A Peace Profession in Our Lifetime
“I can’t stand this f…g communist country!” – Hardly what you would expect my ‘aha!’ moment for peace to be.
But there it is. My moment.
It was a few months after 9-11, at a Steering Committee meeting for a project being implemented through international support for Kosovo, in Kosovo, attended by Kosovars and international experts from several countries. In walked a fellow international ‘expert’ shouting: “I can’t stand this f…g communist country!” – followed by a stream of invectives. Like me, he was there to help Kosovo’s transition to a peaceful and independent nation.
Shock does not begin to describe my reaction. Add embarrassment. Followed very quickly by disbelief that someone so clearly unsuited for the assignment should have ended up in that position.
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘he’s probably here because of his technical know-how. And maybe this is a most unfortunate aberration.’
Turned out, he was neither technically competent nor personally suited.
Another international colleague, though technically competent, was equally out of his depth in terms of personal suitability, endangering not only himself but others in this volatile environment.
It took money and time to remove them both. One returned to Canada. The other was soon hired for duty in another country in conflict - on the basis of his prior experience in Kosovo.
Conversely, I met many people achieving exemplary results without recognition for their peace professionalism.
One thing led to another. And, upon my return home, fellow Canadians and I joined together to found the Civilian Peace Service Canada (CPSC). It focuses on values- and competency-based assessment of peace professionals, for assignments locally or internationally.
Having looked globally, and failed to identify any organization working on this, we set about putting flesh on the concept of “peace professional”, a professional that brings both the heart and mind to assignments in areas of conflict, first defined by Dr. Johann Galtung, widely considered the father of peace studies.
Other professions have standards and accreditation, we asserted, so why not the peace profession? Whether doctor or lawyer, architect or accountant, good intentions are not enough for practice in the field. Imagine a world without professional standards and accreditation for dentists.
Conversely, imagine…a world with standards and accreditation for peace workers.
Quality control better protects citizens, screens clients, reassures employers, and takes seriously the goal of achieving peace. Better yet, since recruitment for posting to areas of conflict often happens at very short notice, we added, how about aiming for a standing cadre of pre-assessed and accredited peace professionals that employers and decision makers can draw on at short notice?
Almost ten years later, the Civilian Peace Service Canada, has pioneered – to our knowledge – the first practical, values- and competency-based assessment and accreditation program for peace professionals. We did this through conferences and workshops, with a wide network of NGOs, private sector organizations, academics, and practitioners, including Dr. Galtung.
Our pilot testing has demonstrated its practicality to academic and professional scrutiny. In the process, seven peace professionals have been accredited, with backgrounds as varied as national and international training and intervention in mediation, negotiation, conflict transformation, international development, faith-based training, military and ethics, First Nations communities, strategy and planning, restorative justice, trauma management response, court mediation coaching, and professional ombudsman-ship.
Imagine if we had hundreds – major conflict, including wars, could be prevented. The number of lives that could be saved and property destruction prevented is incalculable. Much clearly remains to be done.
Perhaps this short story can be the ‘aha’ moment for someone else, someone in a position to help bring our dream of hundreds, even thousands, of practicing peace professionals to fruition?
By: Gord Breedyk, (www.civilianpeaceservice.ca).