Archive for the ‘Conflict Resolution’ Category


Arcadia University Graduate Graduation Ceremony

After Two Years of Hard Work: M.A. International Peace and Conflict Resolution


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Director Teya Sepinuck skyping in from Northern Ireland

‘Theater of Witness: Beyond the Walls’ Documentary Screening and Discussion Panel

International Peace and Conflict Resolution, Arcadia University

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Water is Peace

MLK Jr. Day of Service: UN Water Rights Summit, Abington High School

If you have some free time today a great way to honor MLK, JR is to read some of his published work. One of the most profound things I’ve ever read is the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which discusses non-violent resistance in the face of blatant injustice. It is incredible and thought provoking. Here is a link to a PDF version: http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf

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I have completed my first year as a graduate student! I am attending Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania for my Master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, commonly referred to as IPCR. It has been a long year, well a long two academic semesters anyway. This past semester has been the busiest and most stressful I’ve encountered to date in all of my academic experience. But I made it through successfully!

I’ve tried to think of the ways in which graduate school is different from undergraduate. I have had some undergraduate classes that have been just a heavy in work or even more so than some of my graduate classes, so that is not what the difference it. I think the biggest difference is the amount of class discussions. In graduate school it is almost impossible to get away with not reading for class because everyone is expected to contribute to in-class discussions, sometimes lasting hours. I think once students reach this level of education that most want to do all the reading for class, but there are times it becomes extremely challenging due to the amount of reading assigned and time constraints. There simply are not enough hours in a day to spend an adequate amount of time on each class. Thus, one of the biggest lessons of graduate school is time management. Especially if you want to maintain any sort of personal life. However, the gain is worth the pain!

I want to highlight some of the great experiences I have had this past year:

International Day of Peace September 21, 2012

The IPCR department arranged a screening of the wonderful documentary I AM directed by Tom Shadyac with a discussion panel to celebrate the International Day of Peace. Commonly called, World Peace Day, was established in 1982 by the United Nations to encourage reflection on the everyday actions that people take in the effort to bring about world peace. I very much liked this documentary and strongly recommend it. Here is the trailer:

October – Field Study in Ireland/Northern Ireland

In mid-October I conducted a field study in Northern Ireland to learn about post-conflict reconciliation, an area in which all sides of this conflict need to improve upon. This trip was amazing. The island is stunningly beautiful. Northern Ireland, as I will discuss in a more detailed trip report in a later blog post, is still a very segregated society. The conflict runs deep throughout ever facet of society. Although the violence is significantly less than it was during the Troubles, it still remains- and is actually escalating again. In part, because post-conflict reconciliation has not been completely successful. I have since continued my studies of this conflict and increased my understanding quite a bit. I absolutely want to return to Northern Ireland.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

November – Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities Workshop

I will explain this more in detail in a follow-up post. The Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) program is a 3-day trauma counseling course designed for post-conflict reconciliation between perpetrators and victims who survived the Rwandan genocide. I attended a 3-day training course that walks through the process of this counseling session and how it works to heal rifts between people. This model of group trauma counseling can be used outside of the Rwandan genocide framework by altering some of the content to make it suitable for other cases of reconciliation. This was a great experience for professional development and counseling skill-building.

January – Field Study in Costa Rica

In January, 2013 I traveled to Costa Rica on a field study about sustainable development and indigenous rights within the country. Dams are quite controversial worldwide. On one hand hydroelectricity is positive, on the other hand large dams can alter the environment. In the Boruca region of Buenos Aires, Costa Rica the building of a dam has led to questions of indigenous human rights due to the displacement of tribes and inundation of indigenous land if the dam is built. During my stay in the country I visited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the United Nation’s University of Peace, the Boruca region, and various beaches and rainforest preserves. Costa Rica is an absolutely beautiful country. So far I have posted one other blog post on this trip, read here.

Atenas, Costa Rica

March 22, 2013 – George Mason University’s Graduate Student Research Conference

On March 22nd I presented a paper at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy Graduate Student Research Conference. The paper on nuclear energy and security was written for a class on international security that I took last fall semester. I had presented at two conferences as an undergraduate and this was my first as a graduate student. GMU’s Arlington campus is about a three and a half hour drive from my house so this was a pretty big deal for me. It worked out nicely that my sister and her family live nearby so I traveled the day before and stayed overnight at her house. Next time I travel to a conference it would be nice to encourage another classmate to present so we could coordinate our trip together.  There was some interesting research presented, most of it was thesis or doctoral research. My experience gave me inspiration for the current project I am working on with the Project for Nuclear Awareness, an organization that I now have a fellowship with due to the executive director hearing me speak about my research for this conference.

April 27, 2013 – International Peace and Conflict Resolution Professional Exchange

Every year students graduating from Arcadia University’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) M.A. program present their thesis projects. This year an IPCR Professional Exchange was coordinated with the presentations in order to encourage a dialogue between students, those graduating and first year IPCR students, and professionals in the field of conflict resolution. There were several discussion panels throughout the day including professors and practitioners representing the U.N. and several non-profits. Panelists were asked to discuss various topics from peace and conflict resolution to counseling and violence in the media. Several panelists spent time discussing their career paths including four people who work for the United Nations in various incredibly interesting capacities. The U.N. was overwhelmingly represented, while many other careers that IPCR students may want besides that of professors and in the non-profit world were not represented. Nevertheless, it was beneficial for professional development to hear about the various paths taken to reach the significant careers that some people had (such as working directly with the American ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, or coordinating humanitarian aid in Syria. One panelist was a local judge). I look forward to next year’s professional exchange. Mainly because I will be presenting my thesis.

Spring Semester – American Friends Service Committee Internship

This semester I took an NGO management class which contained the element of an internship with the international NGO (non-governmental organization, commonly referred to as non-profit) working to support social justice programs, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) which is headquartered in Philadelphia. This was such a great opportunity. I worked with two other IPCR students on a policy evaluation project that looked at the effects of sanctions in general but also specifically in 3 countries in which AFSC works that has sanctions imposed on them- Cuba, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. I was responsible for the Cuban case study. We researched a broad literature review of the effects of sanctions on states, civil societies, and NGOs. These same aspects were then researched for each case study. Our final report was close to 100 pages. Although the project wasn’t without complication, I am very happy with the final product. We presented our report to several people from AFSC, including their general secretary and other managers, on May 6, 2013.

Lindsey M. and Harmony T. at the IPCR/AFSC project presentations

IPCR Year 1 – Graduate Level Classes

  • Introduction to Peace & Conflict Resolution – (violent conflict escalation and de-escalation, conflict assessment, field study in Northern Ireland,  I wrote a paper on the Argentina/Chile Beagle Channel conflict and a paper on conflict assessment itself).
  • Foundations of Conflict Analysis – (qualitative and quantitative research, annotative bibliography).
  • International Health & Human Rights – (human rights legislation, public health, effects of war and violence, I wrote a research paper on water as a human right).
  • Sustainable Development & Indigenous Rights – (development and its effects on indigenous peoples throughout history and modern times, I presented on the Kuna of Panama, field study to Costa Rica and wrote conflict assessment about El Diquis dam conflict).
  • International Security – (theory of international security studies, I wrote a paper on nuclear energy and security which was presented at GMU’s Graduate Student Research Conference).
  • NGO Management – (NGO management, fundraising, advocacy, program evaluation, semester-long internship with AFSC, and completed several NGO program evaluation case studies).
  • Social Life of War: Political, Cultural, Identity Processes and Violent Conflict – (ethnography of war, black market/shadow economy, societal adaptations to war and survival, I presented on the militarization of Turkish society, I wrote an ethnographic content analysis about Russians portrayed as villains in American movies and how this represents current state politics).
  • Conflict Resolution in Deeply Divided Societies – (theories of conflict management and state building, ethnic conflict, theories of violent conflict, justice and post-conflict reconciliation, I wrote a research paper on social identity theory and the U.S. intervention into the N. Ireland conflict in the 1990’s).
  • Research Methods in Conflict Analysis & Peace Science – (applying both qualitative and/or quantitative research methods into research designs, initial thesis proposal method justification).

Going Forward:

This summer I am keeping very busy. I have a fellowship with the Project for Nuclear Awareness, an internship counseling domestic violence victims, and two summer classes online through Michigan State University towards a certificate in homeland security (I will take the third class to complete the certificate in the fall). I plan on taking 3 courses next fall at Arcadia, two mediation classes and one on environmental security. I will also begin my thesis research which is (at this point) on the concept of environmental security and climate change adaptation within the United States.

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This post was initially published on the Arcadia University’s Lessons from World Travel blog. I went to Costa Rica to study indigenous rights and sustainable development. Prior to my January 2013 field study in Costa Rica, I wrote a list of questions to answer once I got back with the hopes that my travels would have given me insight into my questions. Here is what I had to say:

In my initial post I posed several questions about the hydroelectric project, sustainable development, and indigenous culture prior to visiting Costa Rica. This post is my responses to those questions.

The El Diquís Hydroelectric Dam Project:

  1. What is the level of distrust between parties in the Boruca dam mediation process? Has distrust been a big factor in failed negotiations? What are the techniques used to alleviate this?


Among the indigenous tribes there is a general sentiment of distrust of ICE’s actions. The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) has been planning to build a dam within the Buenos Aires region for over 40 years. During this time the country’s human rights legislation has been discussed time and again. Because of ICE’s actions in the last decade of purchasing indigenous land from a non-Indian and beginning construction prior to any sort of tribal consultation or consent has led to a great rift between many tribal peoples and ICE. Many also blame the government for not ensuring their rights are protected. The Constitutional Court of Costa Rica has halted all construction and ordered ICE to fulfill its legal requirements and begin consultation with affected tribes right away. In order to alleviate the tensions caused by distrust both parties need to go into consultation with the desire to want to discuss and hear the other stakeholders side- opposed to only wanting to proclaim what their own position is. This is important, because in the world of negotiations opinions and positions can change.

  1. The negotiations have been going on for decades. How stable have the mediators been? Has the stability of the mediator(s) lead to improved negotiations or has it hindered them?

The Village of Boruca

The mediators have not been stable outside of the tribe. Several indigenous community organizations have appeared over the years and have made a stable presence fighting for the community’s rights. These organizations have learned the legal rights accorded to them by the Costa Rican government and also international UN declarations of indigenous rights that Costa Rica has signed. Using this knowledge they have been able to gain legal representation and were able to file a lawsuit against ICE which successfully halted construction. I think it was due to the instability of mediators in the past that tribal members have stepped up to form these community organizations which have been quite a positive thing for the tribes. Having knowledge and power over their representation has helped alleviate some of the feelings of helplessness against such a large company as ICE.

  1. Are there any new factors present that have not been discussed in the conflict assessments that I have read?

The conflict assessment I read prior to the trip left off several years ago. There has been many new developments since then. Most notably what I’ve previously discussed about the construction on indigenous land illegally sold to ICE by a non-Indian which was halted by Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court. Also, a big development is a report released by the U.N.’s Special Rapportuer on the rights of indigenous peoples. James Anaya traveled to Costa Rica in 2011 specifically to research the potential human rights violations that this hydroelectric dam project may present to several indigenous tribes in the Buenos Aires region in Southwestern Costa Rica. This international recognition is a big deal for the indigenous community. The Special Rappartuer sent the Costa Rican government a list of recommendations to act on right away which include ensuring that consultations between the tribes and ICE reach a ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ on whatever direction the project ultimately takes.

Indigenous Peoples:

  1. How have the indigenous people of Costa Rica preserved their native cultures? How do they balance their own identity of their tribe as well as being Costa Rican? How has globalization and/or tourism influenced their cultures?
Visitors Center in Boruca

Visitors Center in Boruca

I cannot speak for all 8 indigenous tribes in Costa Rica, but I can say what I’ve learned about how the Boruca and Térraba have preserved theirs. For starters, globalization and tourism have both affected them in both positive and negative ways. Negative because now more outsiders, or non-indigenous people, are moving onto their territory and the tribe has been struggling with the government to reclaim some of this territory. Also, now everyone speaks Spanish and almost all of the indigenous languages are becoming extinct. There are, however, attempts to save and record them. Some positive effects include jobs and money from making and selling crafts. In the village there is also a visitor’s center. While walking around the Borucan village I noticed through someone’s open door a big screen TV. The general public’s notions of what it means to be indigenous is probably not always accurate. Globalization has basically reached everywhere. As I’ve previously stated there has been an increase in community organizations since ICE proposed the dam, I think if cultural preservation was not on everyone’s mind in the past, it is now. Just recently journalism students from Elon University in North Carolina have helped the Teribe (Térraba) Indigenous Cultural Association publish a website (Terraba.org) with information about the tribe’s culture, medicinal herbs, and even video commentary of how the dam project would affect the tribe.


Sustainable Development:

  1. What lessons from Costa Rica regarding environmentalism and sustainable development can be learned? Are there any aspects that can be applied within the United States?

Costa Rica has set a big goal to become carbon neutral by 2021. This country is composed of numerous protected rainforests, wetlands, and beaches. Costa Rica can boast about being one of the most biodiverse nations on earth. The United States does not boast about promoting “green,” “sustainable,” or “renewable” energy and technology. We could definitely learn some lessons from Costa Rica. However, this is such a detailed question that I am honestly not prepared to answer. The El Diquís Hydroelectric Project is encouraged by the Costa Rican government for its renewable energy potential. However, as I have learned there are also quite serious effects to communities when they have to be uprooted for development. Sustainability involves more than just the environment. Sustainability involves us all. This, perhaps, is the greatest lesson learned in Costa Rica which I can bring home with me and apply in everyday life.

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