Building peace from the ground up

Last month International Alert organised a four-day training seminar for students from South Ossetia on overcoming societal trauma through civic activism, as part of a project funded by the European Union and UK Conflict Pool.

The training helped the students to better understand themselves and human behaviour - how and why people respond to conflict situations and problems in a certain way - and what they can do on a societal level to address day-to-day problems.

Using interactive training techniques, the students practiced their communication and team working skills, and participated in problem solving role-plays stretching their capacities in critical thinking, articulating arguments, listening and debating.

The students said the training helped them to see their role in rebuilding their communities. They recognised that they had been paralysed and not known what to do in the face of enormous problems faced by South Ossetian society. The seminar taught them how to break down the problems they were facing into smaller components, so they would feel more confident to start small and to tackle one aspect of a problem at a time.

Having arrived at the seminar saying ‘we want to be able to do some good for our society but we don’t have the opportunity’, the students went away more confident that they could create their own opportunity to bring about positive change. On a personal level, students commented that ‘I feel like I have gained some internal balance’ and ‘I will think twice and analyse things before “reacting” in future’.

The seminar was based on a programme we ran in 2010-12 to help teachers from South Ossetia provide traumatised children with psychological support and learn how to develop civic initiatives to help their communities recover from violent conflict.

We intend to follow up the students’ training by facilitating practical problem-solving on the ground. By working with young people in this way, we hope to prepare the future elites of these divided societies to find compromise solutions and understand the importance of dialogue in conflict. The aspirations of these students and their strong motivation to be useful in society, fills us with hope that with just a little investment, these future leaders can bring about positive change.

These students now understand that it is not just officials who can find the solutions to social and even political problems in society; it is also in the hands of the people.

We wish them all the best of luck in their future endeavours.

This project is funded by:

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