Different teaching styles

The first thing I noticed during the first sessions we had, was how communication in the SPP worked, how much the students engaged in meaningful discussions, challenged not only the teacher but also themselves.

In Brazil, classes were more “formal”, in a way that the teacher-student relationship wasn’t always so dynamic, students would only ask questions when something the teacher explained was not clear. The information I have is based on my personal experiences, but I am sure that it reflects my country’s culture in a way, for I expressed this feeling to some of my colleagues and some of them said that this kind of class dynamics has not been around for long.

Second thing I noticed was that a lot of the questions and comments started with words such as I am passionate about, I feel, how do you feel, I really appreciate. Again, it is not something I am used to, so honestly it took me a while to adjust to this type of class, which I think that relates to emotional intelligence, not feeling comfortable talking about how something made me feel. The thing that stroke me the most was that all the speakers were very open to the questions and really tried to answer them in the best way possible.

Even though I am not used to sharing in the classroom or asking questions I really like this approach, and I wish that I had these type of dynamics in classes with my teachers back home. Sometimes you might have some piece of information that the other might not have, or have some interesting anecdote to tell that might actually change someone’s way of thinking not to mention that knowing how your teacher feels about something might help you relate to them.

Emotional Intelligence as a Peacebuilding tool

For some people, such as myself, one of the biggest difficulties can be how to develop your emotional intelligence and how to make it work in your favor. During Ms. Kathy Goodman’s session, we were able to understand better the different aspects and subcategories of emotional intelligence. The five main categories of emotional intelligence are self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision making and stress management. We went through every single one of the 15 subcategories and tried to apply them into peacebuilding, coming up with which characteristics and qualities would a person develop if she has these subcategories well developed or not and how helpful would they be.

For a self-reflection exercise, she asked us to think about those subcategories and come up with one we thought was well developed and one that needed some improvement. For me the one that I considered I had mastered was the impulsive control. I never considered myself as an impulsive person, it is very unlikely that I might say something without thinking properly about it, or take some action without thinking about the outcomes, and the one I thought I needed to work on was assertiveness, which involves communicating feelings. She asked the class to share, and then started reflecting that many of these subcategories are linked. Until this point, I had never realized that both could be related. I found the session extremely relevant for self-knowledge, most people find it extremely difficult to take a step back and reflect on themselves, and in my personal opinion it is extremely important to be able to realize the aspects within yourself that need improvement, and how we can actually apply them into peacebuilding, after all when you fully now yourself it is easier to help others.

CASP

 

casp

Last Wednesday we went to the CASP- The Community Alliance for Safety and Peace- meeting at Salinas, where organizations and local leaders from Salinas and Monterey County gather to try to diminish violence and built a better future.

On a working level, and I had the opportunity to observe three NGO’s engaging on dialogues during some meetings. At CONARE-National Committee for Refugees, there are three representatives of the Civil Society; these representatives are Cáritas Rio de Janeiro, Cáritas São Paulo and Institute of Migrations and Human Rights. The Committee has one meeting a month to discuss the refugee’s cases. It was always impossible for the NGO’s to agree on anything, and you could even sense some jealousy in the air. For example, when one of them did more interviews with solicitants or if the President of the Committee visited only one of them. Therefore, for me, it was amazing to be able to see that it is actually possible for the NGO’s to agree and cooperate with each other. Some of them would even advertise job positions, and hope that their colleagues would spread the word.

One of the members mentioned that one of the inceptives for the NGO’s to join the Community is that many of the sponsors require that they engage in these types of organizations. Even though the motive can be considered selfish, the organizations still manage to make it work, and they really seem to engage in it. I do believe that it would be somehow interesting to try to implement this system in Brazil, so local NGO’s and local reinforcement from cities with big slums could try to work with each other in order to build a better and safer environment for their habitants.

Part time Peacebuilder

peace builders

We had an interesting session with Dr. Iyer about who are the peacebuilders, and what characteristics they should have. Some of us came up with the question: Can you be a part time peacebuilder, or is it possible to combine two different lines of work? Of course, that if you are part of the problem it is most likely that you will not be part of the solution, but what about those people who want to make a change, but are still passionate about something else? Even the ones that put their families and their own financial stability first? This question really got me thinking.

There is a woman where I used to work who worked for a law firm during the week, and that was her main job, but on the weekends, she would go to the Institute in the slums to help refugees work on their resume. She would not only work with them on their resumes, but also engage in every activity and events the Institute organized and promoted, such as Christmas parties, participative diagnosis (where refugees can share the challenges they face when they come to Brazil) and different workshops during the weekends. Can’t she be called a peacebuilder just because she has different priorities now? After all, she is taking her weekend, her days off, that she could be spending with her family to help people and make a difference. Most of the refugees she helps would not be able to do this by themselves, not to mention her commitment to the Institute. With this simple act she might help a man put his kid in school because he got a decent job. Am I a better person just because I choose to work with refugees full time and she did not? In my opinion, being a peacebuilder is about how you feel towards the work you do and if you can effectively help others in need, and not the amount of time you devote to it.

Storytelling as a way of getting to know people

We had a lovely session with Susan about storytelling, and how the way you tell your story can influence the way people perceive you. Most of the times it is better to tell a story and let people figure your qualities out by themselves, instead of just telling them. The way I see it, the moment you start advertising and bragging about your qualities, they stop being qualities. In my opinion the best thing when you get to know someone is the mystery, how you need to ask questions so the person can open up, and how you slowly get to know them. Therefore, the storytelling session was very nice for me because we actually got to know a little bit more about each other, and what experiences have shaped us into who we are today. With that session, I was able to come up with a lot of good feelings and impressions about each person in our group.

During the storytelling session, and with the time all of us have spent together made me take a step back and take a look at my life, and think about my own story and how privileged my life has been so far. Thinking about it made me happy and sad at the same time, happy that I never really had to struggle for anything in my life, and that nothing traumatic has ever happened to me, but sad because in a way there was a lack of experience, and not a lot of risk taking. Sometimes I think we need to ask ourselves, if we want to continue with our safe life or actually take risks and choose to do something about the things we see and consider unfair and unjust, and actually do something about it.

Sustainable development

peace justice and strong institutions

We had a lecture with Dr. Ed Laurence about the impact of conflict + violent development. At some point, he asked us to divide ourselves into small groups of three and research about the highest homicide rates, GPI and fragile state data, and see if that matched the countries that were the least developed. In the end, we were able to see that the data did not really correlate with the list of the least developed country, which meant that sometimes a country might not have a good level of development but still have low homicide rates. My group was able to come up with five very interesting takeaways from this “research exercise’ based on our background:

  1. We were surprised India was 131 on the HDI;
  2. Surprised Brazil’s homicide was so high;
  3. Thought the homicide, GPI, fragile state data would be closer linked;
  4. Surprised there were so many countries who have failed to complete even one millennium goal;
  5. International community does not recognize the refugee crisis in terms of development.

Numbers two and five were very personal to me. Number two because of my nationality, I was very surprised to see that we actually have that many murders happening. On the other hand, I do believe it is probably because of where I come from, a privileged city where violence is not common, but still amazes me that even though we are moving towards development on a fairly high speed this kind of thing still happens more than it should.  Number five because of my work, after working for three years with refugees, with the refugee crisis happening in Syria, it really surprises me that people are still struggling to acknowledge that the refugee crisis is a barrier to development.

Coping with trauma

During the lecture about how to deal with trauma, I immediately started thinking about a work situation that happened a while ago. I was helping in this solicitants interview where the woman was from Uruguay and she had been in and out of mental institutions, but she claimed that there was nothing wrong with her, and that she was there against her will. Many times during the interview, she had cloudy memories and could not really connect her story properly, and had a hard time remembering how everything happened. The minute she walked out of the room my colleague and me were discussing all the things she had just told us and how we felt about it. In the end, we both agreed that she was lying about some of the things she told us because she could not make sense most of the times.

In that sense, I really appreciated the session with Dr. Shah, especially the part about the bio-psycho-social response to trauma. Because I was able to understand the different responses that people have towards trauma, like for example memory disruption. About how easy it is for someone who has been in a traumatic event to have confusion, sometimes inventing things that did not happen just to try to fill in the gaps in their minds, and that this is something they do unconsciously, so they cannot be accounted for. If I knew all of this five months ago when the situation took place I would have been able to help the woman in the way she deserved to be helped, and also realized that sometimes, if do not have the proper knowledge about trauma it is easier to jump into conclusions and just doubt the person right away.

Research Vs Experience

 

I believe that in a way it is quite known that African issues are often not debated in a worldwide matter, since sometimes, their problems are considered tribal issues, therefore to be dealt in an internal way. Which in my opinion in nothing but a mascaraed lack of interest hidden in arguments thought to be noble such as sovereignty and self-determination. An extremely relevant point, in my opinion, which cannot just be tossed aside, is the veiled racism that is predominant in western thought, which adds to why they would not want to help African countries with their recurrent problems. It is extremely important that Africa is inserted in the international agenda, in a way that their problems and civil wars are debated and actual solutions are proposed.

I believe that the problem with the Rwanda genocide, from an intervention point of view was that since it was an African country, with no political or economic interest from the other nations, a more reinforced and based on the chapter VII of the United Nations letter was immediately discarded. Especially because any repercussion that the genocide might have would be internal and would not directly affect any other country outside of the continent. A good example is that most of the refugees from the conflict went to neighboring countries such as Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania, involving mainly African countries, therefore not causing a major discomfort on western countries like happened with Syria.

I believe that in a world where the western countries, especially the United States, dictates the importance of global issues it is important that the United Nations, as an institution makes coherent decisions and are true to the principles and beliefs that it was built upon. When different actors informed the UN about what was happening in Rwanda, they should have taken some serious action, regardless of past experiences and location. In that way I am a strong believer that one of the biggest lessons we can learn from what has happened in Rwanda is that intervention is not a good substitute for prevention.

I am extremely grateful that we had a chance to meet someone who had actually been in Rwanda at the time of the conflict, and that is so knowledgeable about the country and its history. I did research about the conflict for a year and a half, but it is very different when you read about it and when you actually experience it. There were still a lot of things that I did not know about it, and it was very interesting to be able to hear about the conflict from a different perspective.

 

 

First Experiences with Peacebuilding

In my fifth semester of International Relations, in 2014, I started working at CONARE-National Committee for Refugees. Initially, I have to admit that I was amazed that I was going to look at the cases, like books with thrilling contents. When I started to work with the cases and seeing the refugees, the thrilling stopped, and they stopped being stories in papers to become real people with real problems. Back at CONARE, my duties were to do simultaneous translation, during the solicitants interviews, research information about the country of origin, and deal with family meeting when refugees wanted to bring their families to Brazil.

When you hear about things happening in Africa or in any other conflict zone, you only listen what the news want you to know. Working at CONARE and interviewing refugees made me realize that there is so much more to conflicts than we know about, we never really know the repercussions of the problems and its impacts in people’s lives.

One day I was assigned to translate an interview. The interview is the most important part of the refugee procedure, it is important that the solicitant speaks only the truth, because it is based on the information he gives that the Committee will decide rather he fits into the five categories of refuge or not. After the interview the official will assign the case to an intern, so that he can research the situation in the country of origin to make sure it matches the story told by the solicitant. The solicitant was a former nun from Congo. Congo has been living a situation of conflict for a long time, which ended up causing political instability, religious intolerance, and extreme violence towards not only men, but also women and kids. Her case was that the government in power was not in favor of her religious beliefs, so one day they sent officials to her house to abuse her. The result of that was that she no longer wanted to be a nun, and she did not feel safe in her own house, or country.

I can say for sure, that from all the interviews that I participated on this was the one that touched me the most. It is one thing when you do the research and learn about the atrocities that the government and their officials are doing, but until that moment, they are just stories and they are only on one side of the computer. When you actually get a chance to have someone report to you everything that has been done to them, the effects in their lives and how they manage to overcome it, you can start to understand what a conflict zone actually is and its ramifications. I believe the greatest reward in this area is to know that your work has a major impact in someone’s life, that because of you this person will be able to live in a country where she is not afraid of living in her own house or speaking about what she believes in.

The points exposed above were what ended up leading me to my final research paper’s theme. I chose to write about the Rwandan Genocide and the Inaction of the International society. It seemed very weird to me that an event this size was uncountable for in the international media. How could that many people die and nobody do anything to prevent or stop it? After a year of research, I was able to realize, that just like in other countries, things are not always black and white, and there are many factors, and politics to be dealt with.

One of the biggest critiques on the Course of International Relations is the fact that it is too broad, at the same time that you learn several subjects; you do not deepen yourself in them. I love the course that I chose, and I would not have chosen it differently, but unfortunately, the critique makes sense. During the years of graduation, we have the opportunity to learn a little bit of different areas of knowledge. This course gives us the chance to deal with different situations and areas. After graduating, comes the time to choose the field that we want to work, I had the luck to know which area I want to be working on way before graduation, which gave me the opportunity to go after my goals. I believe that after coming from such a broad course, now is the time to actually get technical and grow, academically speaking. I believe that with the SPP I will be able to contribute in a much more specialized way to the peacebuilding field, not only to the problems that Brazil faces, but also many other countries facing similar situations. And also grow in a personal way.

 

 

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