23 May, New Haven, Connecticut — Nearly thirty delegates and UN staff convened to attend the UNITAR/Yale seminar “Strategies for Healing and Recovery in Post Conflict Countries.” The event was held at Yale University, and was jointly-sponsored by UNITAR New York Office and Yale Divinity School.
In the opening remarks, Dr. Harold Attridge, Dean of the Yale Divinity School, welcomed the collaboration between UNITAR and Yale. Noting the number of participants who came from New York, Dr. Attridge spoke of the timeliness and practicality of the seminar. He spoke of the history of Yale Divinity School and its connection to the UN’s work and ideals, especially in peace and reconciliation.
Session I, titled “Challenges for Healing and Rebuilding in post-conflict countries,” was moderated by Ambassador Dr. Sallama Shaker, Visiting Professor of Middle East & Islamic Studies. Quoting Nelson Mandela, she said that “forgiveness liberates the soul.” Dr. David Simon, Professor of post-conflict studies at Yale University’s Department of Political Science, said that because war transforms the people and societies involved, “peace, therefore, cannot be a reconstruction of the way the state was” before the violence. Murray McCullough, Defense Sector Reform at the Department of Peacekeeping Operation (DPKO), noted the importance of “practicalities” and commented on the transformative nature of war, adding that peacebuilding is similarly transformative to societies in need of healing.
In the second session, “Consolidating peace in transition environments,” Dr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the UN, discussed the difference between the state in “transition” and the reality that multiple transitions take place at any time. Dr. Samuel Doe, Policy Adviser and Team Leader, Policy & Planning Division, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), discussed the difficulties in institution-building. “The tension is whether we create institutions, or facilitate the strengthening of the institutions already existing.”
In the “Multidimensional recovery” session, Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Streets of Yeshiva University described the three main steps toward societal healing: altruism, work, and spiritualism. Dr. Jan Hagens, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Faith and Culture, discussed the worth of utilizing holistic strategies for overcoming tragedy: symbolic action, ritual, and public participation.
Session IV, “Lessons from other fragile states: Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Timor-Leste” was moderated by Yvonne Lodico, Head, UNITAR New York Office and former special advisor in Timor-Leste, who also discussed the relevance of UN resolution 1325. Mike McGovern, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale University, noted the necessity in any situation to pay attention to “the micropolitical and microsocial nuances of each culture.” Healing takes place not just at the Truth Commission, but when people are gathered for job training. Dr. Abraham Joseph, former senior economic advisor on the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, and advisor to the Government of Timor-Leste on development, noted the thematic lessons to be learned from Timor-Leste’s progress, leadership and national ownership. Dean Attridge closed the seminar with a prayer for healing in post-conflict countries.