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Construct peace: training on dialogue and mediation

Ours is the work of reconciliation and realistic construction.’ Dag Hammarskjöld said in accepting his election as Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1953. Today the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation works with many who seek to live out this legacy in small and large ways: working on reconciliation, realistically constructing peace and supporting development around the world.

In June, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, in partnership with the Department for Peace and Conflict Research (DPCR) at Uppsala University, hosted 26 peacebuilders from around the world for a 10-day training programme in dialogue and mediation. Participants represented international and regional organisations, civil society and research institutions, working at diverse levels and with varying roles in countries across the Americas, Africa, Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe. The training sessions provided an opportunity to explore and interact on topics related to dialogue and mediation in the context of sustaining peace.

Learning from each other

Within the overall theme of dialogue and mediation, participants explored topics such as international efforts in peace agreements, inclusive national and local peace processes and women mediation networks. Components involving practical exercises and skills-building helped participants to translate the theoretical knowledge to their own contexts and everyday work. With their diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, 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 culture of violence in Mexico or building peace in a conflict-affected areas of South Sudan, participants strongly valued the chance to compare and analyse patterns and similarities in their experiences. All sessions included participant-facilitated discussions, serving to bridge the course contents with their work in practice.

Strengthening and enhancing UN’s peacebuilding work

The training programme built, to a large extent, on the research of DPCR, while some sessions addressed UN policy related topics at the centre 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 discussed what more is required to apply the new sustaining peace resolutions in different contexts and by different actors.

The Foundation’s emphasis on inclusive peacebuilding also informed the contents of the programme through a session on inclusivity with a particular focus on the role of youth engagement. The more theoretical discussion on Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security was followed by a study visit to Fryshuset, considered the largest youth centre in the world, and its Pluralism and Dialogue Institute. Staff from the centre shared experience from a variety of initiatives, ranging from sports and cultural activities to projects countering violence and assisting young people in leaving violent extremist movements – thereby exemplifying the relevance of the resolution in the Swedish context.

The group was also familiarised with Sweden’s role in peacebuilding and conflict-prevention during a peace walk through Uppsala led by Peter Wallensteen, Senior Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at the DPCR. 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 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 and participants returned to their countries enriched by exposure to new research findings and practical methods on dialogue and mediation, as well as connections to a new network of peacebuilding practitioners spanning across sectors and continents.

DPCR and the Foundation have established an alumni network, where training participants who have completed the course have an opportunity to formally stay connected and to link up with hundreds of other peacebuilders from previous international trainings of the Department. A first alumni seminar engaging former participants from Latin America was held in Bogotá in January, and events in other regions are in the pipeline.