In July 2013, the MDP Program was awarded a grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Public Education for Peacebuilding Support (PEPS). The grant was made possible by a cost-sharing commitment from the Center for Latin American Studies, Center for African Studies, and the UF International Center. The objective of the grant was to enhance the understanding of international peacebuilding and conflict resolution concepts and strategies among UF graduate students, faculty and others interested in the theme via a seminar series and workshop organized through the MDP Practitioner Forum Series.
UF students and faculty from multiple departments carry out fieldwork with international communities at local, regional and national levels, many of which have been impacted by past or present conflict. Developing a basic understanding of the concepts and skills related to conflict resolution and peacebuilding is important to students in graduate programs linked to Centers like Latin American and African Studies. USIP grant activities were designed to generate a greater awareness of, and interest in, international conflict resolution and peacebuilding among students by providing examples and encouraging discussion of the theme.
Three seminar events, organized and facilitated by MDP Program Coordinator Cindy Tarter with support from LAS Faculty member Jonathan Dain, were held on September 26th, October 17th and November 4th. The four invited speakers, Eric Hubbard, Dr. Joseph Sebarenzi, Judy Anderson, and Virginia Searing are each actively engaged in international work connected to conflict and peace in regions of Africa and/or Latin America and they shared their experiences with nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations and, in the case of Joseph Sebarenzi, his own government in Rwanda. The diverse approaches and stories presented included experiences from Guatemala, DR Congo, Rwanda, Liberia, Angola and South Sudan.
Specific seminar topics included theoretical analyses of conflict work as “development”, advice for future practitioners working in areas impacted by conflict, the mental health needs common to post-conflict regions, the role of women in peacebuilding, and personal experiences of surviving conflict and genocide. An emergent theme throughout the series was the challenge and importance of forgiveness as an element of the post-conflict reconciliation process.
The final activity funded by the USIP grant was an integrative and experiential Peacebulding workshop held on November 15th for MDP Students. The workshop incorporated and built upon the themes from the three seminars while providing conceptual tools designed to grow peacebuilding and conflict resolution skills and knowledge.