Diversity Plays Complex Role in Conflicts
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 02:01
The Conflict Resolution Program’s biannual conference, “Managing Diversity in Divided Societies,” drew students, researchers and nongovernmental organization leaders to Copley Formal Lounge on Thursday to present papers and discuss the complex role diversity plays in conflicts around the world.
The conference, which continues through today, is structured as a series of panel sessions with different overarching ideas such as language or identity, featuring a variety of panelists from undergraduate and doctoral candidates to professors and individuals actively involved in conflict resolution.
Keynote speaker Susan Collin Marks serves as Vice President for Search for Common Ground, an international NGO that seeks to use mediation and other non-violent methods to peacefully resolve issues.
“Our goal is to transform the way the world deals with conflict away from adversarial approaches to constructive solutions and the core of this is through what we call societal transformation,” Marks said. “In other words we are looking at the whole so society and saying what is it that we can bring and that we can accompany people through as they find their way to a whole society where diversity is a source of growth and joy and curiosity and not a source of conflict. Our motto is understand the differences and act on the commonalities.”
The speaker emphasized the ways in which differences can mediate conflicts rather than create them.
“It’s not our differences that divide us but really it is our response to difference and that a theme that’s so important in this. It’s how we respond that counts in life,” she said.
Students at the conference had the opportunity to present their papers and be exposed to other work in the field.
“Any time that I can talk about what my research is about, any time I can discuss it and most importantly receive feedback is priceless,” Queen’s University doctoral candidate Karen Kettner said.
Students also have the opportunity to network with some of the leaders in conflict resolution.
“Just coming here and learning and networking are very important. People who are similarly interested in some sort of topic are able to meet each other from different parts of the world and maybe work together,” conflict resolution program student and conference organizer Sarah Hager (GRD ’15) said.
The professors and activists also benefited from coming together.
“First and obvious value is comparison, often when we are working on areas of conflict we often have a specialization in our own space,” Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast and panelist Dominic Bryan said. “We can get a lot out of that, but hearing people come from other places and other spaces can be really useful in trying to work out whether there are broad processes globally or whether what you are looking at is quite specific.”
While a large part of the audience was made up of the panelists themselves, many of those who attended were not affiliated with the conflict resolution program.
“I’m here to observe. It is a fascinating topic and it is always enjoyable to stretch one’s mind,” retired Coast Guard member Patrick Knowles said. Knowles discovered the conference on the website Eventbrite.
Megan Lavery (GRD ’14), a conflict resolution program student and one of the event organizers, mentioned that the event is intended for students and is open to all Georgetown students and students of other schools in the area.
“It is important that the college community know about initiatives like this and are able to participate,” Lavery said.