Local Conflict is Global Conflict and Global Conflict is Local Conflict

on Friday, 05 September 2014. Posted in General

Currently attending this exciting conference facilitated by the Edward Kennedy Institute in the beautiful settings of the NUI Maynooth. The conference is officially opened by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and special UN envoy on climate change. The theme of the conference is to establish best practice for finding creative responses to conflict through mediation and restorative practices.

Inter-Community Mediation and Social Innovation:

mediation confrence NUI Maynooth 2014

This extremely interesting workshop was ran by Thomas Dorg, a well respected mediator from Oslo, who has worked with gangs in the city and between groups in mosques, in churches, and conflict in asylum centres and he heads the Street Mediation Program for the Red cross. He has facilitated reconciliation processes in the Middle East for over 10 years. He teaches on several mediation courses including in Maynooth. The focus of the workshop is the interaction between global and local conflicts and how they challenge the future and how we may use social entrepreneurship to manage them.

 

Local Conflict is Global Conflict and Global Conflict is Local Conflict

Conflict has changed hugely in the last 25-30 years as global communities have changed. There is no longer a separation between local and global conflict as both interact heavily, without a defining barrier and sometimes without warning. Take for example the conflicts and disputes that occurred throughout the Middle East when the Muslim community was incensed and offended by cartoons which appeared in some newspapers in Norway and Denmark. The demonstrations were widespread, often violent and intense involving many Muslim population groups. The key change is that the offence and reaction were not localised or contained within the readership areas of the newspapers, one of which had only about 5000 readers. The reaction and counter reactions were almost global.

 

So what drives this change?

Well, essentially two things, first of all is that there has been huge societal change over the last 30 years and most countries, especially in the western world, now have very multi-cultured societies. Even countries which up until 30 years ago had seen little immigration now have significant, and I hope welcome, ethnic diversity. The second major change has come through connectivity and information exchange. If a single ethnic group is upset by an action in one country, it may not any longer be contained within that country as social media, and information exchange can share the story world-wide in real time, often causing inflammatory responses.

So in reality all conflict is both local and global, all small local conflicts have the capacity to cause a response in other parts of the globe and conflicts that once seemed to only occur in far-away places now cause conflict at home. A significant example of that is the rise in immigration and asylum seekers driven by conflict, often in African states, but they seek refuge and safe haven in other developed countries. So what? you might say, in reality the numbers are quite small, and they do certainly deserve safe haven, as they flee their home countries not by choice but by the lack of choice caused by violence.

The problem becomes local to us when the situation of asylum is poorly managed. The asylum seekers have to wait for extreme lengths of time, sometimes up to 10 years, for their application to be processed, often living in poor conditions, with little money and little apparent justice in the lands they choose to seek refuge in. This has been seen in many cases where there have been riots and conflict within the asylum centres.  On the other hand is a failure of integration into the society when application has been approved. There may be language barriers, there may be segregation issues through housing and opportunity, economic barriers. There will almost always be some degree of social integration problems. There may be prejudice and misinformation, or stereotyping. All of which leads to polarisation and in some cases radicalisation. Recently we have seen the Irish and British governments try to establish protocols for identifying and managing Irish and English citizens who go on to become part of radical groups in Syria for example.

 

What Is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is the process of establishing innovative solutions to social problems. These projects lead to a benefit for society as a whole, they aim to include the excluded and prevent segregation and polarisation. Often ran in a business like manner these projects have clear goals, budgets and funding forecasts, but the key to them is that they involve new thinking, new ways to effect social change for the better. There are many social entrepreneurship projects around Ireland, each a very worthy cause and worth finding out more about.

The key is to recognise that what might not be a problem today could lead to a problem tomorrow and to challenge the status quo, to move on from acceptable norms by realising that the norm may not be really acceptable at all and may not be a sustainable way to manage society.

What are your thoughts?

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