Lessons from the field of sport and peace

I started to write this blog about advice for practitioners, the importance of learning from failure and of conducting monitoring and evaluation for that purpose. It remains a good topic, but after spending the last few days with Generations For Peace "pioneers" and "delegates,"after hearing their stories and their wisdom, what i had written seemed less important, even silly.

The representative of Generations For Peace I spoke with were from Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. Though their geographic proximity is very close, their experiences and approaches to sports and peacebuilding were nothing short of unique. In each unique story, however, threads of similarity in the smallest details began to weave a tapestry of the wider sports and peacebuilding world, demonstrating not just the universality of sport, but perhaps more importantly, a common humanity. 

Their stories filled my notebook, my recorder, my mind, and my heart. From the academic side, we discuss these programs in terms of theory and extensive categorization of each interaction. I found, though, more resounding wisdom not in the notions of contact theory or physio-therapy, but rather, in the simplest and often off-handed advice of the youth leaders. For both the Lebanese and Palestinian representatives, politics and constrained and defined their lives, even "peace" is highly politicized. They recognized the politics, they demonstrated resentment or despise or hope for the political situation, and they returned to the point over and over that when they play sports, they have the opportunity to escape these politics for a moment. They can be free of the constraints that political divisions impose. They can play. And, when even peacebuilding is political, the simplicity of playing a game with others is accessible and alluring.

Pushing aside all my notions of theory and categorization, the most important observation/advice/pearl of wisdom came from each group of representatives, from every site I've visited, and from the people existing in the darkest of places. Smile. That is it. That peace starts with a smile. A smile expresses inner peace, it is infectious and, even if just for a moment, it is a light in a dark place. I am grateful to the GFP representatives that reminded me of the power of the smile, and to reiterate the GFP motto, I hope to "pass it on."

For more information on Generations For Peace visit http://www.generationsforpeace.com/

For Georgetown University's Conflict Resolution Program visit http://conflictresolution.georgetown.edu/

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Comment by Ali Gohar (Alibaba) on July 26, 2011 at 4:11am
This is one of the most interesting and live field to teach peace with game.I introduced very sensative subject on violence against women and honor killing with title peace by game inKPK Pakistan ,you can see that ,www.justpeaceint.org,recently another resercher Sarah J. Hillyer, PhD Georgetown University | Conflict Resolution Program
Post-Doctoral Fellow | Generations For Peace,Sport & Peacebuilding | sjh75@georgetown.edu.Your conection with her will further explore way and means to work in this field.
Comment by Samuel Maruta on June 29, 2011 at 7:31pm
I salute all those people who put so much effort into ending conflict and building peace.  But ever since I started working in this field, I have never stopped to wonder whether or not these efforts are futile, whether they are not an end in themselves rather than a means to an end.  The question is always 'Are these people who we are targeting with our efforts, who we usually describe as perpetrators/ the bad guys, are the right people for this work; or are they not themselves victims in a complex and complicated web of causation, manipulation and instrumentality?'  For if they are not, then we will always be doing this same work over and over again until amen.  Which is not a problem as long as we know that that is the game we are involved in.  Otherwise one day some of us will feel very exasperated, used.  I have always wanted to research this 'question' but have not yet figured out where to start.  May be someone out there already has the answer or the research question; I would be very grateful.  Or may be there is no need for this despair.  Someone please help!
Comment by An activist for peace on June 29, 2011 at 10:35am

Meeghan this is great. Can you share with us a concept or any documents you used in designing and even implementing this for our expected project to learn the pitfalls and success of others. We are planning to do such a project but starting it is difficult.

You can email me pacesettersyouthnetwork(at)gmailcom.

Kind regards


Comment by Amanda Munroe on June 29, 2011 at 6:08am
Thanks for this, Meeghan! Certainly good to remember in light of this week's events in Afghanistan.

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