Category Archives: Middle East

A Piece of Our Journey in Sports & Peacebuilding

The Georgetown University and Generations For Peace Summer Research Fellows have all returned to DC after three months in the field. As we begin to digest our research and experiences, we wanted to share a piece of our journey with you.

What was the most surprising thing you found?

From Amanda Munroe: 

Connection! I was surprised (and encouraged!) to find out how well the organizations and the academics I was interviewing were connected to one another. Whether it is because the field of sport and peacebuilding is relatively small or because the community is so supportive and open to sharing information, a real, effective, and supportive network for information and practice sharing exists – at least within Germany and to the extent that I experienced it, also within the EU.

From Sarah Moran:

Sport and development is a huge field in South Africa – everybody has a friend that is involved in the field of, either directly or indirectly. Whether in casual conversation or in official interviews, I would leave with more people to contact or organizations to “check out” than I ever imagined. In the Western Cape of South Africa alone, I counted over 50 organizations that were directly or indirectly using sport for development ends – and that was not including government initiatives. (This is not necessarily a good indicator – it is, insofar as it is exciting that people have begun to recognize the power of sport as a facilitator of positive social change; it is worrying because I fear that sport and development is a fad that will fatigue or be diluted by overexposure.)

 From Meeghan Zahorsky:

DIVERSITY – The diversity of programs even within the same umbrella organization was unexpected. PeacePlayers International (PPI) in Belfast was distinctly different from PPI in Israel or Cyprus. Generations For Peace pioneers, delegates and trainees from Lebanon and Palestine had a broad diversity of interests, backgrounds and outcomes with the programs they implemented. This was a powerful reminder of the importance of being context-sensitive and showed the ultimate range of sports as a peacebuilding tool.

 The most important thing? 

Amanda:

Consciousness. To think long and hard about your program’s aim, its location, and theory of change. To realize that investment in peace is a long-term process that requires participation on macro, meso, and micro levels. To know that dealing with conflict requires talking about things others may wish to ignore. And that your job as a coach is to encourage that consciousness – by modeling it yourself and asking it of your players. 

Sarah:

The most important lesson I learned is to retain the integrity of “sport” in “sport and peacebuilding” lest it lose its relevance or efficacy. Sport doesn’t have to be the most important thing in a program, but nor can it be the least. Compromising sport – or believing that sport is all you need to run a successful program – is dangerous. A lot of organizations seem to believe that by including “sport” in their titles (or “soccer”, more commonly) they will attract participants, coaches and donors more easily. In actuality, including sport superficially in your program is not a sustainable solution, nor is it goo for the field.

Meeghan:

PEOPLE – At every research site I visited, it was individuals who inspired, motivated and determined the success of the sports and peace program. The successful leaders and/or coaches had the right blend of local respect, passion for the game, compassion for the community, energy, and determination. They had some sort of intangible quality that made them the fuel for the program’s mission, and without them, there is no such thing as sports and peacebuilding.

The most inspiring moment?

Amanda:

Hearing stories. It was fun to watch kids enjoy sport and play, but inspiring to hear their stories — about how they grew up within the organization (s), or the personal account of one kid becoming more self-confident, self-aware, and aware of others. It was inspiring to converse with practitioners, to learn what led them to the work that they do and to hear them share humbly of their investment in and knowledge of the local community.

Sarah:

Generally, I was inspired to see how much can be done with so little. I visited an organization that was running soccer camps for girls and boys ages 6-16 in Khayelitsha, one of the most populated and impoverished townships outside of Cape Town. For the entire duration of my visit, the kids used a soccer ball only once – their resources were limited and there were not enough balls to go around. Instead, the coaches came up with teambuilding games and lessons that did not require equipment.

Meeghan:

LOVE OF THE GAME – I had the opportunity to watch and join in a PPI leadership development session and basketball practice for a group of Palestinian girls. They were the first generation of female athletes in their communities, and they were exceptional. Their heart, their hustle, their teamwork, was what I had always aspired to as a young athlete. Having the chance to play with them (and believe me, they made me sweat), made me realize how familiar the game was, even thousands of miles from my home gym, even speaking a different language.

What would you recommend for someone interested in sports and peacebuilding?

Amanda:

Focus. If you are interested in using sport as a tool for peace, think about what you want to do and where you want to do it. It’s important to decide how important sport is for you – is your goal to raise interest for a sport, to encourage peace through sport, to increase health through physical fitness or to increase skill in a certain sport? How connected are you within the community where you are practicing, and what is your vision for your program’s role within that community? Keep focus on your goal. A precise understanding of what you are doing will help you decide how to do it, where to do it, with whom you’ll do it and how you’ll fund it.

Sarah:

To think long and hard about what inspires you about sport and how that can be translated effectively into either a development or peacebuilding goal. It’s not automatic, nor is it always appropriate – I saw many examples of sport used badly to promote reconciliation, peacebuilding, and/or development.

Meeghan:

INTENTION AND CONTEXT – During Dr. Sarah Hillyer’s course on Sports & Peacebuilding at Georgetown, she repeatedly reminded us of the importance of intentionality in using sport. Sport, after all is not a solution in itself, but a tool. It can be a powerful tool at that, but when we set out to use it, we should have clear intentions and an understanding that it needs to fit organically into the context. Also, connect with others who know the field and know the context. The more we can collaborate in this field, the greater the impact we will have.

As the summer draws to a close, we want to thank everyone who has supported this research, read and commented on our blog, participated in our discussion, challenged us to think differently, and participated in our field research. We want to extend a special thanks to Generations For Peace for their support, Professors Craig Zelizer and Sarah Hillyer for their guidance and encouragement throughout this journey.

For more information on Generations For Peace visit http://www.generationsforpeace.com/

For Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program visit http://conflictresolution.georgetown.edu/

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Positive Peace, Local & Global: Sport to Prevent Terrorism

A Norwegian Terrorist Surprises Europe

I’m assuming you heard about what happened in Norway last week?

A man named Anders Behring Breivik, under dramatic political and religious conviction, set a car bomb off near a building in downtown Oslo, killing 7 and wounding more, after which he took a ferry directly to a nearby island where, dressed as a police officer, he proceeded to shoot and kill 70 teenagers and young adults. Methodically.

The day it happened, here in Germany, terrorism experts were called in to news studios to report on the potential of an Islamic terrorist attack – but there was nothing conclusive to guess with. On the next morning, Europe discovered that the attacker was a Norwegian man. A right-wing, Christian extremist. “The Norwegian equivalent of Timothy McVeigh”, said the experts.

I tried to imagine the grief of Norwegian families and friends. The daughter of youth workers, I spent many childhood summers at “camp”. These summers are among the best in my memory — when I think of safety, security, or fun, I think of camp. Have you ever been to summer camp? Ever sent your kids? The whole point is that they are away from the rest of the world, right? Distanced from everything that is supposed to be terrible and unfriendly. Well.

Isn’t Europe Boring Compared to Africa or the Middle East?

If I needed a reminder that conflict resolution is needed in Europe as much as it is in the rest of the world, last week sufficed. I have had various responses to my work this summer – a number of people have asked me why in the world I wanted to spend the summer in Europe, while Meeghan and Sarah and Sarah were in Africa, the Middle East, and other “hot” conflict zones. Europe feels less exciting. If not boring, it feels at least comfortable and secure in comparison to these countries. I have a recurring nightmare where I return to campus in the fall and someone accuses me of using ‘research’ as an excuse for a European sightseeing tour.

I generally respond that there is a lot to learn about critical pedagogy and democratic decision making here, and I am lucky enough to speak two languages this research is published in. This has proven very true. But moreover, As Sarah alluded to in an earlier post, “peace” is not only the absence of war, it must also be defined as the presence of something positive; the presence of justice – or to paraphrase J.P. Lederach (who paraphrases the Bible), where “Truth, Justice, Mercy, and Peace” meet. And while it is absolutely clear that we must struggle to obtain peace in locations of prolonged, violent conflict, I am convinced we must also struggle to maintain and deepen peace in countries with high security. Norway is one of the most secure countries in the world, for goodness sakes! We students of peace and conflict resolution envy their Institutes and Masters/PhD programs. But they are not isolated from the rest of the world. In fact I would argue that it is precisely because of increased connectivity caused by globalization (see Fathali Moghaddam’s book, The New Global Insecurity for a more detailed examination of this concept) that research on peace and conflict resolution is as necessary in Europe today as it is in Israel and Palestine. Peace research, like action for peace, must “think globally” and “act locally.”

Battling Terrorism – Building Critical Consciousness through Sport

A second point that the tragedy in Norway convinced me of is the fundamental importance of local programs building global consciousness, self-awareness, and conflict resolution/democratic skills. An example: Three days after the attack, my research led me to visit a mini World Cup  (my second this summer!) near Stuttgart – running parallel to the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup, it was the finale of a month-long tournament featuring kids’ teams from all over Southern Germany.

The tournament was played based on “Street Football” rules. Street Football is an alternative approach to soccer that was first developed in (literally on the streets of) South America, in one of the most violent regions in the world. In Street Football, kids play on smaller-as-regulation fields, with teams of 4-6 players. Each team must have at least one girl, and a girl must score a goal during the game in order for the goals from the boys to be counted. Games last 7 minutes each. Before game begin, the opposing teams agree together on 3 “fair play” rules. (Examples include handshakes before and after the game, not insulting the other team, or high-fives on both sides following each goal). The kids referee the games themselves, according to the 3 rules they dreamed up.

At the end of the game, the teams re-group. “Teamers”, young adults who are trained in the Street Football approach, have watched the game and counted the points. They ask the opposing teams, “How did you feel during the game? Was it fair?” In this, the “3rd Halftime”, the opposing teams discuss fairness and decide together how many fair play points (1-3, depending on the rules they decided on before the game), to award one another. These points are counted together with the total goals scored, after which the winner will be decided.

With Privilege Comes Responsibility

Playing in the KickFair World Cup is a lot of fun. But “3rd Halftimes” can also be unpleasant. Even though they rarely last longer than 5-10 minutes, they require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Emotions are high after the game, and since each individual saw the game from his or her own perspective, it’s easy to disagree. But everyone must agree in order for points to be awarded. Teamers, even though they had an overview from the sidelines, have to do more listening to the participants than talking. Parents, by the way, are not allowed in the dialogue zone of the 3rd Halftime.

I was explaining “Street Football” rules to a good friend recently who replied, “But isn’t that challenging? I mean, I imagine it’s very hard for 10 year olds to come up with their own rules, referee their own games, and decide on the how to award points. That’s a lot of responsibility!”

I thought for a bit. She was right – it is a lot responsibility. But kids respond very well to this approach. They manage the responsibility without violence – in fact, with teamwork — and keep playing. It’s often the grown-ups looking on that make a big deal or become very upset. We’re the ones that are scared!

So I responded to my friend, “But isn’t that the point? Democracy is hard! Democratic societies require critical participation from responsible citizens. Aren’t we underestimating our kids by saying ‘here are the rules – go play by them’?”

Successful democracies are processes. They require people who are conscious about themselves and their relationships with others, who think critically about their positions and search for compromises with those who are different than them. We’re witnessing that right now through the budget crisis in Washington, the establishment of a new government in Egypt, and the discussions over the Euro in the EU.

The greatest threat, I believe, is raising children that see the world in black and white – who accept authority without questioning it, and play by rules because they are ordered to and not because they believe they are the best or most creative way to play. Encouraging responsibility, self-awareness, and democratic processes – my belief is that this quality leads toward security and away from fear, destruction, and terror.

This project is supported bhttps://sportandpeace.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpy a cooperation between Georgetown University’s Masters Program in Conflict Resolution and Generations for Peace.

To learn more about Street Football World in Germany or near you, check out StreetFootballWorld, KICKFAIR, and Integration Durch Sport

For more info on the recent terrorist attack in Norway, check out the following articles from the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/world/europe/24oslo.html?emc=eta1

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/world/europe/29norway.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=global-home

Reflections – Why Sport?

When I tell people I am researching sport and peacebuilding, it never fails that I get one of two responses – the confused look that usually signifies a predisposition to thinking of those two concepts as mutually exclusive or the sudden dawning of “oh that sounds cool!”

Throughout my summer research, the most important question I was asked, and asked frequently, was “why sports?”  Despite its simplicity, this is really the question at the core of our research, the question driving us to find and define the uniqueness of sport.

Sports draw people together even in places where “peace” has become taboo. It can provide an escape, a safe haven, even when surrounded by chaos. There are obvious and scientifically proven physiological benefits. Perhaps, most importantly, it gives children of all ages the chance to play. Sounds silly, sounds cliché, but I saw it again and again in the field. A soccer field can provide a bubble in time and space, a release from the world around. I saw this, I know this, but I am still struggling with how you share this, how you measure this, how you tell that story of impact so it reaches more people AND stays true to its origins.

When I was meeting with Generation For Peace delegates in the Middle East, this challenge of capturing these stories in the form of program evaluation nagged at me constantly. Their stories were so powerful, so unique, I almost felt like I was cheapening them by trying to fit them in my little box of measurement and evaluation. It bothered me that the story couldn’t just stand alone. As I return to my notes now, it is more and more apparent that this M&E element is what empowers these stories, these individuals and these programs to move forward, to adapt to the ever changing world, and to be sustainable. Beyond just the sharing of the stories, it allows for critical self-reflection for practitioners, stakeholders and participants. The M&E continues the story, rather than rewriting it.

At the same time that I was being asked “why sports?”, I had to ask myself the equally important question “why not sports?” There are several debates in the field revolving around the use of sport, particularly competitive sport, for peacebuilding. The skepticism is logical. If anything, sport is a neutral tool. Any value or harm that comes from it is the result of the method of implementation. We cannot use sport without a plan, and we cannot use sport in every context. And, importantly, we should not only perceive sport as soccer or basketball – movement-based peacebuilding can be achieved through dance, as in the case with Dance 4 Peace, or through yoga, or through the arts. As outsiders, we cannot know what is the best tool, but in each community there is a space for movement to foster peace, whether that be individual peace, communal peace, or international peace. The worst thing to do is to stop asking questions; why? why not? how? As we set out to document our summer research, we will not be providing conclusions, but rather the questions that we uncovered. Questions that we will keep asking, over and over again.

Albert Einstein once said, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” A statement, after months of research, with which I can agree.

– Meeghan

 

GFP Training Camp

In the field - GFP Training Camp, Bethlehem