The Coexistence Initiative
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
If you think of the people that are working in conflict areas, there is something of a continuum that runs from the people who get there first, through the organizations working on development, human rights, and restorative justice. It isn't exactly a straight line; but there is a diverse community. The organizations within that continuum often see themselves as being development organizations. That is what they want to do. They want to get economies going. They want the wells dug so you have clean drinking water and so on. There are organizations within that spectrum who see what they are doing as addressing issues such as governance, justice, human rights, some organizations dwell with that, but an increasingly amount of organizations that are multi-task organizations.
There is a second community. If we were looking at a white board it would be almost as if we are looking at two tracks running along that white board. The second community is people who work specifically on tolerance, multi-culturalism, and anti-bias education. These people, in particular, work in education and at the grassroots level. There is some cross-fertilization between those communities, but not a lot and not systematically.
One of the ways that we'll know that we've moved forward with our slice of the overall set of needs and vision is if we can create systematic linkages so that a development agency, for example, working with conflict, post-conflict and conflict prevention can reach into the lessons learned, the tool kits, the experience of the tolerance, multi-culturalism and anti-bias people. There will be a systematic cross-fertilization between those two different communities. Many of the tolerance, multi-culturalism, anti-bias people/organizations don't think of themselves specifically as conflict resolution and as being part of the conflict resolution field. Much of the work of multi-culturalism, tolerance, anti-bias training, and community dialogues actually predates the emergence of conflict resolution as a professional field. This work is easily pegged if you trace its roots to the 1960's in the United States and Western Europe and before. Now there are organizations that are part of the conflict resolution field that actually date that far back, but the field is a field. You would recognize in the context of having theory, having education programs, having networks, and having journals — all of those things that define a field. The conflict resolution field is much younger than what we will call the tolerance/multi-culturalism field.
One of the ways that we are going to know whether the work that the Coexistence Initiative does has succeeded or not, is if we can create a systematic kind of cross-fertilization and facilitation of communications between those two tracks or fields.