning by everyone then progress forward can be made.
  • Active listening - you have to listen to what people say and what people don't say.
  • Challenge - if you are not challenging the people you are working with then you are not making change.

Mr Robinson concluded that in attempting to transfer learning it is important that practitioners:

  • Engage in active listening;
  • Help people to see what steps could come next using parallel experience;
  • Discover how issues have been resolved up to that point;
  • Establish a level playing field;
  • Not go by their own perceptions of what people want but must communicate.

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Friday, 19-Mar-2010 15:50
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