Working Across Levels

Helen Chauncey

The Coexistence Initiative

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: With whom do you work? How do you go about doing that work? This is one of those goals that requires that you work at a number of different levels.

Let's take three in particular. The Coexistence Initiative is working with all three.

The first focus is on practitioners themselves, the people in conflict resolution organizations, human rights organizations, development agencies, organizations dedicated to justice and rule of law, and the practitioners in the field. That is one target audience and target set of partners.

A second target audience is policy makers for obvious reasons. Again getting back to the issue of conflict resolution, many conflicts into which people have invested a great deal by way of time and resources seem to almost get resolved and then they explode again. I said a few minutes ago that one of the reasons for that is the tendency of saying that "you need to park your identity at the door" and people pick it up as they walk back out again.

There is a second reason that has to do with the abuse of identity, or really the abuse of power by policy makers or by political leaders. It is central that this kind of work encourages these people to recognize the value of embracing diversity, rather than using diversity as a way of pitting people against one another.

Q: For example the first thing that comes to mind there would be Slobodan Milosevic, in the sense of manipulating historical myths to reign.

A: Yes. Excellent example. The practitioners need to be aware of this particularly when they are in the conflict resolution stream whether they are trying to prevent a conflict, address a conflict that is ongoing, or secure post-conflict reconstruction. Those people themselves need to have these values, ideas, the awareness of the toolkit, but so do the policy makers because they are the ones ultimately with the power. They can undo a great deal that has been done by the practitioners if they don't share the same values. The third community that needs to be addressed is effectively the real live world. We usually think of this as community level work or grassroots work. Here we are talking about dealing not with the practitioners of aid and development agencies that may have come in from the outside. We are talking about dealing directly with the people that "live there": community groups, indigenous organizations interested in conflict management and post-conflict reconstruction. The three levels that we are targeting are the practitioners, the policy makers, and grassroots level.