In a conversation only made possible through the advanced in VoIP, I talked with Prof. Kevin Clements, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director, The Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies last week on peace and conflict dynamics in Sri Lanka. I first met Kevin at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, when he was, at the time, frantically setting up ACPACS. Kevin’s experience in peacebuilding and mediation around the world is as wide as it is deep, though you would never guess it by speaking to him in person.
Kevin didn’t have a pair of headphones with him, which mars the sound quality of the recording somewhat, but the fact that we were able to speak, for free, despite being thousands of miles away from each other, is a measure of technological developments that have to a large extent erased traditional geographic boundaries.
In our hour long discussion, we talked about a number of issues related to terrorism, violence, peacebuilding and conflict transformation in the contemporary world. Even though the call quality was somewhat poor and Kevin didn’t have a pair of headphones with him, the interview was extremely interesting and will be the first in a series of interviews with some of the world’s leading peacebuilders and mediators that this blog will feature in the future.
Towards the end of the show, I asked him about the uses of technology in peacebuilding. Kevin’s responses were interesting, in that they echoed some of the issues and thoughts I’ve explored earlier in this blog.
Kevin spoke of a “network of effective action” that can be engendered through technology. Using technology, he said, local and international networks in support of peace could be envisioned and constructed in ways that would not have otherwise been possible. He also spoke about a community of solidarity that could be built using technology – an international support network of those resident outside of Sri Lanka supporting the peace activism of those within the country. Support networks of peacebuilders and those interested in a negotiated settlement could, he opined, be very useful for local peace processes and those involved in it. Importantly, he said that technology afforded those involved in a peace process to use new and innovative ways to get their voice heard in international fora. The problem with protracted peace processes, he said time and again, was that they failed to sustain the time-bound interest of the international community. Technologies such as Skypecasts, he mentioned in particular, could help those involved in peacebuilding within and outside the country exchange ideas with each other and other parties on a regular basis.
Coming from a seasoned mediator and peacebuilder, these ideas validate the raison d’etre of this blog – that ICT in peacebuilding and conflict transformation is going to play an ever increasing role in the years to come.
The full interview with Kevin can be found on Voices of Reconciliation Internet Radio here.