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Global initiative chair explains mission

| Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tim Phillips, chair and co-founder of the global initiative Beyond Conflict, spoke about his experience working with leaders around the world for over two decades in the Eck Hall of Law Tuesday evening.

Beyond Conflict began in 1992 to facilitate discourse between societies divided in conflict, focusing on the human element of conflict and the experiences of other leaders transitioning to peace. Phillips said his network includes 75 initiatives in more than 22 countries in regions like the Middle East, Latin America, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, South Africa and Northern Ireland.

“What we do is find the relevant experiences around the world to bring and share with leaders at all levels,” Phillips said. “We describe leaders as not just political elites. Civil society, grassroots, anybody that exercises leadership in a society — we engage them.

“We assist leaders in divided societies struggling with conflict, reconciliation and societal change by facilitating direct contact with leaders who have successfully addressed similar challenges in other settings.”

Phillips said Beyond Conflict’s method of resolving conflict in those societies is grounded in three rather basic, but perhaps undervalued principles: people can learn from the experiences of others; people can change; and seeing that others can change is empowering. Phillips said these three principles are powerful, even on a natural, biological level.

“People don’t respond to the legacy of repression, violence and trauma with their national identity card. They respond as humans” Phillips said. “Of course, every country will have their own unique experience, but when people respond to trauma and loss of agency, these are human experiences.”

Phillips said despite national, cultural or religious differences, his global network focuses on serving the universal experience of tragedy.

“The DNA of our organization is this recognition of shared human experience. That doesn’t say that every situation is analogous and alike. But again, people respond as humans. Culture, ethnicity, race and ideology center of this operating system called the human brain.”

Phillips said Beyond Conflict’s work has taught him valuable lessons for approaching future projects in the same vein. He said since the initiative’s birth, important themes within peace building include confronting dictatorship and victimhood, recognizing the need for change, changing paradigms and mindsets and building trust among enemies.

“Inclusion is the basis of sustainable change,” Phillips said. “The flip side of that is exclusion is the main driver conflict, in my view. People need to be acknowledge as how they see themselves and understanding is more important than trust.”

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