A conflict-resolution organization looks back on the 20 years since its founding.
How does a country pull itself together and achieve peace after overthrowing a dictatorship? Beyond Conflict (formerly named The Project on Justice in Times of Transition) has a simple, bold answer: Let the country’s leaders hear from those who’ve successfully transitioned from entrenched conflicts. If people like David Ervine, a former member of a Protestant Loyalist paramilitary organization in Northern Ireland; and Joaquín Villalobos, former senior commander of El Salvador’s FMLN guerilla movement, can move beyond violence, pain and anger, the organization says, then others can too. The project was first established after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and its aim is to help leaders “understand the fundamental changes in perceptions and actions that will be required of them if they and their countries are to achieve genuine change.” Over the last 20 years, the project has carried out more than 65 initiatives involving leaders from more than 50 countries. More recently as part of its mission, it began investigating neuroscience and the brain’s role in processing change. Chapters include “The Power of Shared Experience,” “Confronting Dictatorship,” “Changing Mindsets” and “Building Trust Among Enemies,” from contributors such as Phillips, the co-editor and co-founder/chairman of the project; Jan Urban, a Czechoslovak dissident and founding member of the Charter 77 movement; and Monica McWilliams, the founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. The personal stories of transformation from those who have been on the front lines are fascinating; in many cases, it seemed almost impossible to bring the people together to talk, when they would ordinarily not even make eye contact. The book recommends using compromise instead of a zero-sum mentality; finding shared dreams; and making concerted efforts toward achieving justice. The book is hopeful and pragmatic as it presents creative solutions, and honest in its acknowledgment of the difficulties in implementing them.
An engaging book from an organization with an important, hopeful story to share.