On 18th March 2021, Forward Thinking convened a workshop on the field of conflict resolution with Oliver McTernan. 

This meeting was the first in a new series of workshops held by Forward Thinking that will focus on conflict resolution and international politics. The aim of these meetings is to ensure that those with whom we work that have an interest in conflict resolution are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to create positive change. Participants included those from the Pathways into Politics programme, as well as other young people connected with Forward Thinking. 

Oliver provided an introduction to the field of conflict resolution and detailed how he came to be involved in the field. He referred to the hope that he felt on the eve of the new millennium in 1999 when it appeared that the world was becoming less polarised between East and West and that a new world order was being established. Since then, however, it has become apparent that interests have taken dominance over values, which has subsequently led to conflict across the globe. Empathy towards conflict-affected contexts is also often replaced with apathy, which influences the widespread belief that conflicts are intractable. 

Conflicts are resolvable; however this will take time and should not be rushedOliver suggested that for conflicts to be resolved, it is essential to try to understand the root causes; to engage widely with all actors without preconditions; and to provide sufficient resources and ongoing support following the end of conflict to ensure that peace is upheld. 

Participants engaged in an interactive discussion on a range of issues including how media can influence apathy toward conflict; how economic factors drive conflict; whether conflict should be addressed from a top-down perspective or at a grassroots level; and how to ensure those you engage with have legitimacy. Discussion also focused on specific conflicts including Syria, Israel-Palestine, and Kashmir. 

A report of the meeting can be accessed here.

Forward Thinking will be convening further conflict resolution workshops with this group moving forward with speakers from a range of backgrounds to further the skills and knowledge of the participants.