While I truly appreciate and admire the practice of peace building, I keep coming back to the central question: why don't we take our American expertise and put it to work in our own country? The US is one the main purveyors of violence and conflict worldwide, and I find it ironic that we don't focus more of our efforts in our own country, both in terms of domstic issues as well as international policy. This would be go beyond, as Lederech says, the common malady of "solving the problem but not creating real change."
Lederach's work is sincere and well-intentioned, yet in Nepal, where I have worked for almost two decades in community-based natural resource management, he is riding the wave of years of hard work by local groups, NGOs and others. I have worked in over twenty countries on this topic, many in conflict or post-conflict situations. And while Western notions of peace-making can be an important part of the process, it is, in many ways, simply another idea...not the only, and not the best. The way the Nepalis framed the problem and opened the dialogue is an example of how evolved their own thinking/actions are. But this too, is simply a beginning, and could easily go the way of so many efforts. The country (and many others) is littered with the detritus of good beginnings. But it is the sustained effort, over the long haul, that really matters. Peace building can begin the conversation, but it must be followed up by years of sincere and intelligent work toward lasting economic security for all groups concerned. Otherwise it becomes another somewhat indulgent act of well-meaning outsiders.
Poetry, art, music, nature - all are important tools for healing of all kinds. I am glad that Lederach has figured this out, but given his expertise, I wish he could teach us something new.
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