Rose Styron, a member of the Project’s Advisory Board, recently hosted a evening of discussions on conflict and neuroscience on Martha’s Vineyard. The event was covered by the Vineyard Gazette. Below is an introductory excerpt together with a link to the full article:
“On the pristine lawn of the Styron residence, where the pink and orange tones of sunset moved in above the gently-rocking sailboats of the Tisbury harbor, it was hard to imagine conflict lurked anywhere in the world.
And yet 85 Island residents and visitors had convened there last Wednesday night to discuss not just conflict, but its effect on the brain.
The event, the first of its kind on the Island, was presented by the Cambridge-based Project on Justice in Times of Transition, which is seeking to bring an understanding of neuroscience to diplomacy.”
This past August, PJTT Co-Chair Tim Phillips participated in a panel with PJTT Network member Roelf Meyer and moderated by former British diplomat Sir Kieran Prendergast. Held as part of Beyond Borders Scotland’s Books, Borders, and Bikes festival, the event included a number of prominent authors, artists, and policymakers. Roelf described his journey from a conservative student leader who thought apartheid was a good system, to one of the principal architects of its dismantling. Tim then shared the Project’s mission and its history with Roelf – describing the crucial role Roelf played in catalyzing change in numerous countries. The video is worth watching in full, and is available below:
Syria’s increasingly bloody civil war has perplexed weary world powers, uneasy regional actors, and desperate local fighters, rendering them unable or unwilling to formulate coherent long-term strategies or state clear aims. The stalemate between President Bashar Al-Assad’s government and the fractured opposition has claimed over 20,000 lives, displaced 2 million people, and put the already-volatile Middle East more on edge. Most worrying, the fighting has taken on a sectarian tilt, pitting the majority Sunni opposition against the minority ‘Alawite-dominated government of Assad. Many seasoned observers of the region fear a Balkan-type splintering of Syria, involving serious violations of human rights and possible war crimes.
The Project on Justice in Times of Transition recently turned to Veton Surroi for insight on this evolving conflict. Surroi, one of Kosovo’s most distinguished public intellectuals and leaders, is currently the Chairman of the Board of Kosovo’s Foreign Policy Club and founder of the Koha Publishing Group. Prior to his current role, Surroi helped negotiate Kosovo’s independence at Rambouillet, was a member of the Unity Team and was heavily involved with President Rugova in peaceful resistance to Milosevic’s rule in the early years of the Balkan war. Drawing on his extensive experience in the Balkans, Surroi identified worrying trends and spoke of the urgent need for action on the part of the opposition and the international community. Specifically, he sees two crucial steps for saving lives and creating the conditions for a shared future: (1) the transfer from minority to majority rule and (2) the start of a dialogue about protecting the rights of minorities.
On Sept. 12, the Project on Justice in Times of Transition was pleased to host a talk at the Boston Bar Association by Jose Maria Argueta, a member of PJTT’s International Advisory Board and current head of Strategic Intelligence in the Republic of Guatemala. Mr. Argueta offered insight into why Guatemala is plagued by such pervasive violence and poverty – namely, the power in the national decision-making process is not shared equally by all citizens. Instead, as with many partially formed democracies, economic elites exhibit undue influence over the mechanisms of national governance and opportunities for economic development. Mr. Argueta offered ideas about how the government can
help reclaim the state for its citizens.
Click on the play button below to listen to Mr. Argueta full talk:
The Neuroscience and Social Conflict conference report is now available for online reading.
Egypt’s transformation from military autocracy to budding democracy has captivated Western observers as a litmus test for change. But as Islamist parties gain favor through Egypt’s elections, it becomes increasingly likely that the other countries of the Arab Spring will follow this same path. As these countries grapple with how to integrate Islamic values into a democratic system, PJTT sought insights from Mohammed Bhabha, a senior official in South Africa’s African National Congress, whose experience as a constitution draftsman has lead him to advise countries such as Kenya, Indonesia, South Sudan and Yemen on navigating their political transitions. Bhabha, a practicing Muslim, discussed the need for contextual understanding, patience, and empathy as a new political culture of democracy takes shape in this region. In order to cultivate the trust and space necessary to build lasting institutions, governments and citizens must change the way they communicate and interact with one another – moving away from the hierarchical structure of traditional tribal communities toward an inclusive and egalitarian democratic system. Bhabha draws from his personal experiences and knowledge of the region to provide advice for countries embarking on democratic transition.
Matt Armstrong, recent Executive Director of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, published a blog post on his experience at the “Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Defining New Approaches for the 21st Century” in early February. In his post, he comments that “It was an eye-opening few days that started early and continued over dinner into the night. The presentations were honest, devoid of grandiose assertions of magic bullets, and each were followed by collegial discussions fueled by fresh questions and ideas.
Gary Slutkin, Executive Director of CeaseFire in Chicago, published an op-ed in the Huffington Post describing how his participation in PJTT’s recent event “Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Defining New Approaches for the 21st Century” affected his thinking about the role of determinative evidence in appraising methods of conflict resolution.
Newsletter - Rethinking Reconciliation: Using Theater to Overcome Fear and Generate Empathy (October 2011)
Having helped catalyze the field of transitional justice with its founding meeting in 1992, the Project on Justice in Times of Transition is looking to stimulate thinking about the gaps in knowledge and practice that remain prevalent in deeply divided societies such as Palestine/Israel; Sri Lanka; Northern Ireland; Bosnia among others. The dominance of international prosecution for war criminals and the tendency to consider truth commissions as a tool for healing the past, have drawn attention away from community reconciliation, especially in countries with longstanding and complex identity conflicts. New approaches are desperately needed.
PJTT Editor Arielle Berney recently spoke about these issues with Madhawa Palihapitya, the former Director of Programs at the Foundation for Co-Existence in Sri Lanka who now teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. He recalled what he learned from his experiences engaging in high-risk mediation and conflict prevention efforts between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers, especially in the eastern areas of Sri Lanka. Reflecting on the Palestinian Authority’s recent bid for statehood at the United Nations, Palihapitya indicated he believes that redressing fear is at the heart of community healing. In his experience, theater is a particularly useful tool for addressing these hard issues.
PJTT Director Ina Breuer, and Bruce Hitchner, Professor of Classics and International Relations at Tufts University and Founder, and Chairman of the Dayton Peace Accords Project, have written an Op-Ed piece in European Voices on Kosovo entitled “Is the Status Quo Progress?” They argue that the EU-sponsored talks between Kosovo and Serbia need to address the most important issue: northern Kosovo.
As countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa are swept up in a tide of revolution, the Project on Justice in Times of Transition is looking to past transitions for insight into the coming challenges for governments transitioning from authoritarian regimes to democracies. Konstanty Gebert, a Polish journalist, who first reported on the Polish Roundtable Talks led by Lech Wałęsa, Czesław Kiszczak, and General Jaruzelski, and then participated in the negotiations as a free agent, shared some reflections with PJTT Editor Arielle Berney on the early transition and the managing the expectations of change in 1989 Poland.
Paige Arthur, Deputy Director of Institutional Development, International Center for Transitional Justice, has written a comprehensive article entitled “How “Transitions” Reshaped Human Rights: A Conceptual History of Transitional Justice” in the Human Rights Quarterly journal.
Neuroscience and Social Conflict:
Defining New Approaches for the 21st Century
February 9-11, 2012, MIT, Cambridge, MA
“Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Defining New Approaches for the 21st Century” is a multi-year initiative, in partnership with the SaxeLab for social cognitive neuroscience at MIT, facilitates research across disciplines that explores the latest findings in neuroscience and its implications for conflict management and foreign policy formulation. Our launch conference took place on February 9-11, 2012 and brought together social neuroscientists, experienced leaders of societies in transition from conflict, and conflict management experts. These experts exchanged findings and challenges from their respective fields and developed research agendas that scientifically assessed approaches to reduce conflict.