Thursday, February 16, 2012

Elusive Peace reviewed by fran lewis

Elusive Peace
Author: Douglas E. Noll

Creating peace- not an easy accomplishment. Everyone wants to live in a peaceful life. Ideally countries and their leaders want their citizens to live threat free and in peace. The world is huge and billions of people inhabit it trying to survive, bringing up children, earning a living so why are so many bent on destroying others? Why do we need peacemakers to help us get along with our neighbors, friends, co-workers and spouses? Author Douglas E. Noll brings to light why crucial negotiations between parties fail- diplomats enter these talks with “flawed assumptions about human behavior, society, and power.” Can every conflict be resolved? Caused by humans, created and orchestrated by humans- humans have the power to end them. So, why do they choose to fight, hate, dislike and not see another persons, or group’s point of view? The author uses skills far different than those of political negotiators. Imagine being in a room with hardened criminals, killers, murderers, rapist, life inmates or long termers. Imagine teaching these inmates how to resolve conflicts and create a peaceful environment in prison. As the author relates how he and mediator Laurel Kaufer in the introduction of the book, trained peacemakers and mediators in a prison in California, you begin to wonder why the government cannot do the same. Conducting intensive training, teaching the inmates how to conduct peace circles in prison, starting with 12 women and growing, women he and Laurel were able to teach these women the art of mediation and turn their prison into “a place of peace.” So, why do peace talks fail? Why can’t we get the Iranians to stop killing each other? Why can’t the Sunnis and Shia’s co-exist?

When buying a new car or appliance everyone wants the latest state of the art model and every new accessory, nothing antiquated. All of the newest features that will give the owner the best ride, and the most use out of your new appliance without the need of an extra warranty or service contract. So, why not use that same ideology when dealing with personal or international conflicts? Stating we need to employ 21st century technology to solve 21st century problems is paramount to the success of solving conflicts. Why drive an Edsel when you can drive a Rolls. Why constantly repair a broken appliance with used parts when you can buy a new one? Peacemaking is the same- if you view creating peace as using the skillfully applied technology of the 21st century we just might succeed or have a way to begin.

Foreign countries seem to have difficulties with creating lasting peace. Our top negotiators are not much better. Their success rate is not high. One of the primary focal points and prominent in the news, headlines and on the net are stories dealing with peace. End result or end sentence or closing paragraphs do not yield information on success or positive solutions. The author brings to light the many reasons why international negotiated peace accords might be the reason for the increased killings, violence and genocides in many countries. The Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq- why is it that on the surface we think changes are occurred but if you take a deeper look beyond the surface structure you will find the climate is still the same and results almost nil. The primary questions we need to ask is we can list countless places, countries, stories or events where conflicts remain in control and peace takes a definite back seat. Trained negotiators- why can’t they succeed? Is mediation the answer? In this one of its kind book the author shares his many experiences, successes, techniques and skills in teaching those that negotiate the art of mediations and how to focus on its success.

Many schools have created no tolerance for violence programs that are successful because they go hand in hand with either school, district or citywide Peer Mediation Programs that train teachers, guidance counselors, principals and student mediators as well as students how to handle conflicts through mediation. If they can eliminate fighting and discord why can’t countries do the same?

Citing case studies, examples of conflicts around the word, some more paramount than others, the author enlightens the reader as to why the old does not work and modern medication would make a difference. Point: When negotiating you need to “ set forth basic ideas, know how to get what you want in the negotiations without making any concessions.” In mediation a third person assist the parties or opponents to resolve a problem or conflict.
Helping the party’s involved find a solution is pure mediation. A mediator is there to provide, “ process and service aide to those involved to make good decisions.” In simple terms the mediator helps those involved separate themselves from the problem leaving the emotions aside and without threats and promises. How does mediation bring both parties together? Both must believe that all promises made will be adhered to, accountability understood. The mediator is responsible to create an environment to bring this about.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Just how do you run mediation? Throughout this outstanding and informative books he author cites many case studies, real situations and bring the reader up close and personal inside the conflicts, wars and problems faced by Presidents, world leaders, and negotiators who try to resolve issues.

Step one is convening: The mediator in other words gets the parties together to talk. This is not the easiest task since all too often those involved really despise each other and hate being in the same room no less breathing the same air. Pages 46-47 explains in detail the different strategies used in mediations. Step 2: Offering compassion and Empathy and recognizing injustice. A mediator who is trained has to listen to not only what is being said but pay attention to what is not being said in order to know how to reach both parties and proceed. The mediator has to listen to both sides of the story and be impartial.  Mediation can teach those involved how to listen to the other side’s point of view. Providing leadership, de-escalating conflicts, providing a fair process, assisting in decision- making, coaching, managing information and much more as outlined in Chapter 2. Conflicts are not isolated and to just countries or individuals. Kids in playgrounds have conflicts. Even people on the check out line in supermarkets argue with the cashiers over pricing, or who is first in line.

The author continues to cite many different situations in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and ways to approach conflicts with social identities. Chapter 7 deals with Fear, Anger and Decision and Chapter 8 with the crisis in Kenya delving into the background of the conflict, the December 2007 election and how mediation when our author was brought into the negotiations.
There is so much discussed in this book about the different areas where mediations is needed. Finally, everyone wants peace and professional mediators in North America and Europe are committed to continuing their education. As a result more workshop training is available, conferences, even academies where mediators can to learn the art of mediation. The US is now realizing the value and importance of dialogue and negotiations when dealing with Iran, Korea, Israel and Pakistan as well as other volatile areas. This is one book that every leader of every country should read in order to understand the importance of creating a safe and peaceful environment for their citizens. Kids are taught tolerance but in many places they are taught to hate. Why? Teachers, guidance counselors, human resource workers, administrators, and world leaders are just some of who can benefit from reading this book. Working with gang members, difficult students in school using this program would definitely defuse much of the hostility and maybe prevent murders.

Taking the first step by admitting what does not work is vital. Recognizing that international diplomatic mediators are specialists in the field paramount. For many people and countries peace is elusive. They just can’t seem to find the right way to attain it. If we train our leaders, diplomats and international mediators properly to take responsibility and as they say step up to plate using the best batting tools and more, peace will be identifiable not elusive.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

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