Today provided us with opportunities to further analyse the effectiveness of peace building, specifically with regards to reconciliation, as well as the rare chance to delve into the intricacies of interpretation (as opposed to translation).

During Elizabeth Cole’s session we learnt about reconciliation as the final stage of peace building. While this may be seen as the final stage, it is often the most elusive. She pointed this out by highlighting that a country recently out of a civil war, has a 50% chance of relapsing to violence in the first 5 years of post-conflict. This helps distinguish between negative peace (absence of high-level violence) and positive peace (sustainable peace). A country or community which has undergone a genuine reconciliation process and other forms of peace building, would be classified in the positive peace stage. Conversely, a country where high-level violence has just recently ceased to exist, it would be described as negative peace. I found the session really interesting in discussing how frequent the relationship between funding and reconciliation process. Resources are always limited, as is time, and these processes can often require a large quantity of both. We also examined the different dimensions of reconciliation during our morning session:

  • Truth
  • Justice: retributive (trials), restorative
  • Reparations
  • Apologies
  • Foregivness/Repentance
  • Acknowledgment
  • Ceremonies
  • Exhumations – related to truth/social
  • Commemoration
  • Guarantee of Non-Repetition

I thought the discussion of commemorations and memorials was really interesting, particularly pertaining to how to balance the past and the future in how conflict is visually represented. I remember visiting the killing fields in Cambodia, and being upset that the “memorial” to the victims of the genocide was a glass tower displaying 9,000 skulls. Reflecting, I think what I struggled with most about the memorial was that the focus was on the past and conflict, and not on looking towards what the future could look like. This relates to a question raised today about how does a community avoid developing a victim identity? Having said that, the memorial was a very powerful way of reminding future generations of the horrors committed – and in a similar way to memorials which include lists of names, this one (in a crude way) gave some sense of the magnitude of the violence.

Some of the rules that I learnt from the interpretation session were:

  • Interpreters always speak in the 1st person
  • Need to be perceived as neutral
  • Cultural and Confidential context are critical
  • The speaker and interpreter should work as a partnership, to ensure a smooth working relationship