Friday, 10 April 2009

A question of trust

Barack Obama’s tour of Europe has set the scene for a more progressive US - demonstrating a real change in the tone of trans-Atlantic relations; and making a significant inclusion of the Arab world.

This is all good news. However, as regards ways of engaging with the deeply embedded problems in the Middle East, summit diplomacy will never be sufficient - because it simply excludes the different motivations and perceptions of all the other actors involved.

So - as the US pledges more troops to Afghanistan while protesters in Iraq call for immediate US withdrawal - here’s an alternative strategy for conflict prevention, which involves a more intimate type of connection and a more creative kind of communication…

This was my starting point:

“When the allies invaded Iraq in March 2003, I was in the south of Nigeria leading a small team of Muslim colleagues doing participatory research on conflict prevention. As fundamentalist imams in the north of Nigeria called for a violent response to the invasion, there was the likelihood of reprisals against Muslims in the Christian south. So we made our plans to leave the south before midday on Friday and travelled as quickly as possible to the capital Abuja, where the World Bank grounded us for our own safety.

Thus it came about that I spent several days in a hotel bedroom watching CNN and BBC24 coverage of the unfolding situation in Iraq. It was clear that the US intelligence was flawed and /or the US politicians had misread / ignored what intelligence there was; that the US military chiefs were at odds with the politicians over how to run the campaign; and that the world’s media were being treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark). I was, above all, fascinated by the role of poor Brigadier-General Vincent Brooks, the token black officer delegated to provide meaningless daily press briefings. At that time I conceived the scenario of a varied group of stakeholders in a bunker, learning how to see each others’ point of view…”

Finally, here’s the blurb for the product (and I’m not claiming to have entirely solved the problem).

“She is known only as The Facilitator. You may hate and love her at the same time: it doesn’t matter. When she calls you to take part in her virtual scenarios, you can’t refuse. She has the power to send you where you’ve never wanted to go. You have to enter other people’s minds – and learn how to survive there. We are in a time of crisis: there is only war. Those who are called need to collaborate to find the ultimate solution. After all, the future of the universe is in your own imagination.”

The Facilitator
can be accessed at

Also read: Global politics and confidence building measures

1 comment:

Sub Specie Aeternitatis said...

Good to see you back on the blog Patricia. Missed you since your post on the U.N. & magical realism. I will be downloading the book now. Thanks.