In the midst of a deadly pandemic, climate crisis, and other threats, how do we rethink peacebuilding? Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, visited SIPA virtually last week to discuss the future of conflict resolution in a changing global landscape.
Ambassador Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a former undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations at the United Nations, joined the ICRC president in conversation at the October 1 event “New Threats, Old Thinking: Is Conflict Resolution Due for a Makeover?” SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow delivered opening remarks, as did Muhtar Kent, the former Coca-Cola Company chairman and CEO who in 2019 helped launch the Kent Global Leadership Program on Conflict Resolution at SIPA.
The conversation focused on how the Red Cross navigates conflict resolution in an increasingly fragmented and polarized world. One of the most striking changes in the last several years, Maurer said, is the growing number of non-state armed groups in conflict situations—groups that, in accordance with the ICRC’s mission of impartial humanitarianism, have to be included in peacebuilding conversations.
It can be challenging to include such groups, he added, but fortunately some are both willing and interested in dialogue.
Maurer also explained how the ICRC’s diverse partnerships help address the complex needs of the people it serves. The organization works first with its own branches and volunteers; then, by also listening to and collaborating with local peoples, small businesses, and partner organizations with specializations in different areas, it can better help build sustainable pathways to independent living.
Doing so, Maurer said, allows the ICRC to help communities achieve basic needs of security, education for children, and jobs and income for adults.
Addressing questions about the diversity of the Red Cross’s staff, and the qualities and training a good peacebuilder needs, Maurer said the ICRC has much left to achieve in terms of diversity and inclusion, he said, but consistently looks for candidates who are willing and able to negotiate and engage with the harsh realities of on-the-ground work. He also talked about the impacts of emerging threats on global peacebuilding, including the socioeconomic devastation of COVID-19 and cyber warfare in an increasingly data-reliant world.
This webinar was the first event hosted by the Kent Global Leadership Program, which was established last year to train leaders in the field of conflict resolution. The initiative aims to prepare the next generation of practitioners for the challenges posed by increasing uncertainty and conflict, as well as sponsor on-campus programming, professorships, and fellowships for students.
New Threats, Old Thinking: Is Conflict Resolution Due for a Makeover?