Governance, conflict analysis and resolution conference to be held here

Guyana Chronicle
December 21, 2003

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AN INTERNATIONAL conference on ‘Governance, Conflict Analysis and Conflict Resolution’ is slated for early in the new year and will involve the University of Guyana (UG) and Clark Atlanta University (CAU) out of Atlanta, Georgia in the USA among other regional and extra-regional tertiary institutions.

The three-day caucus, billed for February 4 – 6 at Le Meridien Pegasus, is to be preceded by two key events, one of which is a one-day consultation, slated for Friday, January 9, with local organisations and institutions, to explore how to best utilise the window of opportunities the proposed conference is expected to create.

Themed ‘Post Conference Opportunities’, the one-day meet is said to be “open to institutions, organisations and individuals with an interest in building a new culture of dealing with conflict and tensions.” It is aimed at, among other things, identifying themes that would need specific highlighting before, during and after the conference, and organising post-conference workshops in the hope of bringing together local and international “role-players” around issues of conflict and development in Guyana, with a view to strengthen and sustain capacity to respond appropriately to these challenges.

The other key occurrence is a one-day workshop on Wednesday, January 14, titled ‘Peace Education Synergy: A step Towards Greater Coordination and Collaboration’. This workshop targets all organisations, institutions and individuals currently involved, or planning to become involved, in peace education or conflict resolution projects in Guyana, says a notice from the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) local office.

Both these events are to be held at the DemLife Commercial Building above BWIA’s Head Office on lower Robb Street, and to be facilitated by the UN (United Nations)-led Strengthening Democracy and Social Cohesion Project (SDSCP).

According to a release from Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Mark Kirton, the purpose of the conference is “to enhance the efforts of the academic community, civil society groups, the government and opposition political parties to address issues relating to conflict management and conflict resolution in the Caribbean region.”

It proposes to “bring together representatives from the academic community in the Caribbean and their counterparts from outside of the region to exchange views on the concepts, origins, causes and levels of conflicts, and the approaches to their management and resolution,” as well as examine cases of conflicts in different settings and contexts in the region and beyond.

In particular, the release says, “participants will exchange views regarding conflicts in multi-ethnic and culturally heterogeneous societies,” in addition to paying special attention to issues that should be taken into account in the development of more inclusive and effective forms of participatory governance.

Other regional tertiary institutions to be involved in this process are the University of the West Indies (UWI) which encompasses the campuses of St Augustine, Cave Hill and Mona in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica respectively, and the Anton de Kom University in neighbouring Suriname, both of which UG has traditional ties with.

Wayne State ‘U’ out of Michigan, in the USA, with which UG also has a longstanding relationship, is also expected to have a presence at the conference.

Kirton, in his capacity as Project Coordinator of a USAID-funded three-year study on ‘Democratisation and Conflict Resolution in Guyana’, says in the release that “UG will present the findings garnered from faculty research; the teaching of the course in ‘Conflict Analysis’ and ‘Conflict Resolution’; the experiences derived from the workshops on conflict resolution; and the High School pilot programme.”

Clark Atlanta’s contributions, he says, will come from staffers currently engaged in research into either conflict situations that have resulted in warfare, or peace, security, democracy and development in the post-conflict conditions in Africa and South Asia.

He said, too, that the caucus will comprise an opening plenary and a series of six to seven sequential panels, and will examine case studies that illustrate different types of conflicts and their varying impact on economic development, the different modalities or practices used in managing and resolving them; the sustainability of peaceful initiatives and the extent to which aspects of these conflicts relate to the Guyana experience.

The first two or three panels, he said, will be devoted to conflict management and resolution experiences in the Caribbean, with specific emphasis on Guyana and the two other multi-ethnic countries in the ‘Southern Cone’, as well as Belize, whose experiences with addressing multi-cultural issues are different and more successful.

One or two, he said, will focus on “conflicts that have reached a high level of intensity, such as those in Fiji, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Mauritius, Liberia, and the Great Lake Region.”

It concludes with a plenary session in which the current body of knowledge and new paradigms that may have been explored will be reviewed, and additional proposals that may result in conflict resolution canvassed.

A press statement from Project Director into the study on ‘Democratisation and Conflict Resolution in Guyana’, Guyanese Dr Cedric Grant, says the whole purpose of the three-year exercise is “to strengthen the process of democratisation and conflict resolution in Guyana and, in particular, strengthen the capacity of the University of Guyana to function as an active and effective agent in this arena.”

He said that the study is as a result of a partnership established in May 2001 between UG and Clark Atlanta, and that the proposed conference is one of its programme activities.

It is being funded by a multiplicity of donor organisations including CIDA (the Canadian International Development Agency) local office; CDB (the Caribbean Development Bank); UNDP local office; and DFID (the Department For International Development) regional office in Barbados.

Dr Grant, a former Ambassador under the People’s National Congress (PNC) regime, is currently Professor of International Affairs at Clark Atlanta University.