Tag Archives: Peace

Meet Daniel Orth, MA, IPJ Program Officer for Strategic Peacebuilding

The IPJ added two program officers for strategic peacebuilding to its team earlier this year. Daniel Orth, MA, has worked at Conflict Dynamics International and with Search for Common Ground in Zanzibar. In addition to field work later this summer, Orth and Program Officer Kara Wong, MA, are planning this fall’s Peacebuilding and the Arts Symposium at the institute. 

Q: What brought you to the field of peacebuilding? What has been your trajectory to this work and the IPJ?

From an early age I’ve been interested in understanding why people get into conflict with each other and trying to help people solve their problems. While conflict can be incredibly destructive, conflict also creates the space for progress. By working through problems in a constructive way, we can build better, stronger relationships.

In middle school (a dark period for everyone as we struggle to determine who we are) I became a peer mediator to help my classmates work through problems they were having with each other. During my undergraduate studies, I took part in the Washington Semester program at American University where I studied peace and conflict resolution. We traveled to the former Yugoslavia to meet with a wide range of stakeholders, and I was inspired by the passion all of these individuals had for repairing their society. For eight years I taught U.S. history to middle school students and encouraged them to think about how people have used conflict (not only violent conflict) to try to advance their objectives — sometimes for good and sometimes not.

I began my graduate studies at the Fletcher School thinking that I wanted to focus on international development, but during my first semester I enrolled in a course on conflict resolution theory and quickly fell back in love. I spent the summer between the two years of my master’s degree working in Zanzibar with Search for Common Ground, and during my second year dedicated myself to a project working with Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews.

If someone asked me what I wanted to be doing at this point in my career, I would have written a job description nearly identical to the one for the program officer for strategic peacebuilding position at the IPJ. I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of an organization committed to working over the long-term with local partners by listening and responding to their needs.

Orth worked with Search for Common Ground in Zanzibar

Orth worked with Search for Common Ground in Zanzibar

Q: Who do you consider your professional mentors?

At the Fletcher School I had the good fortune of studying under and working alongside Professor Eileen Babbitt. Through her I learned a great deal about the practice of conflict resolution, and over the past two years she has shared with me her experience and been a great mentor and friend.

Q: What has been the most important experience you’ve had working in the field? What experience taught you the most?

I once went to meet with a local partner organization to discuss the work we were doing together. As we sat down, I started asking a lot of questions and listening. After a few minutes I realized that rather than working together as partners, our two organizations had been in a very unequal relationship with one side dictating terms to the other. By figuring out the strengths and weaknesses, needs and concerns of both our organizations, we were able to build a much healthier and more productive partnership.

Q: What aspects of your position as program officer are you most looking forward to?

All of them? I am excited to continue the incredible field work that the IPJ team has been committed to for many years, and I am looking forward to building on the many successes that we have already had working alongside our local partners. At the same time, the prospect of creating new relationships with new partners excites me. As someone dedicated to education, I am also anxious to work with the IPJ’s interns and the students of the Kroc School of Peace Studies. While I am certain that my knowledge and experiences can benefit them, I also know I will be inspired by them and learn a great deal from what they have seen and done.

Q: Is this your first time living on the West Coast? What will you miss about the East Coast?

I was born and grew up on the East Coast in Lancaster, Penn., and later lived in New York and Boston. For nearly 10 years I called New Orleans and the Gulf Coast my home. It was finally time to make it out here to the West Coast.

Without a doubt the thing I will miss most about the East Coast is being close to my family. My brother and his wife, who live in Maryland, just had their first child and for now I’ll have to be a Skype Uncle.

Besides that, as a former history teacher I’m partial to the history of the East Coast — Tea Parties, Liberty Bells and all that. While I know California has a rich history, of which I’m anxious to learn more, I feel more closely connected to the stories from back east. That being said, I became pretty enamored with the history of Louisiana after teaching it for five years, so maybe the tales of the Bear Republic will win me over after all.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or a favorite author or book? Do you have a motto that you live by?

My grandfather (who turned 90 last year) has always said that if someone were to die tomorrow, make sure there isn’t anything that you wish you would have said to them or done differently for them. In this era of constant distraction and divided attention, I think this is an important reminder to always try to be present in the moment, to give people your full attention, to listen to them, and, ultimately, to make sure they know they’re loved.

I love reading, so it’s very hard for me to pick out a favorite author, much less a single book to call my favorite. But one book that has been important to me throughout my life is The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. The book was always a personal favorite growing up, but I had no idea of its illustrious history until recently: a favorite of FDR and Gandhi, banned by Franco and burnt by Hitler, and accepted by Stalin as the only non-communist children’s book. Ferdinand’s willingness to be different, to do what he wants despite the norms and expectations of bovine society has always inspired me. I just gave a copy to my nephew when he was born last year and hope that he too will find inspiration in the story of a little bull.


Distinguished Lecture Series: Monica McWilliams on “From Peace Talks to Gender Justice”

Women make up less than 3 percent of signatories to peace agreements, so to be in the presence of both Monica McWilliams and Luz Mendez — two women who signed peace agreements in their respective countries — is remarkable. Never mind the addition of over 175 delegates representing 45 countries, all of whom  are experts, scholars and practitioners in women, peace and security. This was the scenario at the Peace & Justice Theatre at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) last night.

The Joan B. Kroc Distinguished Lecture Series was pleased to welcome Monica McWilliams to open the 2010 Women PeaceMakers Conference with a talk entitled, From Peace Talks to Gender Justice.”


In 1996, in the midst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Monica McWilliams brought an unlikely combination of women together across religious, class, sector and regional divides to form the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition party. Together these women were elected to a seat at the Multi-Party Peace Negotiations, which led to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in 1998.

After a jovial introduction by 2010 Joan B. Kroc Peace Scholar Paul Arthur, in which he noted the “frontiered misogyny” that McWilliams and the Women’s Coalition faced and honored their work humanizing the peace process, McWilliams took the stage. She began her talk by inviting the audience to walk with her through the last 40 years — through pictures.

As we all know, pictures say 1,000 words and McWilliams pictures were no exception. She shared images from as early as 1970 — a newspaper clipping showing the “army of women [who] broke barricade to bring aid” — and included snapshots of her alongside dignitaries such as Hillary Clinton and Nelson Mandela, an early Women’s Coalition brochure encouraging voters to “wave goodbye to dinosaurs,” and a more recent political cartoon depicting McWilliams, as human rights commissioner, admonishing her fellow commissioners that “This isn’t pick ‘n mix.”

As McWilliams traced her journey from “accidental activist” to “human rights activist” (with peace activist, feminist activist and party political activist along the way), one of her key messages was that peace is a process. In articulating this, she likened peace to domestic violence. Many people assume that a woman is safe as soon as she leaves an abusive relationship, when in fact that time is the most dangerous for a domestic violence survivor. Leaving the violence is an event but ensuring a woman’s safety is a process. Likewise, signing a peace agreement is an event but building peace is a process.

According to McWilliams, 12 years after signing the peace agreement Northern Ireland is in the process of building peace — the country is currently in the reconstruction phase, not yet having reached transformation.

From the early days of Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement through to today, women have been both central and front and center to the process. However, they have been largely written out of history. McWilliams used a photograph from a 1970s civil rights march — depicting eight women, arms linked, at the frontlines of the march — to illustrate this. These women are largely nameless faces in the struggle, whereas the men standing immediately behind them are widely recognized and often referred to as heroes. McWilliams stressed the importance of documenting women’s stories so their efforts are recognized and so that future generations understand the important role women have played and continue to play.

McWilliams argues that women are not new to the process, nor were they new when they formed the Women’s Coalition in 1996. She explained, “We’ve always been there – just politically homeless.”

There is no doubt that McWilliams, together with the Women’s Coalition, was instrumental in the lead up to peace talks and the eventual existence of an agreement. She explained to the audience that had women not been at the table, critical issues such as victim issues, trauma healing, integrated education, housing and health care would have been entirely absent from the agreement. These are the very same issues that women, with the support of some men, are struggling to address as they build peace.

During a meeting earlier in the day, McWilliams noted that she didn’t want other women to have to do go through what she and other women in the Women’s Coalition did — staying up all night for days on end struggling to find insights from other women who had participated in peace talks. Her lecture offered an excellent compilation of lessons learned, insights and best practices from every stage of conflict and post-conflict that will be ideally benefit women around the world and in the future.

At the end of McWilliams talk she was joined on stage by one of the few women she had been able to turn to for informed knowledge about participating in peace talks — Luz Mendez. Mendez, a 2004 IPJ Woman PeaceMaker, took part in the Guatemalan peace negotiations in 1996 and was the sole woman signatory to Guatemala’s agreement.

Despite coming from very different cultures and conflicts, McWilliams and Mendez shared remarkably similar challenges — among others, having to repeatedly confront the question, “What does peace have to do with gender?” They also both recognized the global women’s movement as having an instrumental impact. They went on to share comparable recommendations for how to ensure peace agreements include women’s aspirations.

An evening with McWilliams and Mendez set the tone for two days of exciting, inspiring discussions with remarkable women. McWilliams ended her talk by saying: “When women awake, mountains will move.”

Be sure to watch live webcasts of the public sessions here: http://sandiego.na4.acrobat.com/peace/

2010 Women PeaceMakers Conference “Precarious Progress: UN Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security”

The 2010 Women PeaceMakers Conference begins tomorrow!

“Precarious Progress: U.N. Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security” will examine where and how United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889 have had and can have impact. It is timed to inform and consolidate recommendations for the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and mark the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. For more information, visit the conference website.

If you can’t join us in person between Wednesday, September 29 and Friday, October 1 (list of public sessions here) be sure to WATCH LIVE! Six sessions will be available via webcast.

Follow the conference proceedings here and on Twitter (@KrocIPJ). We’ll be sharing updates from all the sessions!


Reaching Stable Peace

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Elections are one step in a long-term peace process. Two years ago, Jana Anadolan II set the foundation for this change. With a new leadership, what role will Nepali people play in the determining the future of the democratic transition of the nation? The IPJ and MSBK-Nepal (see below) roundtable “Reaching Stable Peace: Roundtable on Reconciliation” held in Pokhara encouraged participants to identify and articulate some of the key challenges still facing their respective sectors.

Fourteen representatives of three political parties, eight civil society organizations and five security sector bodies contributed to the two-hour dialogue on their concerns about the peace process and the challenges and issues for those they represent, namely socio-economic development, rule of law, impunity, ending corruption and accountability of elected officials.

With a vision for the long-term nature of peacebuilding, one political representative stated: “Although there may be many disturbances along the way that act as hurdles, the main concern is in the process of establishing a republic. The second challenge is the social economic disparity that the country is now facing; there isn’t a lot of work being done to empower the people economically. If this feudal system ends, in 10 years time, then this period is an opportunity, and it will be possible for the resources to be distributed to the citizens and the power will be disseminated to the people.” “The most important thing is to maintain law and order,” another expressed. Adding to the discussion on rule of law, one participant stated: “I want to raise an issue related to the security field, there is a great challenge in the integration of the Maoist army and the National Army; there is little consensus on how to integrate the forces.” In addition, “everyone is talking about a federal system, but as we the security personnel see, no one is talking about the framework of the security personnel in that system and how that will be addressed.” Restructuring of the existing forces and incorporation into the evolving government structures were key concerns raised during the discussion.

One of the threats to ending impunity is the politicization of the security sector and the silencing of the victims and their families. “There are weak sanctions. Sometimes we [state security personnel] bring in the culprits, only to have pressure of the political parties to release them. The new constitution will have to have strict laws so Nepal is a more secure place and it is easier for us to work.” “No one discusses the disappeared and the murdered,” shared a civil society representative. Another cited lack of criminal investigations as one of the challenges; “compensation may be given to the victim’s families in some cases, but the investigation is not done.” One advocate concluded, “the real conflict is over, but the consequences of conflict still remain, like the conflict victims. There needs to be more policies to give attention to the conflict victims” and reminded the group of the provision for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Interim Constitution.

“One of the most dangerous things in Nepal is corruption and bureaucracy and until that is changed, people will not feel peace.” While corruption is rampant throughout Nepal, in the political realm, the “administration and bureaucracy only serve the parties, and the people are still suffering. The parties’ only agenda has become the political agenda, but we must focus on human dignity to reach sustainable peace and development.” A political party representative noted, “in the drafting of the constitution, 26 seats were reserved for intellectuals. Those seats have been mis-used; the parties have divided the seats among themselves, trying to make themselves stronger, rather than focusing on the people’s needs. Thus, there are no independent candidates that are fighting for the people’s needs in the cabinet. In the very first stage of the drafting of the constitutions, [the major parties] are making it about getting power.” One method to curb corruption is increased accountability of the political parties to those that they represent. As voters, “we have influence on the elected member, but the question is whether those people elected will be ultimately by influenced by the people or the party? If the party influences more than the people, then it’s no use.” The fact that many members of the CA are new, and perhaps less experienced, was seen as a two-edged sword: they might be more susceptible to pressure to follow the party line, or they might be more open to listen to the people’s concerns if they were voiced clearly. “In spite of political connections, there are still people [in the CA] who represent castes and other areas.”

Another aspect of accountability raised was the decentralization of power. While there was a heated debate on the value and practicality of federalism, there was consensus that the people of Nepal “are expecting decentralization. They want skills training in decision making to be enhanced so that they can make their decisions for themselves.” Regardless of the divisions designed in the new constitution, one step is to “empower the existing system of the government such as the mayors, village development committees (VDCs) and district development committees (DDCs).” Despite the many challenges addressed during the roundtable, participants reaffirmed their commitment to work for peace and security in Nepal. They emphasized the importance of working across party lines, as well as among the diverse sectors represented in the room, to achieve their vision for sustainable peace.

Manabiya Srot Bikas Kendra Nepal (MSBK-Nepal) is an NGO working in Nepal with the vision of ideal society building with effective mechanism to bring up human potentialities. Its main objective is to enhance capacities of the grass root NGOs and communities for the empowerment of disadvantaged section of the society. Currently MSBK-Nepal is working in 10 districts of Western Development Region in the areas of education, good governance, peace building, youth leadership development, ICT and capacity building.

Joining Aker and Taylor in facilitating the dialogue was Upendra Malla Tara, member secretary / director of MSBK-Nepal, who has worked in the field of development since last eight year. Upendra has served in Western Development Region in areas of good governance, peace building, education development and capacity building in partnership with various reputed NGOs and INGOs. As a coordinator, he has worked for peace radio project in 10 communities from 5 districts of Western Development Region in partnership with IPJ. The project was focused on facilitating community discussions on radio episodes broadcasted by Equal Access Nepal for peace building process.

“Uniting for a Democratic Peace” – IPJ Nepal Project – May 19-31, 2008

As the puzzle pieces of Nepal’s fragile transition to peace continue to shift, the IPJ team will return to analyze and take advantage of current windows of opportunities to infuse justice and inclusive participation into local and national processes.

Aker and Taylor pose with rural participants in the Baglung district On April 10, two years after the major political parties and the people of Nepal boycotted the municipal elections ordered by King Gyanendra in Feb. 2006, citizens turned out in historic numbers to take democracy into their own hands – and take their opinions to the ballot box. Sixty percent of the 17.6 million registered voters (of a population of 27 million) have cast their vote – electing a peaceful political transition.

Dee Aker, Interim Executive Director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ), served as a short-term observer with The Carter Center’s international election observation mission in Nepal. The Carter Center advised: “the election in Nepal [is] a critical step for the consolidation of multi-party democracy…. The Government of Nepal, including the CPN-M [Community Party of Nepal- Maoists], have welcomed international delegations and have specifically extended an invitation to The Carter Center, together with other international and domestic observers. The Election Commission and other stakeholders have also welcomed this involvement.”

In global politics, however, the measure of democracy is too often reduced to the success on election day alone. The hard work and preparation that created the foundation for elections is often overlooked and, in the wake of polling, campaign promises remain frequently unfulfilled. As international and media attention fades after votes have been counted, the Nepali people are left to build a peaceful, democratic society, a task of Himalayan proportions following a decade of war waged by the CPN-M that took 13,000 lives.

Thus, the IPJ team of Aker and Laura Taylor, Senior Program Officer, will return in May to continue the next stage in the IPJ Nepal Project, “Uniting for a Democratic Peace.” Building on the previous seven years of partnership with Nepal, this series of workshops and consultations with the newly elected members of the constituent assembly will foster political leaders’ partnership with civil society – particularly women and youth – to manage expectations and prepare the population for inclusive public participation and responsive governance, two pillars of democracy.

For more information on the IPJ Nepal Project, visit: http://peace.sandiego.edu/programs/nepal.html