Teaching peace in post-war countries

By Jan Oberg

January 12, 1998 – TFF PressInfo 30

Our most recent publication “Learning Conflict and Teaching Peace in Former Yugoslavia tells you how TFF conducted the “Learning Conflict” Program in former Yugoslavia 1996 and 1997 – and what we learnt from working with 105 ethnically mixed participants during eight courses in Croatia, Bosnia (both entities), Yugoslavia and Macedonia.

This is a practical account of what we did and how we did it, rather than a treatise on the philosophy and methodology of teaching peace in war-torn societies.

Many organisations now offer various types of courses and training to NGOs. What we usually see and hear, if anything, is that these courses are a success and sometimes even contribute to promote the organisation that delivers them. So too with TFF, we are no different. The level of intensity, comments and the general atmosphere indicate that these courses were a success: our participants gave the experience as a whole 4,2 of 5 possible points.

However, few NGOs take the trouble to tell others what we tell you in this report: how we decided what to achieve and not to achieve, the difficulties in teaching under these special circumstances, how it was planned, how local partners and participants were selected, what we taught, how we taught it, what we learnt, what it cost etc.

We also deal with the difficult balances that any course organizer must try to strike. Mistakes are unavoidable, but there are ways to limit the damage – such as knowing the area and the conflict well in advance, listening to and building confidence with the participants and invite them to participate while also taking a leadership role.

The authors, TFF conflict-mitigation team members Peter Jarman and Jan Oberg, also discuss how to do follow-up to this series of courses.

“Peace NGOs can only be helpful and survive by experimenting, by doing old things in new ways and do new things that governments are more reluctant to do or can not do,” says Jan Oberg. “But we should not keep our experiences, the strong and weak aspects, secret to others in the trade. Global networking is also about honest sharing because that helps those we work for – the people who suffer and the civil societies which fall apart as victims of violence around the world.

This is why we publicise the report. Conflict-management can be learnt. Telling each other what we experience when we teach conflict-resolution, reconciliation and peace – and being conscious about the unavoidable dilemmas in that very educational process – is one way to contribute to quality and innovation in the profession. So, we invite others to tell us how they did it and what they learnt, in the Balkans and elsewhere, of course.”

*) “Learning Conflict and Teaching Peace in Former Yugoslavia. A Course Report
By Peter Jarman and Jan Oberg
67 pp, Lund 1998, 110 Swedish kronor or 15 US dollars plus postage.

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