Interview by Meredith Smith
Sep 30, 2014
How do you view conflict in your work?
Conflict is a concept that must be viewed and understood in all its guises or stages.
Internationally conflict, in the popular mind, has come to be associated with armed struggles. But such struggles are often the sad result of ignoring or silencing the voices that expressed grievances or merely different opinions. So armed conflicts are not the only forms of conflict. Moreover, once a struggle ends there is the post-conflict period, the peace building and the institution building period. And that period is often very trying and isolating as there is no generally accepted recognition or appreciation of the challenges involved.
Estonia, a nation with which I have been engaged for more than 25 years, peacefully struggled for nearly half a century to re-gain its independence, which it did in 1991, after having been forcefully annexed in the 1940s by the Soviet Union. You could, on the one hand, say Estonia was in a stable situation but, on the other hand, it was in a perpetual conflict situation, struggling every day to restore itself as an independent nation.
Or, if you look at Nepal, where I am proud to have been an author of its interim or peace constitution, it has been struggling for eight years, since 2006, to agree on a permanent constitution. This is after a 10-year civil war during which an estimated 15,000 had been killed (not even counting the number of those who have been permanently injured, etc.).