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Inter-university Event: “Learning about Conflict Resolution” Workshop Report


Using balloons to study negotiation techniques

On November 14, 2015, with the cooperation of the NPO Okinawa Peace Assistance Center (OPAC), an inter-university workshop was held with the title “Learning about Conflict Resolution.” Yuji Uesugi, Professor at Waseda University and Vice President of OPAC, acted as facilitator. Twenty students from ten universities attended the workshop, where they learned about conflict resolution and peacebuilding through activities such as games and role-playing.

Participant’s Report

Until I took part in this workshop, I used to believe that conflict resolution required some kind of special knowledge and that there was not much I could contribute. But in the course of responding to questions from the facilitator and taking part in discussions with the rest of my group, I came to understand that the most important thing is whether you can approach the person you are dealing with psychologically—whether or not you can use your imagination to sympathize with the other person’s position. Without imagination, negotiations will not go well, and you may even end up slighting something that is important to the other person, creating a situation in which compromise is impossible.

The workshop was an inter-university event, made up of discussions attended by students specializing in different subjects from universities around the country. I was struck many times during the discussions by how people’s different interests could dramatically change the way of dealing with problems even on the same topic. The first half of the workshop was made up of self-introductions and mini-debates to break the ice. The skill with which the facilitator had chosen the topics and the comments he gave helped everyone feel comfortable even though most of us were meeting for the first time. This brought home to me how important it is to create a relaxing atmosphere and an environment in which people can feel comfortable expressing their opinions for a lively debate to be possible. Every conflict is different, with different religions and cultures in different regions, and there are no conflict resolution methods that will work to resolve all conflicts. I came to realize that the best way forward for conflict resolution is for groups with different interests to suggest compromises to each other and find a vision of the future they can agree on, rather than fighting with force and constructing an order built on victory in armed conflict.

Presenting the findings of case study discussion

The second half of the workshop was a role-playing scenario based on the conflict in Afghanistan. I was asked to play the role of the Taliban, but could not engage in a satisfying discussion. I found it difficult to imagine my way into their way of thinking because I lacked any real knowledge about Islam, one of the driving forces behind their behavior. Despite all the reporting in the media concerning the cruel actions of the Islamic State, I had been unable to make any serious study of Islam—it occurred to me that this was because my fear had overtaken my urge to understand. My lack of knowledge prevented understanding, and my lack of understanding caused fear. This fear, in turn, stopped me from feeling motivated to understand. This is a vicious circle that increases fear and mistrust and produces nothing useful. I made up my mind to make a more positive effort to study to avoid a repeat of this kind of experience where ignorance condemns me to remain silent. I want to put what I learned at the workshop to good use in my studies and hope to become more like the other students I met at the workshop, who were able to express their opinions clearly.

(Natsumi Hattori, 1st year student, Faculty of Letters and Education)

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