Thursday, October 04, 2007

Friends Indeed? The United Nations, Groups of Friends, and the Resolution of Conflict

Featured Speakers: Teresa Whitfield, Social Science Research Council; Chester A. Crocker, School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; Karin von Hippel, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Wednesday’s panel discussion of the United Nations and Groups of “Friends” organizations focused on the successes and failures of Groups of Friends organizations in resolving global conflicts. At the discussion, Teresa Whitfield, a former United Nations officer in El Salvador, discussed her book Friends Indeed, which analyses the formation, actions, and efficiency of groups of “Friends,” associated with the United Nations. In the process, she attempts to determine Best Practices, and arrives at conclusions and recommendations for policymakers in the area of conflict resolution. Whitfield discusses several specific examples of Friend organizations intervening in conflicts. She cites examples from Georgia and Western Sahara as failures because of partisanship and too much self-interest on the part of the Friend organizations. She then sites the intervening of Friend organizations in East Timor as more successful because the parties involved genuinely sought to resolve the conflict. In the end, Whitfield asserts that because the system of Friend organizations has not been firmly established, all lessons have been learned on an individual basis. She stresses the importance of creating guidelines to more successfully utilize Friend organizations.

Ambassador. Crocker then commented on Whitfield’s book, praising it for its depth of research. Though a supporter of Whitfield’s conclusions, Crocker emphasized that in a conflict, one cannot necessarily blame Friend organizations, because if the peace plan is faulty, continued conflict is inevitable. He reiterates that understanding the motives of a Friend organization is a must and if friends add coherence, then they are most definitely an asset. Karin von Hippel, another former United Nations officer related the book to her own experiences in conflict-ridden countries such as Somalia and Kosovo. She underlined why Friend organizations were so unsuccessful in Somalia, citing the reasons being a lack of forceful leadership, competing visions, warring of neighbors and other members, and a lack of interest by major members. In sum, the panelists stressed that Friend organizations have the possibility to aid in conflicts if their motives are good, and their interest level is high. However, a better framework must be established in order to facilitate success.

Sponsor: United States Institute of Peace

Location: USIP 1200 17th Street, NW

Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Time: 1:00 – 3:00 pm

Approximate Number of Attendees: 25

Intern Attending: Abby Smardon

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