How does globalization affect natural resource issues such as water on local, national, and international levels? Can our common dependence on these stressed resources be a force for bringing people together rather than dividing us? What lessons can we learn from sharing insights from communities at these very different levels of organization?
In January 2010, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Fetzer Institute invited 22 scholars and practitioners to a two-day seminar to discuss these questions and the deep connection between caring for the environment and caring for community. Pathways to Peace: Defining Community in the Age of Globalization was the second seminar in a three-year initiative to combine scholarship, public policy, and local practice to articulate and support global conflict transformation and reconciliation in communities throughout the world. Examining the effect of environmental peacebuilding on communities, the discussion explored how governments, NGOs, the private sector, and other interested parties can generate positive outcomes while minimizing negative ones. This report draws from the rich dialogue of the seminar and seminar papers to share the broad range of experience and the insight of the participants.
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Pathways to Peace
Participants from Canada, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Israel, Kenya, Nepal, Switzerland, the Philippines, and the United States brought to the table a wide range of experience and expertise from diverse fields, including peacebuilding, community building, health care, economic development, conflict resolution, and foundation management. By convening leaders in environmental peacebuilding and community building, the Wilson Center and the Fetzer Institute drew on a wide range of experience and perspectives related to environment, conflict, and peacebuilding practice and research. The group used water access and peacebuilding case studies as a means to enter into dialogue about the challenges of global community engagement.
In preparation for the seminar, geographer and renowned water expert Aaron Wolf of Oregon State University contributed a paper, The Enlightenment Rift and Peacebuilding: Rationality, Spirituality, and Shared Waters, in which he laid out the complicated, sometimes conflictual, and often surprisingly collaborative aspects of negotiations over water resources. For Wolf, given waters life-sustaining quality but limited quantity, it seems intuitive that water should be the most conflictive of resources. However, he maintains that while press reports of international waters often focus on conflict, what has been more encouraging is that, throughout the world, water also induces cooperation, even in particularly hostile basins, and even as disputes rage over other issues…there is a long, and in many ways deeper, history of water-related cooperation.
On this foundation, Wolf illustrates four stages of water conflict: from adversarial, to reflective, to integrative, to action. Lessons from the spiritual understanding of water conflict transformation he says, offer not only new understanding of current disputes, but also models, tools, and strategies for more effective water conflict management and transformation.
Seminar participants used Wolfs paper as a starting point from which to write short papers based on their own expertise and experience. From Kenya to Nepal to Harlem, participants shared their perspectives on the challenges and promises of environmental issues, community building and organizing, and peacebuilding.
This report, Our Shared Future: Environmental Pathways to Peace, draws from the rich dialogue of the seminar and seminar papers to share the broad range of experience and the insight of the participants. To learn more about these remarkable programs and the people working on natural resources, peacebuilding, and community development, see the complete list of papers on page 120, which can be downloaded from the Wilson Center.