Mediation is addictive. As those of us in the field know, its power and impact cross cultures and professions. And, we, the people who mediate, facilitate, or are in other ways involved in peace building, are obsessed, determined and hungry for more.
It’s with this in mind that I joined over 200 mediators, facilitators and allies in Istanbul from September 24 to October 3 for Mediators Beyond Borders International’s (MBBI) 6th Congress. A fascinating show of peace builders and peace makers from across the globe, the Congress presented an opportunity for learning, sharing and celebrating the work that we do on an international level. As the title above dictates, MBBI’s vision is to create a global peace-able movement through local communities and professionals.
I came to the Congress as one of the five-member Vocational Training Team (VTT) sponsored by Rotary District 5280. The first team focused on Peace and Conflict Resolution, we were led by retired judge and practicing mediator Gregory O’Brien. Vocational Training Teams are “a group of professionals who travel to another country either to learn more about their profession or to teach local professionals about a particular field, according to Rotary International.” Vocational Training Teams are also “designed to [use] the vocational and professional skills of team members, particularly in countries where resources and infrastructure are limited, [to] improve the facilities and living conditions of the people living there.” However, as part of the first team in Rotary International’s history to specifically bring together professionals in the mediation or conflict resolution field, our role was largely exploratory, paving the way for future Peace and Conflict Resolution teams to develop the resources and knowledge we brought back.
And, surely enough, there was a generous breadth of resources to be found. The intensive 3-day conference included workshops on designing dialogues around political issues, online mediation, promoting participatory democracy, gender issues in negotiation, and various MBBI projects from Kenya to Israel. One workshop that I attended highlighted the peace building work being done in Northern Ireland between warring communities of Protestants and Catholics. The presenters, Enda Young and Alan Ruddock, introduced TIDES Training, their organization that focuses on Transformation, Interdependence, Diversity, Equity and Sustainability as principles for its community work. It was especially notable to me how TIDES works in close collaboration with housing and community development agencies to address both the contentious cultural issues as well as the resource limitations (lack of developed housing, access to integrated schools) that support the legacies of conflict between communities. This collaborative model between housing, social welfare and conflict resolution agencies may well be something that can be developed here in Los Angeles given our own legacies of conflict.
Aside from the workshops, I was privileged to have been able to connect with the local Rotarians through the VTT. With their knowledge of Istanbul, the politics and needs of their individual districts, I was able to gain a better understanding of the current conflicts, like the protests in Taksim Square, that reverberate throughout Turkey today. I was also able to share my own experiences as a mediator and peace builder to new allies that can move the work forward through local means.
Rotary’s District 5280 remains committed to furthering the work in peace and conflict resolution. Alongside my VTT team members, we will be writing a paper designed to move new VTT teams forward with the ideas and resources gathered from the MBBI conference and local Rotarians. It’s certainly an exciting time to be part of the peace building process, and I encourage anyone interested in peace and conflict resolution to reach out and make your own way towards this work that, Lynn Cole, President of MBBI, described as creating the light in people.