Finding my place in Peacebuilding

By: Óscar Cejudo Corbalán

“There are stages and sets of interrelated though very different skills that must be coordinated” – John Paul Lederach

The first memory I have of reading about peacebuilding brings me to a paragraph included in the article Civil Society and Reconciliation, by John Paul Lederach. Less than a year ago, I was assigned to read this piece for our Intro to Conflict Resolution course, and when reading this specific segment, it felt as if the author was talking directly to me.

It was my first semester studying my Master’s Degree in International Policy and Development, and my first theoretical approach to the field of Conflict Resolution (or Conflict Transformation, or Peace and Conflict Studies). Before that, I had completed my studies in Architecture to soon realize that my heart and my head were closer to the fight for Social Justice than it was to the noble and fascinating task of designing and building spaces. For this reason, I walked into a series of volunteering experiences that inevitably lead me to the desire (and need) to know more about the theories behind the practices. I came to study to Middlebury Institute, and I chose to focus on Conflict Resolution and Social Justice: because conflict is the ultimate expression our social struggles, and it is also a window to transformation.

In the article, Lederach proposes a beautiful and very clear metaphor (as usually happens with him) to explain what peacebuilding is. He suggests that peacebuilding could be understood as building a house. A house, he explains, “requires a vision, often contemplated early on in the architectural design, which provides an image and a direction.” However, (and I can testify to this) the initial design will be revised multiple times depending on many factors and specificities that will vary for each different project (terrain, structure, materials, plumbing, water evacuation, electrical engineering, air-conditioning and heating systems, fire protection system, etc.) Moreover, for all these different aspects there will usually be different professionals that will have to coordinate to produce such a complex and interrelated work.

What an elegant and efficient way to bridge my former career path with the one I am trying to get into! And beyond the anecdotic coincidence, what a great way to start understanding what peacebuilding means. In a world so immersed in conflict, Peace becomes an extraordinarily ambitious goal that can only be achieved by the cooperation of practically every component/discipline/system of our society. If we fail to take in to account all the aspects that shape our reality, we will probably fail. It was challenging and inspiring; and it reinforced my decision to start walking this path.

Despite (and probably because of) my limited experience in peacebuilding (that does not go beyond the receiving end of the academic setting), my interest and eager to know more has only increased since then. Summer Peacebuilding Program presents itself as a unique opportunity to keep learning and growing about such a complex field. I am excited to hear from scholars whose articles I have read for my Intro to Conflict Resolution course (such as the one from Lederach), and practitioners from organizations that I have been looking up to in the last year (since I entered this field). I am also eager to absorb as much as possible from the colleagues I will be sharing the experience with. I hope the sessions and activities raise a lot of questions, many answers, and even more questions from those answers that will keep pushing my curiosity for the field. Moreover, I hope to obtain a critical view of peacebuilding, to learn the reasons for skepticism and the potential (or actual) cons of the approach.

In essence, I would love for this experience to help me in the search for my path in the constantly expanding field of conflict resolution. I wrote at the beginning that I felt the author was talking directly to me, this was not (only) referring to the link Lederach establishes between my two realms of studies. When I decided to shift my career path, I was really skeptical on being able to actually contribute significantly to the field. Any discipline that works with/for society (the so called social sciences) has such a complex and ambiguous task in hands, and I had the feeling it might be late for me to step in the field since my foundation was a mix of technology and arts. However, Lederach text was inspiring, it was telling me that I (as anyone else coming from any other background that share the vision of peace) have a place in Peacebuilding, and I want to find my place.

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