Gender and Conflict

John McDonald

Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy

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 ???).

My last story is about caucuses, about Georgia. This is a different kind of a peace building process, but it relates. Things can grow out of this. I was invited to a place in Georgia a few years ago to make a speech at the first meeting of the Georgian American Business Association, so this is our Track III, business is getting interested in what we were doing.

The first day of the two day conference was opened by Mr. Shabeinatsi???, the president of Georgia, and the first day was taken up talking about the great pipe line project that had just been signed as a treaty, talking oil from the Caspian to Azerbaijan through Georgia, through Turkey, and exiting in the Eastern Mediterranean sea in Turkey, bypassing the Black Sea, bypassing the Darnels???, the ???, bypassing Russia. It had taken years to negotiate this treaty and it was finally agreed. There were 250 business people there and oil people and they were talking about investments. I was the first speaker the second day. I had never heard conflict mentioned the first day, and this pipe line is going through some pretty conflicted areas, ??? is nearby and ??? and ??? and the Kurdish situation, ect. No body talked about that, no body mentioned people either, so I thought these guys are sort of at a different level then these guys. I am in the real world, and I don't know where they are.

The thrust of my remarks were that you cannot today build a pipe line, this is a four billion dollar project, and guard it militarily and I said it is not possible to do that. All you have to do is look at Southern Nigeria, look at Columbia, look at Sudan they get blown up; you don't want that to happen. What you have to do is to bring the people along the path of the pipe line into the process. You have to help them with jobs, education, with a better standard of living and they will protect the pipe line for you for their own self interest, because they know that is the source of their better life. Did you know that was a revolutionary idea? They said it had not been thought about. They are high tech, and we are low tech, we are people tech.

Five months ago, just to give you an example of why I can contend that the oil industry doesn't get it. In Southern Nigeria, over night, without telling their husbands, or village elders, 2,000 women gathered together from dozens of areas from poor areas devastated by extraction of oil and gas, gathered around a pumping station and shut it down, and sat, just sat, non violently. A week went by, the military were not going to shoot 2,000 women, so there was no violence at all. During the second week, nothing happened. At the end of the third week, this American corporation had lost 450 million dollars from that closed pumping station. The president of the corporation flew out from the United States, sat down with the women and asked them what they wanted and gave them everything they wanted. They wanted clean water and they wanted clean air, schools, a road; they wanted basic human needs, which they had been denied for decades. That happened five months ago, my speech was two years ago.

I then met with various officials and after a year they got it, they even came up with an acronym, and the vice president said it was CBM, Community Based Maintenance. I said you got it. Bring the community in there and they will help protect you and maintain it. I gave other examples of what I had done in other parts of the world. They hired a team a year ago to go along the path of the pipeline to look at the social impact of their project. They didn't carry it far enough into conflict resolution, which I wanted them to do, that's essential; but they got the social impact part and now we are trying to raise money from the World Bank and the IFC who is putting 700 million dollars into that pipeline.

I have been there telling them that I want to protect their investment, because there is going to be conflict within in the villages, between villages, and certainly within the Kurdish area in Turkey. That is a different aspect of peace building, trying to prevent conflict by thinking of the role that the business can play constructively to prevent conflict like it happened in Southern Nigeria.

The newest idea I have for another project is water and peace. I believe that water and conflict are happening everyday now but it can become violent, and I want to build water and peace process together. In fact I am co-chairing a meeting at Columbia University in December called Water and Peace. In my diplomatic career, among other things, I launched the first UN decade on drinking water and sanitation. I worked for a year and half on that idea and it was adopted by the General Assembly November 10, 1980. We had 80 ministers of development and a three day special session of the General Assembly gathered to speak about that issue ??? on the first of January 1981. By the end of the decade, 1.1 billion had gotten fresh water for the first time in their lives and 760 million people had sanitation for the first time in their lives. That is a pretty successful success rate, but then it dropped off because the decade ended and the government lost interest.

Then there was a conference in 2000 that set a goal for 2015 for reducing by half the people who didn't have safe water. In Johannesburg in September of last year this was picked up and added sanitation so the two goals of the first decade are now incorporated in two major world conferences in 2015. I am trying to now launch a second ??? water decade to achieve those goals. That is what George is working on and I am getting a lot of support for that across the world. I want the General Assembly to launch that new idea to meet the goats set in Johannesburg sometime this November. We'll see what happens.