‘The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat,’ said Dag Hammarskjöld in 1954. ‘The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.’ It was this sentiment that brought together participants from the farthest reaches of the globe, on June 7-17 in Uppsala, to continue pursuing peace and progress – for their own countries, and for the world.
In partnership with the Department for Peace and Conflict Research (DPCR) at Uppsala University, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation hosted 20 participants from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe for a 10-day training programme that included lectures, interactive sessions and field visits. Participants represented international and regional organisations, civil society and research institutions, working at diverse levels and with varying roles. The training sessions provided an opportunity to explore and interact on topics related to dialogue and mediation in the context of sustaining peace. Building on 45 years of peace and conflict research and education at Uppsala University, the course expanded upon Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation’s ongoing engagement in international policy discussions in the peacebuilding field.
Learning from each other, teaching each other
Maria Paulina Garcia, a participant from the UN Mission in Colombia, noted ‘the training helped me extract lessons-learned from other experiences and compare advantages of different approaches to peacebuilding. The course also helped me realise how I, as a Colombian, can teach other processes on what should be done, and what should not be done.‘
Over the 10 days, participants discussed, among other topics, international mediation, peace agreements, gender and peace operations, and truth commissions. With their diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, as a group participants were provided with invaluable opportunities to share, network and learn from each other in an open and respectful environment. Whether working to address the political conflict in Venezuela or building peace in a violence-affected area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, participants were heartened to find patterns and similarities in their experiences, and were struck by the universality of their issues. All sessions included participant-facilitated discussions, serving to bridge the course contents to their everyday work in practice.
Strengthening and enhancing UN’s peacebuilding work
To a large extent the programme built on the research of DPCR, while some sessions addressed UN policy related topics at the center of the Foundation’s work. In a session about the UN’s ongoing efforts to improve its work in sustaining peace, current policy processes were analysed. Participants reflected on what has taken place during the past year to reform the UN’s peace and security structures and and discussed what more is required to apply the new sustaining peace resolutions in different contexts and by different actors. Presentations were followed by an interactive discussion in which participants shared their perceptions from the national and community level about the UN’s work in sustaining peace.
A visit to Fryshuset provided an opportunity to more deeply explore the role of youth engagement in the peacebuilding process. Fryshuset, considered the largest youth centre in the world, reaches thousands of youths every year through a variety of initiatives, ranging from sports and cultural activities to projects countering violence and assisting young people in leaving violent extremist movements. The newly developed Pluralism and Dialogue Institute shared their views on the relevance of the UNSC Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, which focuses on the importance of engaging youth in peacebuilding efforts.
A soft rain fell on group as they took to the streets of historic Uppsala on a peace walk led by Peter Wallensteen, Senior Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at the DPCR. Guiding the group through the city, Professor Wallensteen paused at several important monuments to shine a spotlight on Sweden’s role in peacebuilding and conflict-prevention. Assembling around the Hammarskjöld family grave, participants were reminded of the important contribution Dag Hammarskjöld made to the United Nations, and his tireless dedication to civil service and global peacebuilding which the Foundation works to commemorate and carry forward.
Building a global alumni network
After many engaging lectures, fika breaks for coffee, and rewarding discussions, the 10-day course drew to an end. Participants returned to their countries enriched by exposure to new research findings and practical methods on dialogue and mediation and with connections to a new network of peacebuilding practitioners spanning across sectors and continents.
When asked how she would apply the learning from the training going forward, Victoria Carmona Bozo, from Venezuela, reflected: ‘the skills I have learned in this training are extremely useful in my daily work… I plan to build training programs in association with the university and with the national alliance of political parties to try to pass on some of the knowledge I have learned here, especially in finding agreements, in successful dialogue, and in non-violent resolution of the conflict in my country.’
The Department of Peace and Conflict Research and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation are now building up an alumni network, where these training participants will be connected to hundreds of other peacebuilders from previous international trainings of the Department.