What if they invited delegates from around the world to attend a conference -- and didn't hand out an agenda?
That's what Padraig O'Malley, professor of peace and reconciliation at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, is doing this week. He is bringing together leaders from several of the most bitterly divided cities around the world -- Kirkuk, Iraq; Mitrovica in Serbia and Mitrovica in Kosovo; Belfast and Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland; and Nicosia, Cyprus. Those are cities literally split down the middle by dividing lines and security walls.
O'Malley, who has participated in innovative reconciliation efforts in South Africa, Ireland and Iraq, says his experience has taught him that it's best to let the parties themselves share ideas and figure out how to attack their problems because no one can do it for them.
“If they say, ‘Where’s the agenda?,’ my response will be ‘There is no agenda, because this conference is yours,” O’Malley says in announcing the conference. “And you, as people from divided cities, have a far better idea of what you should be talking about to each other, than I do. This conference is yours, not ours. We are here to serve you, not to impose on you.”
Among the co-sponsors is the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University, which also has an impressive record of high-profile conflict mediation.
Most of the conference sessions, taking place on the UMass-Boston campus from Tuesday through Thursday, are closed to the public. But a final forum on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at UMass-Boston is open to the public. For details see the McCormack school web site.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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