Conflict resolution begins with dialogue

Ahtisaari Day is an excellent opportunity to remind people of the importance of talking and listening, says Jarna Petman, Senior Lecturer of International Law at the University of Helsinki.

Conflict resolution begins with dialogue

Humankind is not likely to achieve eternal peace, but there are many goals to aim for on the way to a more peaceful world. Peacemakers are needed everywhere: in the dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands, in Syria, in the polarised political scene of the United States, as well as in Finnish schools, to name just a few examples.

The news paints a grim picture of the world. However, there is hope amid all the ruckus. According to Jarna Petman, Senior Lecturer of International Law and Deputy Director of the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, there are signs of a stronger sense of community in societies, including Finland.

"Awareness alone is a step forward. Talking and listening are crucial to conflict resolution. For example, the increasing inequality in Finland and in the world is a recurring topic in the media as well as conversations between people. They are genuinely thinking about these issues," says Petman.

Individuals and communities have real power in conflict resolution. The thought of a global court of human rights recognised by all nations – including superpowers – may be utopian. However, local organisations have already adopted the principle of universal human rights in practice. According to Petman, their significance has increased on all continents and will continue to do so.

Again, it is crucial to be able to negotiate and accept others as they are, without trying to force everyone into the same mould.

"People often seem to believe that, if you scratch the surface, you will find a Westerner inside everyone. This is evident in the conditions nations set for development aid and the World Bank sets for its loans. They have a vision of what the world should look like."

Ahtisaari Day is observed on 8 November. Named after Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari, the day is a prime example of the power of resolution and listening – and the influence an individual can have. The purpose is to bring peace work and conflict resolution into the mainstream of Finnish society.

"I'm particularly pleased that schools have conflict resolution days to teach practical resolution skills to children and young people," says Petman.

"This is only the second Ahtisaari Day. The potential for raising awareness of everyday peace work will continue to grow."

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Text: Tuomo Tamminen
Photo: Ari Aalto
8.11.2012
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications


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