Conference at the University of California, Irvine

June 1-4, 2000

Paula Garb
Marlett Phillips

We are extremely grateful to all the individuals and organizations that made this conference possible. Funding was provided through grants from:

The United States Institute of Peace, The University of California's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, The Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, The School of Social Sciences and the School of Social Ecology at UC Irvine

The community supporters named below provided additional critical assistance. They participated in planning and hosting events around the conference. Many of them provided homestays and transportation for the international guests.

Maria Elena Avila
Chip Cuthbert
Allison Frendak
Rita Kurtz
Billie Kennedy
Karen McGlinn
Danny Oaxaca
Roland Schinzinger and Shirley Pierce
Sylvie Tertzakian
Katy Brook
Daniel DoKhanh
Dr. Donald L. Jolly-Gabriel
Jim and Gwen Johnson
Sherry Long
Barbara Marquet
Marlett Phillips
Bill Shane
Henry Toscano
Mary Butler
Debra Dowidchuk
Bob and Ann Heck
Marty and Marion Kanselbaum
Fred and Carol Lorenz
Michelle Meyer
Mary Roosevelt
Jan Sunoo
Bob, Lori and Chace Warmington


This publication presents preliminary findings and conclusions from a conference on "The Role of Citizen Peacebuilding in Conflict Transformation" held at the University of California, Irvine, June 1-4, 2000. The purpose was to analyze and compare experiences gained while working in public peace processes. We were particularly interested in knowing how the people who participate in the initiatives perceive these efforts and how they believe their communities are affected. We wanted to trace the link between these citizen peace initiatives and change or the absence of change in the communities. This is important in order to find better ways to get information from the interventions to the ordinary citizens who can form stronger peace constituencies, and to policy makers. We expect also that this effort will assist in furthering theory on conflict transformation.

The participants were thirty researchers and practitioners, "insiders" and "outsiders" of various conflicts. Most came from areas where there has been violent conflict over identity and autonomy issues, slow progress toward peace, and numerous initiatives in official and unofficial diplomacy. They are peacebuilders in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia/Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh/Azerbaijan, Moldova/Transdniestria, and Kosovo/Yugoslavia. Participants came from each of the two ethnic communities in conflict and had considerable experience working with each other in citizen peace dialogues. Most of these dialogue projects had been facilitated by third parties, who also were represented at the conference. Together they described and compared their experiences.

In order to include the perspectives of those who had not been involved in these citizen initiatives, we invited as keynote speakers and discussants practitioners and academics who would challenge the participants’ claims with probing questions and comments. The keynote speakers were Christopher Mitchell and Jay Rothman, researchers and practitioners of conflict resolution, Derek Boothby, a retired United Nations diplomat, and Scott Bollens, a researcher on urban planning in divided cities. The discussants were UC Irvine social scientists who study related issues. Many of them had first hand knowledge about several of the cases. (For a list of participants and topics see Conference Agenda, p. 9).

We are now preparing the papers and discussions to be published as chapters in an edited volume. We are identifying recurring patterns of effective and ineffective citizen peacebuilding and separating general principles of action from idiosyncratic features.

Meanwhile, in this publication we present our preliminary findings and conclusions.


All the cases were chosen because they represent identity-based conflicts involving issues of autonomy and the conflicting parties had experience working in dialogue projects. We felt that many aspects of the citizen peace initiatives across cases might be similar because the nature of the conflicts and because the dialogue projects were similar. However, we also recognized that because each conflict was unique and dynamic, each case was likely to have significant differences. For instance, there were differences in the length of time the conflict and the peace initiatives had been under way, in the status of the official peace process, and in the nature of the political systems and cultures of the societies.

One set of cases represents the long-standing citizen peace processes of Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland. In both cases there have been substantial peace agreements outlining a process for peace. Over the years they have had numerous citizen peacebuilding projects. Unlike the other cases we reviewed, in these cases there had been considerably more projects initiated by the local peacebuilders themselves. Outside interventions seemed to have played less of a role in the movements. Another reason why we discussed these cases in the same session was because Northern Ireland and Israel are societies with democratic traditions and civil society. We thought that these might be important factors when comparing across cases. These societies have come a long way on their journeys for peace, but still have some way to go before peace is stable. At the time of the conference the Middle East process had not broken down. The final publication will be updated to reflect developments in the peace communities in view of the most recent events.

Another set of cases involves those which are sometimes referred to as "frozen conflicts," that is, there has not been any significant progress toward peace. These are the conflicts of Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabakh/Azerbaijan, Georgia/Abkhazia, and Moldova/Transdniestria. They are societies with weak democratic traditions and embryonic civil societies. Southern Cyprus, under Greek government, may be an exception. They are also societies that have not experienced much violence in recent years and have had considerable experience with citizen peacebuilding projects, especially those initiated and facilitated by outside interveners.

The last case is Kosovo/Yugoslavia, the one in which the people had most recently experienced mass violence and trauma, and the one with the shortest period of post-war citizen peacebuilding dialogues. The initiatives in this case were facilitated by outside interveners.


Conference participants addressed three research questions. We present some of the similarities that we noted across cases in response to these questions. Also we provide statements by conference participants that illustrate some of the conclusions. In future publications we will feature their more lengthy paper presentations and statements.

I. What if any changes have occurred over time in the attitudes of the participants, the various sectors of the public, and the political leaders, internal and external, toward official and unofficial peacebuilding?

We generally found that even in cases that are in the earliest stages of dialogue, i.e., Kosovo/Yugoslavia, there is a change among the dialogue participants in seeing the other as a more diverse unit -- as individual human beings, rather than a monolithic unit – the "enemy." These personal transformations of the participants tend to take place in the first encounters.

More attitudinal changes are evident among dialogue participants in the cases where the conflict has been underway for a long time. These changes go as far as understanding and acknowledging the perspectives of their counterparts, although usually not agreeing with them. Another attitudinal change that was noted among dialogue participants is particularly evident in the Cyprus and Karabakh cases where disappointment was expressed because of slow progress or regress in the process.

Attitudinal changes among the public, and internal and external political leaders were much harder for the conference participants to identify with persuasive evidence. This was mainly due to the lack of systematic monitoring, which would require far more human and financial resources than were available to these initiatives.

A common public attitude that was noted, and one that is often shared by dialogue participants, is that only politicians hold the key to peace. This seems to be a phenomenon in all the cases, a lack of faith in citizens’ power to influence politics.

The contribution made by women’s peace groups was noteworthy in the Northern Ireland and Israeli/Palestine experience, engaging in dialogue and other types of citizen peacebuilding activities.

II. How have the official and unofficial activities interacted and influenced each other?

In all the cases, officials interact with participants in citizen dialogue processes in two main ways. They interact in meetings with dialogue participants, usually initiated by the latter or the outside facilitators to provide and learn information and develop constructive relationships. They also interact when they are participants in unofficial dialogues.

The Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, and Moldova/Transdniestria cases revealed the most examples of interaction between official and unofficial activities. In the other cases there is a more distinct separation between such initiatives.

Officials, locally and internationally, have had a negative influence in the cases where they discourage equal funding for developing civil society and the resulting peace initiatives, and when they isolated one side, commonly for punitive reasons. This has made the people in isolation feel as though there is no hope for them at all. This in turn hurts the efforts by the officials for peace.

Conference participants expressed skepticism about how much impact they can have on their own leaders. Some also expressed disrespect toward their own leaders which prevents them from interacting more with officials. They feel that in these cases the outside facilitators have more capacity to interact. Therefore they expressed a need to overcome this distance that exists within their own communities.

In all the cases where there has been official participant involvement in unofficial initiatives the outcomes are considered positive. They allow informal discussion of the issues, offer an exchange of information, and help to overcome mutual mistrust.

III. What have been the processes and paths through which attitudes have developed and moved through the communities?

None of the initiatives that were discussed appeared to have a systematic strategy for moving information through society, between the tracks, nor a means of assessing this process. Activities tend to be short-term dialogues or training depending on outside funding. The Israeli/Palestinian and Northern Ireland dialogues were an exception among the cases we examined. In Kosovo/Yugoslavia it is too early to expect a movement. In Cyprus it may be long overdue. In the Abkhaz/Georgian case the peace initiatives may be on the verge of becoming movements. In Moldova and Karabakh there does not seem to be a critical mass of activities to provide a foundation yet for a movement.

The main path through which information about peace initiatives moves through the societies represented at the conference tends to be by word of mouth. Dialogue participants usually find it difficult to engage the media in their peace efforts. If it were easy to bring home from peace dialogues "good" news about the other side the conflicts would probably be solved.

Politicians, interested states, sanctions, the peacebuilders’ communities, and their own fears and self-censorship present obstacles to building peace movements.

Conference participants shared their doubts about whether a peace movement can be born before its time. They wondered whether sheer will power, strategies, internal and external resources, and personalities can hasten the process. They wondered whether the factors of time and ripeness are much stronger than the factor of planned social mobilization.

They could not be sure from the available data and discussions to date as to what extent political culture and democratic institutions are a pivotal factor in predicting whether a conflict zone can expect to build an effective peace movement.


It is important as soon as possible after the outbreak of violent conflict for international actors to get to the people on all sides major resources for personal, individual and group healing. This helps people initiate and take part in a citizen peace process.

Interveners should have a long-term commitment. Conflicts take years and decades to resolve. Local participants express frustration with short-term projects. Interveners cannot make a significant impact or see the results of their impact if they are not available for the long haul.

Interveners and facilitators should not have an exaggerated sense of their own importance. The most important resources for peace come from the "insiders."

It is useful to study citizen peacebuilding efforts that failed in order to know why they failed.

A facilitator should be prepared to ask awkward questions. It is a good rule of thumb to try to make things easy for the participants. But this rule should be broken on occasion. Facilitators can pose alternatives, which are at times unpleasant. This provides a reality check.

It is important for the third party to understand the conflict and the culture of the communities.

In cases where there are several peace initiatives it is necessary to coordinate efforts, to ensure a comprehensive and integrated approach for these projects in order to have an impact. Among the potential obstacles are competition for funding and prestige, differences in conflict resolution approaches, and difficulties in communication across projects.

A rigid "division of labor" between unofficial and official initiatives is not necessary. Citizen peacebuilders can deal with political issues and official peace negotiators can deal with humanitarian issues.

Painful issues that divide groups must be confronted in dialogues before progress toward peace is possible.

It is important to acknowledge history as part of the resolution process. This is a source of identity and legitimacy. It can also be the source of ethnocentric views of the past. These views reproduce the ideology of intolerance and negative stereotypes and contribute to the ideology of confrontation. Such issues must be addressed.

It is helpful to draw a distinction between guilt and responsibility. Members of communities responsible for violence against other communities do not necessarily have to acknowledge guilt for these crimes that they did not personally commit. However, taking responsibility for such crimes is necessary to make progress toward lasting peace.

More work must be done to develop strategies for citizen peacebuilders and the media to work together to ensure that the developments of unofficial initiatives are discussed and transmitted as widely as possible.

Funders should avoid being an impediment to the process by imposing constraints on what is done and for how long, dependency on the amount of money available and expectations, and negatively impacting goal setting.

Systematic monitoring and evaluation of peace processes is imperative. Without the commitment and funding for such research, claims in the conflict resolution field about the usefulness of these initiatives will continue largely to be based on anecdotal evidence.


An important result of the conference was the consensus to form an ad hoc network of people who are interested in other people’s problems and helping other people as well as themselves be more effective in their citizen peacebuilding efforts. We have begun these follow-up efforts by establishing exchange visits by conference participants and regular information sharing via e-mail.

We invite you to contact us if you wish to participate in these discussions. We welcome your comments on this conference report and your contribution to further editions of this and subsequent publications of the results of international collaborative efforts to improve the theory and practice of citizen peacebuilding.

Paula Garb
Marlett Phillips


"The Role of Citizen Peacebuilding in Conflict Transformation"
June 1-4, 2000
University of California, Irvine

Thursday, June 1

Welcome and Introductions of Participants

Keynote speaker Christopher R. Mitchell (Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution).

"The Involvement of Civil Society in Peace Processes: a Retrospective Look"

The Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies Forum (open to the public)
"How do Citizen Dialogues Impact the Peace Processes in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, and Kosovo/Yugoslavia"

Panelists: Galia Golan (Hebrew University), Clem McCartney (Conciliation Resources), Joe Camplisson (Moldovan Initiative Committee of Management), Merita Hajdini (OSCE, Kosovo)
Zarko Sunderic (Civic Initiatives, Belgrade)

Friday, June 2

Chair/Discussant, Patrick Morgan (UC Irvine)

Galia Golan (Hebrew University)
Zahira Kamal (Ministry of Planning and International Development, Palestine National Authority)
Jay Rothman (The ARIA Group, Inc. and The Action Evaluation Research Institute)

Northern Ireland
Chair/Discussant, Tekle Woldemikael (Redlands)

Clem McCartney (Conciliation Resources)

Kate Fearon (Northern Ireland Women's Coalition)

Keynote speaker Jay Rothman (The ARIA Group, Inc. and The Action Evaluation Research Institute), "The Role of Action Evaluation in Conflict Transformation"

Chair/Discussant, Wayne Sandholtz (UC Irvine)

Katie Economidou (Bi-Communal Trainer Group)
Canan Oztoprak (Bi-Communal Trainer Group), The Experiences of Bicommunal Contacts through the Eyes of a Turkish Cypriot: fact and fiction
Diana Chigas (Conflict Management Group)
Kendra S. Kenyon (San Diego State University), Comparative Analysis of Peacebuilding Methodologies Used in Cyprus: a case study towards the development of a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach to third-party interventions
Marco Turk (UC Irvine), Conflict Transformation as an International Peacekeeping Approach at the Grass Roots Citizen Level, Cyprus 1997-99

Keynote speaker Scott Bollens (UC Irvine, Chair of Urban and Regional Planning)

"Urban Peacebuilding in Divided Societies: Belfast, Jerusalem, Nicosia"

Saturday, June 3

Chair/Discussant, John Whiteley (UC Irvine)

Alexander Iskandarian (Moscow Center for Studies of the Caucasus), Conflicts in Conflict: traditional and citizen peacebuilding in the Caucasus -- current problems
Zhanna Krikorova (Institute of Unofficial Diplomacy), The Impact of Non-Official Diplomacy on the Process of the Nagorno- Karabakh Conflict Settlement
Elkhan Mehtiyev (Peace and Conflict Resolution Center), State of War and Peacebuilding Activities in Azerbaijan
Barri Sanders (U. of Maryland), The Effects of Citizen Peacebuilding on Establishing Sustainable Peace in the Conflict Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh

Chair/Discussant, Joseph DiMento (UC Irvine)

Arda Inal-Ipa (Center for Humanitarian Programmes, Abkhazia)
Paata Zakareishvili (Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development). Achievements and Obstacles of Unofficial Diplomacy in the Process of Settling the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict
Paula Garb (UC Irvine)

Chair/Discussant, Richard Perry (UC Irvine)

Yuri Ataman (Joint Committee for Democratisation and Conciliation, Moldova)
Valentin Romanciuc (Joint Committee for Democratisation and Conciliation, Transdniestria)
Joe Camplisson (Moldovan Initiative Committee of Management)

Sunday, June 4

Chair/Discussant, Richard Matthew (UC Irvine)

Merita Hajdini (OSCE, Kosovo)
Zarko Sunderic (Civic Initiatives, Belgrade)
Gema Gonzalez Navas (Lancaster University)

Keynote speaker Derek Boothby (retired director of the Europe Division of the Department of Political Affairs, United Nations) "Tracks in Pursuit of Sustainable Peace"

Los Angeles/Orange County

Chair/Discussant, Kris Day (UC Irvine)

Danny Oaxaca (Public Health Foundation)

Avis Ridley Thomas (Los Angles Mediation Center)

Henry Toscano (Gang Violence Reduction Center)

Jan Sunoo (Federal Mediation Board)


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