My work in conflict resolution and mediation spans over three decades. It has led me to work in South Africa post apartheid, in Liberia post civil war and recently in the Lebanon.
In one of my favourite books: ‘The Uniting Power of Conflict’ the author Dr John E Hoover claims that conflict is not to be feared or avoided at all cost, but that it actually provides the ‘spark’ for unity, a chance to create something fresh and new beyond all imagination.
The practise of conflict resolution is a truly creative process which involves, courage, honesty, humility and forgiveness. It does require a process though, a process which can be learned and practised, in order to facilitate individuals and groups to reach a win-win outcome. This process involves several skills, which include the ability to listen deeply to different points of views, to be willing to make concessions and the ability to let go of the past and commit to a fresh start for the greater good of a bigger context.
This bigger context can be the well-being of a community, or an entire country as it seeks to move forward after war and conflict. It can also be for the well-being of our planet by agreeing to treat our natural resources like water with respect and treat sewage before it reaches the open sea!
These negotiations require expertise and a big heart both of which I have developed over the years.
I have learned: There is always a way, a way in, a way out or a way through.
Influencing governments and stakeholders
Influencing governments which leads to sustainable contracts.
Over the past few years my work has expanded to the area of ‘Water and Sanitation’ in the worlds poorest countries. This topic is a hot one with governments since it is often seen as a matter of local government, municipalities and councils. Often banks with global reach and large funding packages are involved as well as NGO’s and ethnic minority groups. It is vital to be able to bring everyone together and mediate between the different stakeholders, all of whom bring their own reality and history to the table. Once concessions are made, common ground is found, a way forward is achieved and agreements and contracts are signed.
Working with couples and family groups
My work with couples and family groups has been very rewarding. Often times, in the life of a couple, agreements are broken, behaviour becomes challenging, boundaries are overstepped, and sometimes the relationship is so strained it is time to stop. These are the times when outside facilitation brings important breakthroughs and renewed energy. New agreements are drawn up, forgiveness is offered and accepted, behaviours are changed and love is restored or completed.
Conflict and disagreement in families often arises around parenting, sex, money, inheritance, ageing parents and death of a loved one. Providing a forum for honest exploration of feelings and fears as well as hopes and dreams provides a platform from which fresh commitments and decisions can be made.
Sometimes it is necessary to have exclusive one-to-one time to heal deep hurts and traumas. Time with me at my home in Kielder forest brings long lasting peace-of-mind and a chance to ‘let go of’ what was previously ‘stuck’. Being in nature in a remote setting helps to remind us of the ever changing cycle of life.
It is easier to accept reality in the face of such simplicity and natural beauty. We also need a witness to our journey at times, in order to let it become part of the past so we can move forward to become who we are truly meant to be.