20 Feb 2015

News

******************************************************************************************************

Portrait:

Interview with board member Alain Sigg

What is your relation to conflict resolution and peace building?

I was brought up notably in Iran, Brazil and Germany, as a son of a Swiss diplomat. Conflicts – social, political or cultural – were part of everyday life. Some particular moments have left their marks, for example when the then West-German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneeled down at the Warsaw Ghetto. His attempt in pacifying the conflict between the East and the West was impressive.

30 years later, I was lucky in my professional life to experience another of these historic moments: when I worked as a mediator at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. I had the opportunity to meet an exceptional man, Nelson Mandela who managed to achieve what seemed impossible at the time – to forgive and to find a path towards the future.

Such moments in history which demonstrated that hate was not inevitable, came as solace during the darker periods of the 21st century. It especially encouraged me while working at the United Nations for the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

 

 In your opinion why is it important to engage yourself in the field of conflict transformation and peace building?

It is obvious! If you do not wish to commit yourself to war, you should commit yourself to building peace. Indifference here is reprehensible. This commitment is sometimes demanding and the challenges to take up are huge. “One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night” said the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran since his exile. The “path of the night” also means remaining creative in times of suffering.

 

What convinces you about the vision and activities of the ICP?

ICP is a young and fresh organization being almost free of bureaucracy, which is a big first advantage. The second is its vocation and vision bringing about fresh ideas that can flourish both in theory and practice. These two sides of the same coin enable progress under excellent terms in order to understand and perhaps resolve increasingly new and complex conflicts. In this regard, the Summer Academy in Caux is a privileged moment.

 

Interview with board member Frank Ubachs

What is your relation to conflict resolution and peace building?

I started my career thirty years ago at the Greek Orthodox Centre in Geneva, an institution that worked towards reform within and cooperation between the different churches of the East and in a wider ecumenical spirit. It was also at the heart of an ongoing dialogue between the Orthodox churches and Islam. Five years ago, while working for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs I was again confronted with questions regarding the role of religion in today´s world. Although this time it was increasingly in relation to human rights violations and violent conflict. The ambiguous role that religion can play both in conflict situations and in peace efforts fascinates me. Meanwhile, I have supplemented my studies in Eastern Christianity with a Masters in security studies of the Middle East and Central Asia.  In my thesis I focused on non-violent religious movements in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. I am especially interested in the mobilising power of religious worldviews and their interaction with individual life trajectories. According to me, it is in this interaction that religious factors can have a significant impact on conflict resolution and peace building. 

 

 In your opinion why is it important to engage yourself in the field of conflict transformation and peace building?

Although it is rewarding in itself to study phenomena in an academic setting, when it comes to conflict and peace, one hopes that insights may feed into improvements on the ground. Conflict transformation is the practice of applying and testing these insights for the common good. Currently, I am studying the implementation of the recent peace agreement between the Philippines and the Muslim population of Mindanao. The institution of a Peace Office within the state army has successfully shifted the role of the military towards that of a more trusted negotiation partner. Furthermore, I am directing my attention to the domestic issue of youth radicalisation in the Netherlands. Here, I am aiming at translating the latest insights into policy shifts, specifically at the local, municipal level. In both cases, I appreciate how the conflict transformation approach broadens the scope of the conflict analysis, including more levels and more actors, and emphasises a more rigorous context analysis. One gains a deeper understanding of underlying (historical and structural) mechanisms and acknowledges the need for a more inclusive process towards peace and security.

 

What convinces you about the vision and activities of the ICP?

 I got to know ICP through their Summer Academy in Montreux on conflicts in the South Caucasus in which I participated in 2013. It convinced me of the theoretical soundness of the ICP approach, its direct bearing on real life conflict situations and its relevance for (the formation of) peace practitioners. ICP is rather unique in its emphasis on both theory and practice: professional training and application of theoretical insights in actual mediation processes. As former director of an NGO that promotes active city and private sector involvement in refugee and migration projects (social entrepreneurship), I especially appreciated the ICP for sharing their expertise in conflict management domestically by training migrants in Switzerland (Konfliktbüro). 

 

Interview with board member Peter Allemann

What is your relation to conflict resolution and peace building?

Even though I have worked in the financial industry for the last 20 years, conflict resolution and peace building were always subjects I was highly interested in and I engaged myself intensively with during writing my master thesis about UN peacekeeping missions. At the same time I worked for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs whereas I focused on the UN-activities and went to former Yugoslavia as an UN military observer in 1997. During the subsequent years I maintained my military involvement in the field and was furthermore active in Swiss politics, especially with regards to referendum campaigns in Switzerland connected to the issue of peacekeeping. My activities for the ICP offer me the chance to stay involved with subjects like conflict resolution and peace building. Furthermore the work within the NGO allows me to look at such topics from a different angle and hence offers me a welcoming addition to the military point of view.

 

 In your opinion why is it important to engage yourself in the field of conflict transformation and peace building?

I am convinced that we live in a very safe and good environment in Switzerland. This is the reason why it was important to me to spend time in politics and attend the military service. I wanted to engage myself in addition to my education and later as part of my professional career. My focus was never solely national, but also international. According to my opinion, when being engaged in forums such as the UN, or even smaller organizations, such as the ICP, the difficulty consists in achieving your ideological goals by rational means. You always have to be aware of the fact, that you are just a small piece in the overall picture of conflict transformation and peace building. With that in mind, I think that people engaged in peacemaking organizations are able to make a positive difference for the affected people on the ground.

 

What convinces you about the vision and activities of the ICP?

As I said, I am interested to learn more about the ICP approach regarding conflict resolution and peace building. At the same time I hope to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the ICP’s approach by offering my insights. It is really interesting to be part of the ICP's strategy process and we also have a lot of fun together at our board meetings. I really hope that the ICP will do a take-off in the next two years and reach the next level with its very important conflict resolution and peace building activities. The ICP has really a special value proposition compared to a lot of other stakeholder's engaged in these processes

 

 

Interview with board member Corinne Trescher

What is your relation to conflict resolution and peacebuilding?

During my studies I focused on the topics power and violence and conducted research in Guatemala and Columbia for my master thesis. Furthermore, I supported several local aid organizations in Guatemala in the area of project-management. In Latin America, I experienced the destructive dynamics and consequences of armed conflicts, which led me to specialize in this field and to support the development of non-violent approaches to conflicts.

I consider conflicts as something natural, which can also be seen as a chance for personal and societal change. The challenge consists in finding a constructive way to deal with contradictive needs, opinions and interests.

 

 In your opinion why is it important to engage yourself in the field of conflict transformation and peace building?

In violent conflicts there are not real winners. All involved parties suffer from the consequences, such as human losses, physical and psychological injuries, negative consequences for the environment and economy and the long-term destruction of societies’ livelihoods and social structures. Worldwide much more money is still invested in the army than in peace efforts. A rethinking must occur there. As Martin Luther King Jr. already said: „Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war“.

 

What convinces you about the vision and activities of the ICP?

I have known the ICP for four years now. The organisation’s attitude and approach have convinced me from the beginning. I identify with the organisation’s conviction that peace work is also necessary in Switzerland and their projects.

 

******************************************************************************************************