Last week I had the honour of representing the Sentinel Project at an international wokshop in Panama which addressed the topic of creating what is being called a “Regional Mechanism for Peace and Conflict Resolution” in Latin America. This multi-year initiative is being organized by the Arias Foundation with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and the support of several Central American governments.
As part of the preparation for this project, numerous NGOs, government agencies, and intergovernmental organizations are meeting in a series of workshops to share approaches to violence early warning, conflict prevention, and conflict resolution. At the table with me were representatives from the UN Development Programme, the Organization of American States, and the United States Institute of Peace, among several others. Although I was the only person attending from an organization focused on genocide, one of the most interesting aspects of the meeting was listening to each speaker and seeing the similarities between the Sentinel Project’s approach and those of organizations working to stop other types of violence. Over the course of the day, panels covered different solutions for gang and drug-related violence, intercommunal tensions, and even building a culture of peace by addressing domestic violence and teaching conflict resolution techniques to children.
Overall, this was a great experience and offered us a chance not only to showcase our work but also to solicit feedback on it. After all, a room full of people who spend much of their time thinking about predicting and preventing various types of violence is a great audience to have when developing the type of methodology that we are. They can find weaknesses and points for improvement that we might miss ourselves while also offering some encouragement and external validation for the things we are doing right. Hopefully we can remain involved in this initiative going forward and continue to offer our support to conflict prevention in Latin America, especially as we begin to expand the number of countries that we monitor.