Culture and the vanishing of states

THE IMPACT OF CULTURE ON THE VANISHING OF STATES

Can cultural intelligence also prevent this?

Sjaak Pappe, BAA MA

Innovation and Culture Management Strategist

Owner, SPI&CM | Bio-Inspired Innovation | A sustainable world already exists

Co-Owner, Coconut Blue | Culture-Based Safety Management | A safe culture is a strategic asset

Co-Owner, Rynbende Spirits | Authentic Dutch Spirits | Anything for an InnOvation

E-mail: sjaak@sjaakpappe.com

Topics that will be covered 

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a nation-state?
  3. Research and statement
  4. How states vanish, The Example of the USSR 
  5. Is there a (cor)relation between the examples of vanishing states and culture?
  6. Can culture management prevent states from vanishing?
  7. Summary, conclusion and a suggestion for a solution framework and further debate

Keywords: Nation-State, Culture, Vanishing States, Implosion of Nations, Culture and Government Policies. 

  1. Introduction

Why do states vanish? The what and or how of nation-building is influenced by culture. But why and or how states vanish may also be influenced by (their or other’s) culture. Can the deployment of cultural dynamics also help prevent states from disappearing or stop nations from conquering others? This article explores the possible (cor)relation between dissolving nations and their culture, based on a limited literature study. It will draft some ideas on how culture might help prevent states from disappearing. This given the actuality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This article is, therefore, about how the USSR vanished and how Putin wants to restore the Old Russian Empire, which is more than the USSR because he more or less despised the latter’s political system. He went back to the leadership of one man instead of the leadership of the Communist Party committees. He wants to become the new ‘Czar’.     

A recent special of the Culture Impact Journal has focused on how nations are built and whether this “how” has a (cor)relation with the national culture(s) involved. I initialy decided to explore it from another angle: why do states vanish and whether there is a (cor)relation between national culture and the “why” and “how” of the dissolving process. However, with the invasion of Russia in Ukraine, I changed my mind. 

The new principle  of my article became that all citizens should have the right to have their own safe state without the need to fear that their nation will vanish because of interference by other nations. That right should be assured by respecting local national culture’s values.

Because people are more loyal to culture than to strategy, it’s the most important inhibitor and enabler of change in collective human behavior, attitude, and beliefs. Therefore, let’s assume that enhanced cultural competencies, especially cultural awareness, -sensitivity and -empathy, competences and cultural situational leadership of heads of state, diplomats, militaries, and parliamentarians, will lead to more effective diplomatic and military operations, which will ensure more strategic, safe states than nowadays is the case. The norm should be: the world community assures states don’t vanish (unless a failed state) or get retrieved and that conquering of other states is not done. 

We know that culture is the key influencer of collective human behavior, however in addition I have still made a small literature study to understand why and how nations vanish. Also, I will try to scan whether culture’s consequences are more or less visible in the vanishing process. Primarily, I have studied the work of prize-winning researchers and writers Davies, Fazal, and Diamond. 

I will start by describing a nation-state. Furthermore, I will describe how I studied the work of different writers. I will summarize why and how nations die and explore any correlation with culture. Next, I will explain my doctrine of why leaders should apply diplomacy inspired by nature. I will close off with recommendations for further research and policies.      

  • What is a nation-state?

First, what is a nation-state? It is “a sovereign state of which most of the citizens or subjects are united also by factors which define a nation, such as language or common descent” (Oxford Dictionary). Another definition is broader: “A nation-state is a political unit where the state and nation are congruent  . It is a more precise concept than “country” since a country does not need to have a predominant ethnic group” (Wikipedia).

“A nation, in the sense of a common ethnicity, may include a diaspora or refugees who live outside the nation-state; some nations of this sense do not have a state where that ethnicity predominates. In a more general sense, a nation-state is simply a large, politically sovereign country or administrative territory.” (Wikipedia). The concept of a nation state as we know them nowadays has been developed mainly from the 19th century onwards. Before that, nation-states did not exist, but they were mainly (conglomerates of geographically spread) kingdoms, empires, duchies, counties, and city-states. They were most of the time not established in one specific territory, but mostly geographically dispersed.

  • Research and statement

Second, I explored how states vanish through a limited literature study. For that, I used, amongst other things, first, Norman Davies’s research on the history of fifteen forgotten European states. Secondly, I also studied the work of Tanisha M. Fazal and thirdly, Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond to gain insight into how states disappear. 

Is there a correlation between culture and how a state vanishes or in the vanishing of a state as such? If so, can managing cultural dynamics prevent states from vanishing? This is because every nation has a right to exist if its citizens desire to. 

  • How states vanish – the example  of the USSR

In order to be clear, with ‘vanishing’ I don’t mean ‘revolution’ nor ‘regime-change’ nor ‘system-failure’. Revolution and regime change refer to events where the social order or government is overthrown but where the territory and population remain intact. System failure refers to political organisms that lose the capacity to function effectively but, most of the time, don’t collapse completely. A field of study of recent decades is failed, or better,  failing states, which actually refers to system failure. Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria top this list. In this article, I write about states that cease to exist. Many scholars describe extinction as a ’natural’ process for nations; they rise, flourish, decline, and become extinct. To illustrate that, alone Europe lists no fewer than 207 extinct states in its past. It is a definitely underestimated issue.         

Most scholars nowadays agree that external, internal, voluntary, and involuntary factors are all visible in the vanishing of nations and that dual schemes no longer suffice. At least five mechanisms appear to be at work: implosion, conquest, merger, liquidation and ‘infant mortality’. The ultimate factor is war. Let me explain. 

Fazal has proven in her research that when states disappear through conquest geography is the main reason. States that vanish are, in most cases, buffer states. Big geopolitical powers, like the US, Russia, China, and India, prefer buffer states between them in order to maintain a balance between them. By offering EU and NATO membership to these buffer states, like Ukraine, Georgia, and before that, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Russia feels threatened. This disregards the fact that Russia, at a certain moment, even requested to become a member of NATO. Remember that also the US assured itself that communist, socialist, or even left-liberal regimes didn’t get a chance to develop in the buffer zones of the US. They financed and organized revolts against democratically chosen regimes (the list is very long). Geography is also the main reason why states are not conquered. If a country comprises, in general, rough terrain and strong ethnic groups, they are very hard to conquer. Afghanistan and Vietnam are the best examples (Fazal).          

After WWII the norm became (conferences of Jalta, Potsdam): no more conquering, no more war. But it was unilaterally declared by the US and supported by the Western World. Russia (Stalin) agreed but felt insecure about this process because the agreement was that Eastern European countries should get the right to organize democratic elections. Hence, amongst other reasons, the ‘Cold War’ started. This is because buffer states had the potential to be ‘conquered’ by Western democracies. Putin continued this vision and has already spoken about this unilateral doctrine several times, also in public. Russia wasn’t really involved in drafting, organizing and leading the doctrine of ‘no more war’. But Western leaders didn’t listen and or didn’t get the message. This may be influenced by the fact that ‘collectivistic’ Putin brings his message indirectly. He doesn’t want the US to determine when war is allowed and when not. 

The problem is that in the eyes of many people, the EU and the US haven’t contributed to the improvement of the livelihood of their societies and the welfare of their citizens. They see their citizens primarily as consumers, and workers to be directed by centrally developed laws (EU) or little control (US). Instead of increased welfare for citizens (political), power holders and wealthy people became more distant, more powerful, and richer. EU and US citizens feel unheard. Hence, extreme right movements can flourish because they supposedly ‘listen’ to the common people and have simple solutions for all problems: find a scapegoat (e.g., immigrants), restore old ‘ethnicities, values and norms’, and all will be solved. Russia has built on this doctrine via fake news and hacks.            

  • Is there a (cor)relation between the examples of vanishing states and culture?

In this article, I write about the most actual example where internal factors were key: the Soviet Union, which is often said has ‘imploded’, despite that also outside pressures has been present. The reason seems to me to be cultural. All cultures within the Soviet Union, except the Baltics, are in the assessment of Geert Hofstede, very hierarchical and have an extreme high need for certainty. So, there is an emotional need for power to be centralized and for a strict ‘father figure’ at a distance to be in charge (Wursten). Also, big changes in political, economic, social, and/or technological ecosystems are not valued, even blocked, if needed by law or violence. A catastrophic malfunction of the center occurred, and the vacuum was created. The constituent republics of the Union disengaged and continued into uncertainty-avoiding states led by autocrats, except the Northern-European-oriented cultures of the Baltic States. The whole was destroyed. The political system had been developed around the centralized dictatorship of the Communist Party and the command economy. As soon as Gorbachev lost his ability and will to command, because of his Perestroika and Glasnost doctrine, all Party structures came to a stop. This is the main reason why the Soviet Union collapsed, in my opinion, and that of a lot of scholars (Davies). Fifteen republics were pushed into the step beyond mere ‘system failure’. For the Baltics, it was the easiest. They were occupied and annexed in 1940. But they were never fully integrated because of their differences in culture, but also amalgamation takes a long time, often generations. ‘Only’ fifty years later they could ‘escape’ due to the vacuum, with great effort, gasping, but intact as before the conquering, proving that cultural values are stable because they are passed on from generation to generation and that symbols, role models and their power structures, rituals and practices change (Hofstede). 

Gorbachev’s doctrine of Perestroika and Glasnost didn’t fit the culture of the USSR. He wanted to go back to the idealogic source of Lenin for just political, economic, social, and technological reasons, by the way. The USSR was in a bad state. He wanted more socialism, more delegation to the people’s republics, and more democracy while maintaining sufficient central power, although getting rid of what he called unimportant tasks. But these tasks kept the bureaucracy, needed for central power, intact. Ending the ‘Cold War’ was another strategy of Gorbachev. But that was one of the main reasons for the existence of his socialist nation. He tried to change the ‘cultural ecosystem’ of his country via a guided revolution. 

That is factually impossible, certainly within the time frame he had in mind. Most revolutions in history have brought changes but never in the ‘cultural ecosystem’. Symbols, role models, rituals, and some practices may change, but the cultural values are unchangeable. They drive the basic unwritten rules of the ‘social game’. The behavior of Vladimir Putin doesn’t really differ from that of the Imperial Czars and communist ‘Czar’ Josef Stalin. Another example that may raise some eyebrows is the French Revolution. It’s always promoted as the big turning point in Western democracy. I seriously doubt that. That process started already in the Renaissance and gradually developed into the present-day Western democracies, which certainly played their role. But let’s look at France nowadays and the famous slogan ‘Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood’. Freedom is, to a certain extent, true because the French are individualistic people. Brotherhood is already more difficult to realize, especially because of the individualistic culture and the high power distance. There is a Brotherhood, but mainly within the school system in groups, like the Grand Ecoles. Finally, Equality is, in my opinion, ‘window dressing’ or in other words it’s an identity policy in my humble opinion. The French still have their ‘Sun King’, namely the President. He has much more power than any other president around the world in democratic societies. When you look at French society, it looks from a distance like a collection of ’Solar Systems’ or chaos, unclear where the structure is, but when a sun within the system starts to shine, it’s clear who assures everybody’s existence, like on our Earth, the Sun. In France that are the people that are in the top leadership roles. 

Certainly, when one considers that the USSR republics’ cultures were and still are  extremely hierarchical, collectivistic, and very, very insecure, change is extremely challenging. A change process in such a culture follows different lines. The top power holder’s opinion is all important. This figure allows for opinions about new ideas informally and indirectly. The top leader needs to have trust and respect. He emphasizes the fear of failure and emotional buy-in (Wursten). Already Stalin stated that the USSR was threatened. He transformed the country in less than two decades from a backward, largely peasant country into a modern power with considerable industrial and military potential. He was certainly driven by the Communist Ideology and partly by memories of the humiliating defeat of the Great War. But when he launched his program for five-year plans and collectivistic agriculture in 1929, he said: ‘If we don’t transform this country in ten years, our enemies will destroy us.’ It’s scary, similar to what Putin does and says, isn’t it?    In corporate business, one often says ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, a term first ascribed to Peter Drucker, and most business leaders respect this principle. However, Gorbachev neglected the innovation and change management principles of this paradigm. By the way, when I write ‘culture’ I mean the unwritten rules of the social game that are internalized for centuries and applied by the majority of sixty to seventy percent of a nation’s citizens and leaders.   

The example of the USSR is painfully actual, given Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine and earlier on Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and Syria. He wants to restore Greater Russia and maybe even more: he wants to destroy all (surrounding) democracies, or at least the ones in his ‘buffer zone’. Besides his personality, which maybe a ‘dark triad’ (a term from psychiatry) of psychopathy, narcism, and manipulation and the bad state of the economy, his personal cultural “programming” could impact his strategy. As stated earlier, Russia has a culture of strong hierarchy, collectivism, femininity, extreme need for certainty and long-term orientation. 

Putin’s collectivistic side probably experienced the loss of face when the USSR disappeared, and the West discounted its leadership and took advantage of the chaos. The to-be-expected reaction of a hierarchical, collectivistic, and uncertain state leader: revenge in a silent, informal, and indirect way. Chaos must be controlled and banned. He is patient and apparently has a long-term orientation, meaning he became focused on the future when he came into office in 1999. He was willing to delay short-term material or social success or even short-term emotional gratification in order to prepare for the future. He values persistence, perseverance, saving and being able to adapt.

I am of the opinion that Western leaders, under the ‘supreme’ leadership of the US, have contributed to or even enabled this situation but also didn’t see it or even ignored it. “This situation” includes Russia partly conquering of neighboring states, Russia’s support of autocratic regimes (Syria), and the upcoming extreme right (violent) movements in the EU and US. Let me explain another example which is similar to the USSR. 

The Federation of Yugoslavia, which fell apart after Tito’s death in stages between 1991 and 2006, displayed many similar features to those in the USSR. The main difference is that Serbia, claiming the central power role under the leadership of Miloševic, tried to keep the Federation together with, amongst others, brutal military campaigns. But the ‘spirit was already out of the bottle’ and the more he raged against the other Balkan nations, the more they alienated from Serbia, including their most faithful partner, Montenegro. Here, the word ‘explosion’ might be more suited than ‘implosion’.  

  • Can culture-based politics and diplomacy prevent states from vanishing? 

Hopefully, you, as a reader, can agree with me that Gorbachev neglected his country’s ‘cultural ecosystem’. He should have stayed in power as a ‘benevolent, strict father figure at a distance’ in a guided, centrally controlled ‘democracy’.

Western countries should have realized that Putin was losing his buffer states, the countries that would stay impartial between the big power blocks, the EU/USA, NATO, and Russia. But always with the risk that either power block may ‘conquer’ buffer states. That has happened in the surrounding states of Russia. That’s why Putin started to re-conquer areas.

Informal and indirect negotiations with Putin in order to ensure that he would not lose face could have been successful but only when done with ‘Byzantine Diplomacy’. That means playing the waiting game but with the ‘iron fist’ of clandestine violent actions if talks don’t lead to quick results or even warfare or threat of strong armed forces ready. But Western nations should have been doing this from the beginning of Putin’s reign and not be naïve as they have been in the past decades.   

To illustrate this strategy, hereby is an example of how Russia operated in the eighties toward terrorists in the Middle East (Los Angeles Times, January 7, 1986).   

 “The Jerusalem Post said the Soviet secret police last year secured the release of three kidnaped Soviet diplomats in Beirut by castrating a relative of a radical Lebanese Shia Muslim leader, sending him the severed organs and then shooting the relative in the head.”

‘……with a warning that he would lose other relatives in a similar fashion if the three remaining Soviet diplomats were not immediately released. They were quickly freed.’  

‘And this is the language Hezbollah understands’

  • Summary, conclusion and a suggestion for a solution framework and further debate

In this article I wrote about why and how nations vanish, especially about the factor ‘implosion’ in relation to Russia and Ukraine – the other reasons I have left apart for the sake of the length of this article and because culture is the dynamic that also influences these reasons.

Hopefully, I have giving enough insight to the reader that culture is ‘the puppet master’ that can cause nations to vanish but also that can prevent the disappearance of states. Cultural values are so powerful because they are mostly unconsciously passed on from generation tot generation. They are the unconscious useful corner stones for people to survive in social settings.     

I do understand why big power nations prefer buffer states between them. However, this is contrary to my vision (doctrine if you want)  that people in all nations should have the right to choose the system, relations, and cooperation partners they want. 

Let me introduce therefore a new term: Culture-Based Interventions for Strategic Safety (C-BISS). The core of this strategy is culture-based defense and -diplomacy. The term is not the same as Cultural Diplomacy which is a more broader concept that also plays a role in efforts for nations’ security but mainly through soft actions around artistic and knowledge exchanges.

What is Cultural Diplomacy? Two definitions: 

“Cultural Diplomacy may best be described as a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation, promote national interests and beyond; Cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society.”

https://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/index.php?en_culturaldiplomacy

“Cultural diplomacy is a type of public diplomacy and soft power that includes the “exchange of ideas, information, art, language and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding”. The purpose of cultural diplomacy is for the people of a foreign nation to develop an understanding of the nation’s ideals and institutions in an effort to build broad support for economic and political goals. In essence “cultural diplomacy reveals the soul of a nation”, which in turn creates influence. Though often overlooked, cultural diplomacy can and does play an important role in achieving national security efforts.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_diplomacy

Definition of Culture-Based Interventions for Strategic Safety (‘C-BISS’): 

In order to secure the long term existance of nations, interventions like interference of hostile plans, arbitration and mediation, breaking of enemy alliances, besieging (potential) conquerors and or (para)military (clandestine) actions, all shaped by applying the ‘unwritten rules of the social game’ are allowed towards nations where goals, objectives and/or strategies are developed to have another or their own nation to vanish. 

The key challenge is: Who or what will assure this? The UN is not powerful, authoritative and influential enough for that role. A secret global network of vigilantes that execute tyrannicide would be a solution. But that only happens in fantasy novels and movies. But non-democratic, clandestine actions will have to part of the tactics unfortunately (like Harari writes). Else, powerful agressors will be blocking any legal action. 

It might be a very small-scale modest idea to organize a low key global debate platform under the flag of Culture Impact, just like the Dutch Nexus Institute does on Cultural Diplomacy. 

List of academic books and articles that discuss the phenomenon of state disappearance and its underlying causes that I partly used as inspiration and sources to write this article and which is a recommended reading list.

Books:

  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari, 2018.
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond, 2005.
  • Culture and Organisations, Software of the Mind: Intercultural Cooperation and Its Importance for Survival, Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov, 2010.
  • Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, Noam Chomsky, 2006.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond, 1997. 
  • Humankind, A Hopeful History, Rutger Bregman, 2021.
  • Perestroika, Our Hopes for our Country and our World, Mikhail Gorbachev, 1987.  
  • State Death: The Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation, Tanisha M. Fazal, 2007.
  • The 7 Mental Images of National Culture: Leading and Managing in a Globalized World, Huib Wursten, 2019.
  • The Vanishing State: Historical Perspectives on State Failure, edited by I. William Zartman
  • The Vanishing State: The View from the Ground” by Christian Leuprecht and Joel J. Sokolsky
  • Vanished Kingdoms, The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Norman Davies, 2011.
  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty”, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, 2013.

Articles:

  • Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. “The Rise and Decline of General Laws of Capitalism.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 29, no. 1 (2015): 3-28.
  • Chua, Amy. “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.” New York: Anchor Books, 2004.
  • Englehart, Neil A. “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.” Polity 39, no. 2 (2007): 287-288..
  • Hegre, Håvard, Tanja Ellingsen, Scott Gates, and Nils Petter Gleditsch. “Toward a Democratic Civil Peace? Democracy, Political Change, and Civil War, 1816-1992. American Political Science Review 95, no. 1 (2001): 33-48.
  • Rotberg, Robert I. “Failed States, Collapsed States, Weak States: Causes and Indicators.” In State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror, edited by Robert I. Rotberg, 1-30. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003..

Culture and Peace Or In search of interculturality

Culture and Peace or in Search of Interculturality

Anton Carpinschi, Professor Emeritus “Al. I. Cuza” University of Iași (Romania)

anton.carpinschi@gmail.com

          Synopsis: Starting from the observation of the worrying increase in anti-Semitic manifestations in Romania, a country with a small number of Jews, this essay pleads for addressing the biunivocal relations between culture and peace by educating intercultural competences and cultivating the spirit of interculturality. But, how could we cultivate the spirit of interculturality in a world at a crossroads, a world in which the civilization built on the foundations of democratic liberalism is increasingly threatened by pseudo-democratic illiberalism or even by the increasingly totalitarian tendencies of dictatorial regimes. For therapeutic reasons, the author assumes, at the meeting of practical philosophy, discursive pragmatics, cultural studies, a personalized approach of a reflexive nature inspired by his own life experiences.

Keywords: captive thinking; recognition culture; spirit of interculturality/discursive-pragmatic spirit of interculturality; dynamics of composite identities vs dialogue of connective identities;  civilization of common sense

 “It is hard to understand how in a country with a tiny number of Jews…”

          “It is hard to understand how in a country with a tiny number of Jews there is still an intense anti-Semitic load, which from time to time erupts in ways that still manage to surprise us (…). It is a cause of constant uneasiness for us Jews to note that many of those who attend to aspects of public life, a life lived by us as well, foster more or less anti-Semitic feelings”  (adevarul.ro › Știri locale › Constanţa. 24.09.2021 11:09). This is how Maximillian Marco Katz, director of the Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania, reacted, when a historian from Constanta, a former PSD local councilor, made anti-Semitic comments in connection with the allocation of funds from the local authorities’ budget for the restoration of the synagogue, a historical monument in a state of degradation. Referring to the anti-Semitic scandal in Constanța, Israel’s ambassador to Romania, His Excellency David Saranga stated the following: “It is worrying that in 2021 and just a few weeks before the National Holocaust Remembrance Day in Romania, a historian who should know the past trivializes the torments of some compatriots. Compatriots who perished in the Iasi Pogrom, in the Bucharest Pogrom, who suffocated in the “Death Trains”, were deported to Transnistria, where they endured inhumane conditions. The Holocaust in Romania remains an open wound, visible even today”(adevarul.ro › Știri locale › Constanţa)

         The Constanța anti-Semitic scandal as well as other nationalist-xenophobic positions in the Romanian public space, draw our attention to the fact that, not by chance, the criminal anti-Jewish political actions that deeply marked the history of Romania during the Legionary and Antonescian dictatorships are distorted, relativized, minimized and nowadays. In these circumstances, the denial of the Holocaust in Romania and the campaigns to rehabilitate the memory of the dictator Ion Antonescu, the supreme leader of the country (Conducătorul) between 1940-1944 are among the most well-known nationalist-xenophobic and anti-Semitic manifestations after 1989. The anti-Semitic scandal in Constanța shows us, once again, how easily hatred and envy can be induced towards people of another ethnicity or religion, and how effective demagoguery, fear and incitement become when, out of ignorance, convenience and disinterest we are unable to assume an honest and responsible national history. But, beyond these general considerations, the question I ask myself and which I think is worth reflecting on is the following: why do anti-Semitic manifestations persist in Romanian society even after the mass emigration of Jews ?

          Reflecting on the deep causes of anti-Semitic manifestations in Romanian society and beyond, the following hypothesis took shape in my mind: the anti-Semitic manifestations in societies appear and are maintained, mainly, through the joint action of some serious psycho-cultural illnesses, among which: the syndrome of captive thinking and the absence of the culture of recognition. Of course, the intensity and extent of anti-Semitic manifestations are influenced by the size of the Jewish population, but in any community, regardless of the size of the Jewish population, the syndrome of captive thinking favors the absence of a culture of recognitionFalling into the captivity of ideological-propagandistic manipulations maintained through our own informational-cognitive limits, the errors of evaluation, judgment, and reasoning, nationalist-xenophobic emotional impulses, ethnic-racial prejudices and resentments, bigotry, and religious obscurantism bring us to the incapacity to recognize and dialog with other. Captive thinking generates and maintains the inability to recognize in the other – whether he is Romanian, Hungarian, Jewish, Palestinian, Ukrainian or Russian, etc. — a peer, a collaborator or even a friend and, worse, by propagating hostile messages in a foul language are favored triggering of instinctual-emotional reactions, negative attitudes and acts of hatred, violence, aggression, not rarely, of a criminal nature. Assuming the hypothesis according to which the syndrome of captive thinking and the absence of the culture of recognition favor anti-Semitic manifestations directs our approach towards clarifying the major psycho-cultural causes of anti-Semitism and, at the same time, towards exploring the reflexive-therapeutic spirit of the interculturality of a way to counter anti-Semitism. Symptom of an old psycho-cultural illness, the Constanța anti-Semitic scandal triggered, at the same time, in my mind a series of vivid memories.

The Constanța anti-Semitic scandal: the symptom of an old psycho-cultural

illness in Romanian society

           I learned about the horrors of the Pogrom in Iași in June 1941 during my philosophy student years, when professor Iosif Natansohn, a witness and survivor of the pogrom, told me about the violence and crimes that the innocent Jewish population of Iaşi suffered on the background of nationalist-xenophobic propaganda and suspicions specific to the war atmosphere. During one of our walks through the streets of the city center, Professor Natansohn showed me the place where the Court of the Iasi Police Headquarters was located. This is the place where on Sunday, June 29, 1941 — the day of Christian veneration of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul — several thousand Jews were gathered and fired upon. Sensitized by the conversations with Professor Natansohn, I began to document myself, and what remained strong in my mind are the vivid testimonies of survivors whom I had the honor of meeting and the mass graves around Iași that always remind us that the souls of our fellows not found peace even after death.

           Returning to the present, I refer to the edifying and worrying data of an “Avangarde” survey applied by the face-to-face method on a sample of the Jewish population in Romania at the request of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute, a few days before the outbreak of the conflict between the Hamas group and Israel (period 01.08 – 01.10.2023). According to the available data, 71% of the respondents believe that there is anti-Semitism in Romania, and 23% appreciate that it is present “to a large extent”; 41% believe that anti-Semitism has increased in the last 5 years. Between 38% and 68% believe that anti-Semitism is a problem in political life, on social networks, in the mass media, etc.; 24% say they were the victim of anti-Semitic remarks, and 14% say they were the target of anti-Semitic actions; 51% believe that the state protects the Jews in Romania (www.digi24.ro › Știri › Actualitate/16.10.2023/ 11:33). In these troubling circumstances captured by the cold data of the survey we might recognize that for some, anti-Semitism has become almost natural. “Anti-Semitism is like rain. It has become almost a natural phenomenon that cannot be avoided”, was observing with bitter irony Dorian Galbinski, member of the Jewish community, former producer and translator at the Romanian Section of the BBC World Service. To which he immediately added: “I know that we must continue to fight with the anti-Semitism. After all, hope dies last, right ? It’s just that, personally, I’m very skeptical that these efforts have any effect” (www.contributors.ro › 2 HOME).

          Indeed, “anti-Semitism is like rain; it has become almost a natural phenomenon that cannot be avoided”. Basically, “Jihadists don’t like anyone, not just Jews. As is seen periodically in London, Paris, Amsterdam, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, etc., etc., etc.”. In other words, the jihadists and their sympathizers who have emigrated to the West do not like the multicultural world of globalization where they have found asylum and opportunities for work and professional achievement, and Islamist schools make proselytes on the conveyor belt. It is, of course, easy for all these opponents of liberal democracies to organize anti-Semitic demonstrations on the boulevards of Western metropolises. At the same time, it is incomparably more advantageous for the great undemocratic powers of the world to encourage destabilizing anti-Semitic organizations and movements within Western democratic societies. Or, as the foreign policy commentator Alexandru Lăzescu recently pointed out, it is as perverse as it is profitable for the great undemocratic powers of the world to “creatively reinterpret the genocide” and transform through a “cynical strategy” at the International Court of Justice from The Hague “Hamas’ attempted genocide as self-defense, and Israel’s defense against this criminal attack as “genocide” (A. Lăzescu, Reinterpretarea creativă a genocidului / The creative reinterpretation of genocide. Ziarul de Iași, 15.01. 2024). How else could we react when faced with a propagandistic embezzlement of a such magnitude ?

If “jihadists don’t like anyone, not just Jews”, how could we still react ?”     

About intercultural experiences and the therapeutic reconstitution of one’s

own narrative identity 

          How could we counter the anti-Semitic manifestations in the circumstances of a fragile geopolitical balance, endangered by the aggressive policy of the great authoritarian powers and the proliferation of non-democratic regimes, the management failure of underdeveloped states and the escalation of jihadist movements ? In these dramatic circumstances, countering anti-Semitism acquires, from the perspective of a personal intercultural education project, several major directions: 1) maintaining continuous dialogue between open and cooperative Christian, Islamic, Jewish or any other religious communities against the background of the discouragement of the aggressive policy of the great non-democratic powers trough NATO military politics; 2) physical and mental interpersonal securitization through identification the symptoms of captive thinking, cultivating mutual recognition and the spirit of interculturality in the multicultural environments; 3) careful evaluation, isolation and political neutralization of fanatical leaders and collectivities opaque to any dialogue and attempts at intercultural education. Basically, what “dialogue” could be achieved with the fanatical leaders and collectivities ? What “dialogue” could have been achieved with individuals from the terrorist and criminal commandos of Hamas on the fateful day of October 7, 2023 ? Of course, in such extreme political-military situations, the intervention of diplomacy, security forces, and intelligence services is required on a case-by-case basis.

We live in a world that Michel Foucault diagnosed as “a great asylum, where the rulers are psychologists and the people are patients”, a world where “political power is about to acquire a new function, which is therapeutic” (Foucault, 1994). Beyond this psychiatric diagnosis, the words of the French philosopher suggest a potential remedy: the therapeutic function of political power. But, a therapeutic function exercised only by the holders of political power causes fears and doubts. On the other hand, as Peter Drucker pointed out at the beginning of the 21st century, we are in an unprecedented situation in terms of the evolution of the human condition. “For the first time, literally, a substantial and rapidly growing number of people have options. For the first time, they will have to fend for themselves. And society is totally unprepared for this” (Drucker,  2000). We are, therefore, in a deeply dilemmatic situation: exercised only by the people of power, the therapeutic function of political power causes fears and sorrows, on the other hand, faced with the great challenges of the present and the future, society seems unprepared to manage its own problems.

In these circumstances, I return to the question, “If the jihadists don’t like anyone, not just Jews, how could we still react?”. How could we manage multiculturality in a world increasingly fragmented socially, politically, ideologically, ethnically-religiously and, at the same time, increasingly globalized informationally-communicationally, scientifically-technologically, managerially-corporately? How should we prepare for a reasonable management of multiculturality and countering anti-Semitism in such a world of paradoxes? Populist, sovereigntist and xenophobic ideologies, as well as fundamentalist-religious ones, aggressively and unproductively propagate policies hostile to multiculturalism and the spirit of interculturality. The impersonal, flat and exasperatingly repetitive descriptivism so often found in the press, everyday communication and sometimes even in specialized literature also condemns people and society to passivity and unpreparedness for managing multiculturalism. Consequently, we remain unprepared for managing multiculturalism if we do not prepare or are not prepared for the education of intercultural skills on a personal and collective level.

But how should we prepare for the education of intercultural skills ? To answer this question, I start from an observation occasioned by my own experience in the multicultural collectivity of my hometown, Tulcea, a city at the gates of the Danube Delta. Managing life in a multicultural community relies on personal and interpersonal management of intercultural issues in everyday life. In these circumstances, for therapeutic reasons, I assume a personalized approach of a reflexive nature inspired by the intercultural (inter)personal experiences lived by me over time. Reconstructing the past in an autobiographical touch, filtering a series of significant memories, I try to configure as coherent as possible picture of my psychocultural profile. Against the background of my childhood memories spent in Tulcea, a still multicultural city in the middle of the 20th century, of the experiences of student and academic life in communism but, after 1989, also in university campuses in the West, I am writing several life narratives, thus outlining my own narrative identity perceived as, “a person’s internalized and evolving life story, which integrates the reconstructed past and the imagined future to give one’s life some degree of unity and purpose” (McAdams, & McLean, 2013). Starting from my own psychocultural profile transposed into a narrative identity, I try to understand why we are talking “again about anti-Semitism” or “why anti-Semitic manifestations persist in Romanian society even after the mass emigration of Jews”. However, in order to manage such a complex and difficult ideological-affective path, I feel the need to recharge my energy with moods and images from the multicultural Tulcea of my childhood.

          Flashback. Tulcea, mid-20th century or how the spirit of interculturality      

          survived on the banks of the Danube

           Tulcea, March 1945. A young man who had just returned from the front after participating for two years as a military doctor in an aviation squadron arrived in Tulcea. Born in a Polish refugee family in Bucovina following the suppression of the Polish people’s revolt against the occupation of the country by Tsarist Russia, graduated from the Faculty of Medicine in Iași, the young doctor Mihai Carpinschi was to contribute in the next four decades to putting in operation and good functioning of the Surgery Department in the city at the gates of the Danube Delta. Entering in a new psychocultural environment, what impressed him from the beginning — as he told me since my childhood years — was the diversity of languages spoken by the city’s inhabitants, the variety of port and customs of the population of the picturesque city spread on the green hills that guard the majestic course of the Danube.  Along with Romanians, were living here for centuries Greeks, Jews, Armenians, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Turks, Tatars, Russians, Lipovians, Ukrainians and, more recently, German and Italian colonists hired by King Carol I at the great public works so necessary for modernizing Romania. It is not surprising that, under these unusual circumstances, the young doctor with Polish origins met and married a young lady of Greek ethnicity, Émili Anastásiu, a graduate of the Academy of Higher Commercial and Industrial Studies in Bucharest who, following the terrible American bombing of 4 April 1944 on the capital, she had taken refuge in his hometown.

          So, I spent my childhood in a multicultural family whose members honored their status as Romanian citizens with dignity both in peacetime and in wartime. Growing up in a Christian family with an ecumenical openness, in the first part of Sunday mornings I was listening enchanted  the vibrant chords of the organ music at the Catholic church, and in the second part at the Orthodox service at the Greek church — a beautiful edifice built in the middle of the 19th century  — I was letting myself be carried away by the warm voices and volutes of the Greco-Byzantine melodic line. The interwar multicultural climate was persisting, moreover, in those years in the school and in Tulcean society. Despite the vicissitudes caused by the precipitate installation in power of communist authorities, until the early 1960s you could still meet interesting people and beautiful customs of the interwar multicultural world in Tulcea.  Not by chance, among my childhood friends and colleagues, in addition to the Romanians Marius Vasilescu, Nicolae Batcu or Radu Tănase, there were Greeks such as Grigóris Violatos, Émili Paterake, Níkos Ioannidis, Élena Kostinoú, Jews such as Salomeea Feimblatt, Mircea Harnik and my good colleague from bank from the high school years, Ada Leibovici, Macedonians like Tase and Florica Matarangă, Turks like Cadâr and Eiub Musa or Lipovan Russians like Olga Efimov, Maria Andreev and Ivan Danilov. Growing up with them and among them, I participated in various family events,  birthdays, baptisms, weddings and funerals accompanied by the specific religious ceremonies. It was, therefore, nothing unusual for me during that period of personal growth and formation to listen the services and sermons in the Catholic and Orthodox rite, to watch the ceremonial praise and worship at the Tabernacle in the synagogue and to admire the emotional incantations of the cantor or to listen to the confession of faith and other prayers specific to the Muslim ritual.

          But the multicultural interwar climate in which I had been born and raised — which felt so familiar and safe because it had survived the first 15 years of communist dictatorship — changed dramatically after the 1960s. The shock for me then, as a child, was the demolition of the “Columns”, the famous bazaar from the Ottoman era located in the center of the city and of the entire complex of buildings around it, a chic commercial and residential complex specific to the lifestyle of the middle bourgeoisie in an old port on the Danube.  And today, I am convinced that the professional conservation of that impressive architectural monument from the long period of the Ottoman administration of Dobrogea, as well as of the historical center of the city, would have been a great gain, an investment that we would have benefited from cultural and touristic view even today. But, of course, the state rationale that guided the leadership of the Romanian Workers’ Party engaged in the five-year plans for the construction of socialism was different. Moreover, I was beginning to understand that I was the helpless witness to the triggering of events on a historical scale: the disappearance of the peasant class through the forced collectivization of agriculture, the social elimination of the bourgeoisie and the liberal professions, and, simultaneously, socialist industrialization and rur-urbanization focused on massifying and standardizing Romanian society.

          The major social-political changes were beginning to be acutely felt in the psycho-socio-cultural urban landscape. Industrialization and collectivization according to the Stalinist model were also beginning to make themselves felt in the irreversible change in the appearance of my hometown. Through a natural demographic process of growth of the Romanian population and through an equally natural process of decrease until the disappearance of the interwar multicultural generations, through the massive migration to the city of the rural population dispossessed of their own identity and their own past, through a massive emigration of Jews and other ethnic minorities, there was a massification of Romanian society and, implicitly, an impoverishment of the multicultural landscape of Tulcea. The multicultural world of my childhood was disappearing naturally, but also through extermination in communist prisons. I had observed with chills, since the 1950s, how relatives and acquaintances had disappeared in the forced labor camps at the Danube-Black Sea canal and at Periprava, cutting reeds in the harsh conditions of the Danube Delta.

And yet, despite the inherent and painful losses suffered by the interwar multicultural world of Tulcea, the spirit of interculturality survived! The spirit of interculturality has continued to live, regenerating itself through the values, memories, reflections, and creations of those who value intercultural dialogue and dignified and honest civic behavior in the world we live in: the multicultural world of globalization. Today, amid the Russo-Ukrainian war in our immediate neighborhood and the military conflict between the State of Israel and Islamist extremist groups, I realize all the more that early personal and interpersonal assimilation of intercultural skills helps maintain the spirit of interculturality throughout life. But, the spirit of interculturality does not only mean the early assimilation of intercultural skills. The spirit of interculturality matures when, through the chance of wonderful encounters, it succeeds in cultivating lifelong interpersonal awareness and moral responsibility. Let’s continue, therefore, the exploration of the spiritual horizons of interculturality through the therapeutic reconstitution of my own narrative identity!

“Face-to-face” or responsibility towards the other. On the secular spirit         of interculturality and ethical accountability

  The therapeutic reconstitution of one’s own narrative identity through the “integration of the reconstructed past” would be incomplete without the evocation of an encounter that completed my perspective on the spirit of interculturality. In the 1970s, the reading room of the Central University Library in Iasi was heavily frequented, especially by young university students and researchers. A distinguished and discrete gentleman, always engrossed in reading, immediately caught my attention. He was Leon Volovici, a literary critic and, historian, scientific researcher at the time at the “Alexandru Philippide” Institute of Philology in Iași. As I was to find out later, Leon Volovici was preoccupied with the “Jewish problem” and researching the forms of intellectual anti-Semitism in Romania in the 1930s, a theme that would later be completed, after his emigration to Israel, in a reference book in the cultural space Romanian, but also in the international one. As I was documenting myself at the time for a course on political doctrines and ideologies, meeting such a knowledgeable specialist in the research of xenophobic nationalism and autochthonous intellectual anti-Semitism helped me a lot. The fine and balanced spirit, the critical and lucid analysis of the late Leon Volovici brought me closer to the exploration of those emotional-affective processes, popular sensitivities, ignorance, prejudices and general human naiveties that have been hijacked and exploited in a nationalist-xenophobic manner and racist during the Legionary and Antonescian dictatorships. Moreover, it made me understand how by staging a strange combination of fundamentalist orthodoxy and “Romantic legionary mythology”, the so harmful and painful syndrome called the “autochthonous intellectual anti-Semitism” was able to make his  ominous entrance into Romanian culture.

But I understood this better when, later, I encountered the thinking of the French philosopher of Lithuanian-Jewish descent, Emmanuel Lévinas. One of the ideas full of noble anti-authoritarian meanings that runs through Lévinas’ work is that, the true stake of metaphysics, as well as of religion, belongs to “the excellence of ethical proximity in its sociality” (Lévinas, 2000). Beyond the search for Being and obedience to God, both metaphysics and religion have in mind the personal honesty and responsibility in action. Not morally assumed, both metaphysical and theological discours are emptied of substance and meaning. “Metaphysics is played in ethical relationships,” wrote the French philosopher in Totality and Infinity. Without their meaning extracted from ethics, theological concepts remain empty and formal frameworks” (Lévinas, 1999). Affirming ethical excellence does not mean, of course, the annulment of ontology, but the fact that ontological reflection must be completed with the ethical commitment which confers identity authenticity and moral responsibility. The ethic, perceived by Emmanuel Lévinas as assumed responsibility, permeates and shapes the ontology. From this ethical perspective, “the other”, be it Christian, Mosaic or Muslim, is not just a being, and the relationship with “the other” is not just a comprehension of being. The “other” — Christian, Mosaic or Muslim — is an interlocutor whose comprehension presupposes a call, an invocation. “The other,” wrote the French philosopher, “is not first an object of comprehension and then an interlocutor. The two relationships get confused. In other words, invocation is inseparable from the understanding of the other. To understand a person already means to talk to him” ( Lévinas, 2000). The power of invocation therefore transforms the being invoked into a personalized interlocutor.

But, for Emmanuel Lévinas, the affirmation of ethical excellence also implies the fact that in any dialogic act, “I” and “the other” we know each other by meeting, we come to each other approaching face-to-face. The understanding of the other, Jew or Arab, Mosaic or Muslim, acquires for me – a Christian with an ecumenical openness – a vivid ethical meaning when it is carried out “face-to-face”. Such an encounter does not only involve seeing but also hearing and speaking, sensitizing, and making responsible. Therefore, such an encounter assumes the involvement of the moral consciousness in responsible actions and, implicitly, overcoming the ontological condition by signifying the ethical. Through meeting the other, described by Emmanuel Lévinas as a call and an invocation, the spirit of interculturality presents itself as an act of human security and responsibility. Just as for the French philosopher the relationship with the other is a “religion” without theology, a religion in which the “ethical resonance of the word” is enough to bring people the idea of the Absolute and the Infinite, for me the spirit of interculturality means meeting the other face-to-face in finding out together the way of mutual recognition and freeing thinking from the tentacles of political-theocratic fundamentalism and  ideological-religious slippages.

Summarizing, the encounter with the work of Emmanuel Lévinas, the conversations with the literary historian Leon Volovici as well as those with professor Iosif Natansohn during my intellectual training strengthened my confidence in the secular spirit of interculturality. In other words, they strengthened my faith in an interculturality freed from the dogmatic pressure of theocratic doctrines that cultivate in religious institutions and hierarchy the temptation to assume absolute power on earth in the name of divine Omnipotence. Moreover, the wonderful encounters during the period of my intellectual formation strengthened my faith in the reflexive and responsible spirit of interculturality. But how could the spirit of interculturality counteract anti-Semitic propaganda and manifestations ? More directly, how could we operationalize the spirit of interculturality ?

How could we operationalize the spirit of interculturality?

About conceptual networks and the discursive-pragmatic scenario 

           

Decanting moments and events from my own intercultural experience, I found that anti-Semitic propaganda through slogans stirring up the emotional pulsion of the masses cannot be neutralized just by a counter-propaganda limited to a thesis-ideological discourse. Sustained by propaganda and counter-propaganda, the war of false slogans keeps our thinking captive in the maelstrom of fake news, prejudice and negative emotional drives. This experience also showed me that, beyond the vociferations and shrills of anti-Semitic demonstrations, beyond the silence of the public voice terrorized by generalized fear, the self-reflexive mind is the one that remains in a permanent state of vigilance. An expression of self-awareness that self-interrogates within the horizon of moral values, the thinking in a state of waking is in search of a reflexive therapy with a securitizing purpose. In the confrontation with the emotional pulsion of the indoctrinated masses and the propagandistic manipulations of anti-Semitism, in the no less dramatic confrontation with my own unknowns and doubts, the search for a reflexive-securitizing therapy led me to the configuration of the discursive-pragmatic scenario. We meet again, now, with therapeutic self-reflection, the vigilant consciousness of the self which, in the exercise of its comprehensive and securitizing finality, calls upon the means of discursive pragmatics. Located at the meeting of knowledge-communication-action, discursive pragmatics tests the communicative potential of therapeutic self-reflection, valorizing acts of thought in the practice of interactive and securitizing discourse. Against the background of increasing geopolitical tensions in an increasingly complicated and uncertain world, deciphering the mechanisms of thinking of the actors involved, identifying the goals and effects of mental processes and linguistic-discursive constructs in divergent sociocultural environments give to the discursive-pragmatic scenario a growing operational importance.

           In the context of the growing importance of discursive pragmatics in intercultural management, I advance the following hypothesis: the spirit of interculturality can become effective in countering xenophobic nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism when, operationalized through a semantic network of conceptual structures, it transforms from a conceptual metaphor into a discursive-pragmatic scenario. But how could a semantic network of concepts and conceptual structures operationalize the spirit of interculturality, transforming it from a conceptual metaphor into a discursive-pragmatic scenario? And how could a discursive-pragmatic scenario implement the spirit of interculturality in the life of multicultural communities? Trying to answer these questions, I start from the following postulate: to manage the diversity of knowledge and interests in public and private life we rely on knowing our own self in its depths and in our relationships with others. Knowing oneself and relationships with others involves the conceptualization and problematization of one’s own states and experiences, in other words, it requires the encapsulation of these experiential-reflexive states in conceptual-experiential structures that help us manage the diversity of public and private knowledge and interests.

           As we will see in the following example, through the semantic combination of concepts we can compose conceptual-experiential structures suitable for managing the self in its depths and in relationships with others. Exercises in compositional semantics, the following examples confirm the theory of “lexical meaning in context” as the “architect of verbal and nominal change” (Asher, 2011). We will be able to outline, thus, with the help of explorations in the horizon of the phenomenology of self-consciousness, the philosophy of mind, discursive pragmatics, the semantic network of conceptual-experiential structures. The semantic network of conceptual-experiential structures configures the discursive-pragmatic scenario, thus giving meaning and significance to the spirit of interculturality

           Let us, therefore, penetrate into the depths of the spirit of interculturality guided by the semantic network of its concepts and conceptual structures. For example, the pairs of concepts “spirit” and “interculturality”, “culture” and “recognition”, “thinking” and “captivity” generate through their semantic combination in the flow of thinking and communication, the following conceptual-experiential structures: the “spirit of interculturality”, “recognition culture”, respectively “captive thinking”. By combining the expressions “behavioral model” and “deliberative-consensual”, we get the conceptual-experiential structure: “deliberative-consensual behavioral model”. By combining the concepts “self-reflexive”, “intercultural”, “project”, we configure the conceptual-experiential structure, the “self-reflexive intercultural project”. Connecting the concepts of “self-reflection” and “therapy”, we arrive at the conceptual-experiential structure: “therapeutic self-reflection”. Also, by connecting the concepts “multicultural”, “world”, and “globalization”, we can think and articulate a conceptual-experiential structure with its own semantic nuance: “the multicultural world of globalization”. Similarly, by connecting the concepts of “thinking”, “dialogue”, and “comprehensive”, we get a flexible and operational conceptual-experiential structure: “dialogical-comprehensive thinking”. By combining the concepts “dynamic”, “identity”, and “composite”, we get the conceptual-experiential structure: “dynamics of composite identities”. By calling on the term “connective identities” (Volkart,2001) and using it together with the term “dialogue”, we can construct another conceptual-experiential structure with therapeutic potential: the “dialogue of connective identities”. The ordering of these conceptual-experiential structures in a discursive-pragmatic scenario focused on the search for an intercultural lifestyle gives meaning and significance to the spirit of interculturality. But how does this discursive-pragmatic process take place ?

           Unlike a number of concepts considered separately (spirit, interculturality, culture, recognition, thinking, captivity, deliberative, consensual, behavior, model, thinking, dialogue, comprehensive, skills, identity, composite, dynamic, connective, globalization, multicultural, intercultural), conceptual structures such as — “spirit of interculturality”, “recognition culture”, “captive thinking”, “deliberative-consensual behavioral model”, “dialogic-comprehensive thinking”, “intercultural competences”, “dynamics of composite identities”, ” the dialogue of connective identities”, “the multicultural world of globalization” — used in the chaining of ideas and the flow of discourse contribute to the flexibilizing of concepts, reasoning, argumentation and, implicitly, to the more adequate mental modeling of phenomena such as: globalization, multiculturalism, anti-Semitism. It can be observed that the discursive-pragmatic scenario of implementing the spirit of interculturality in the life of multicultural communities is based on the application of the operational network of conceptual-experiential structures in field research. Mental constructs with semantic potential and explanatory power, the conceptual-experiential structures appear as the nodal points of the operational semantic network thus participating, thanks to the informational-cognitive baggage concentrated in them, in the mental processing and solving of some intercommunity and intercultural problems. Connected in an operational semantic network, the conceptual-experiential structures advanced in this essay give meaning and significance to the spirit of interculturality by transforming it, through the cultivation of intercultural skills in open and cooperative collectivities, from a conceptual metaphor into a discursive-pragmatic scenario.

In conclusion, the assumption of terminology and the use of dynamic and flexible conceptual networks contribute to the operationalization of the spirit of interculturality. From a conceptual metaphor, the spirit of interculturality becomes a discursive-pragmatic scenario aiming, as I will show below, to convert the dynamics of composite identities into a dialogue of connective identities. The discursive-pragmatic operationalization of the spirit of interculturality and its presence, by cultivating intercultural skills in open and cooperative communities, brings us closer to an intercultural lifestyleand, implicitly, to a different strategy to counteract anti-Semitic propaganda. A different strategy for countering anti-Semitic propaganda requires, from the perspective of the discursive-pragmatic scenario, the change of the communication paradigm and discursive techniques to combat anti-Semitic speech inciting hatred. More precisely, I refer to the abandonment of “polemical denials” and sterile controversies confined to the automatic repetition of propagandistic lines to fundamentalist and xenophobic slogans full of “fake news” and insulting epithets, and, at the same time, to the assumption of a discursive-pragmatic scenario aimed at exploring and counteracting, from the perspective of cognitive psycho-sociology, the avatars of thought that have fallen into the captivity of limits and errors, manipulations and prejudices. But, before applying the discursive-pragmatic scenario on the ground, it is necessary to test it through a thought experiment.

           The spirit of interculturality in action or how a discursive-pragmatic    script can convert the dynamics of composite identities into a dialogue          of connective identities

 In this discursive-pragmatic scenario testing experiment, the first step towards converting the dynamic of composite identities into a dialogue of connective identities is to define the most appropriate concept of “identity”. As deep as so ambiguous, the term “identity” — was observing the American sociologist Rogers Brubaker — is “divided between the meaning of “hard” and the meaning of “soft”, between groups of peple, assumptions and constructivist qualifiers, between connotations of unity and multiplicity, similarity and difference, permanence and change. Understood in a “hard” sense — as implying a singular, enduring, fundamental likeness — “identity” tends to mean too much; understood in a “soft” sense — as multiple, fluid, fragmented, negotiated (…) — tends to mean far too little” (Brubaker, 2004). In this pluri-semantic context, I subscribe to the position of the American sociologist who claims that “the semantic load of the term ‘identity’ could be better expressed by several groups of less congested terms: identification and classification, self-understanding and social location, commonality and connection” (Ibidem). In our intercultural project of self-reflexive nature, the summation of such pairs of terms (clusters) capable of capturing the different meanings of the concept of identity was achieved through the composition of the following conceptual-experiential structures: the dynamics of composite identities, respectively, the dialogue of connective identities.

Starting from these two conceptual-experiential structures, I advance the following hypothesis:operationalized through a semantic network of conceptual structures, the spirit of interculturality manifests itself as a discursive-pragmatic scenario. Manifesting itself as a discursive-pragmatic scenario, the spirit of interculturality converts the dynamics of composite identities into a dialogue of connective identities through the culture of mutual recognition, in other words, through the cultivation of intercultural skills (Carpinschi, culture-impact.net › is-the-culture-of-recognition-still-possible-in-the-multi….). As an observer involved over decades in the spectacle of public life, I noticed that the transformation of the dynamics of composite identities into a dialogue of connective identities is favored by the cultivation of intercultural skills. This means in the discursive-pragmatic spirit of interculturality, that “I” — a person with a composite (multidimensional) identity: profession, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, denomination, religion, race, etc. — I connect throughout my life through various contacts and dialogues with my peers — Jews, Hungarians, Palestinians, Russians, Ukrainians, etc. — people like me with composite identities, in other words, with multiplied identities related to profession, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, denomination, religion, race, etc. My composite identity — Romanian researcher (philosopher), man of Polish-Greek ethnic origins, Christian of ecumenical orientation — turns into a connective identity when, in the discursive-pragmatic spirit of interculturality, I enter into positive relationships with my peers Jews, Hungarians, Palestinians, Russians, Ukrainians, etc. who live, like me, in the dynamics of their own composite identities. Reconciling, through intercultural skills education, the various composite identities — mine and of my peers Jews, Hungarians, Palestinians, Russians, Ukrainians, etc. — the discursive-pragmatic spirit of interculturality converts the diversity of composite identities into a dialogue of connective identities. When abstract reason proves inoperative, the identification of concrete ways and opportunities for relating composite identities becomes possible through the discursive-pragmatic scenario of interculturality. Against the background of assumed reasonableness and accepted multiculturalism supported in moderate Islamic, Jewish, and Christian communities, the discursive-pragmatic scenario of interculturality appears as a chance to counter the excesses and extremisms of anti-Semitic manifestations, as well as the fundamentalism excesses of any other ideological-religious orientation.

According to the previous hypothesis, the chance of countering anti-Semitic manifestations depends, to a considerable extent, on the cultivation of intercultural competencies (skills). In the last decades, research in cognitive psychology, sociology of communication, and intercultural management have made certain contributions to the theory and practice of intercultural competencies. For Brian H. Spitzberg and Gabrielle Changnon, for example, intercultural competence means the appropriate and effective management of interaction between people, referring to different or divergent affective, cognitive, and behavioral orientations in relation to the world. But, “any comprehensive model of intercultural competence will need to conceptualize at least five components, the authors conclude: motivation, knowledge, skills, context, and outcomes.” ( Spitzberg & Changnon, 2009.). Capitalizing on the role of group interactions through empirical research and quantitative analysis in the university intercultural environment, Darla K. Deardorff proposed a “pyramid model” of intercultural competence. Thus, a number of components/factors were brought into focus, among which: 1) the desired external result (effective and appropriate behavior and communication); 2) the desired internal result or the informal framework (adaptability, flexibility, ethnorelative vision, empathy); 3) knowledge and understanding (cultural self-awareness, sociolinguistic awareness); 4) skills (listening, observing and interpreting, analyzing, evaluating and relating); 5) necessary attitudes: respect, openness, curiosity, discovery (Deardorff, 2006).

From the perspective of the participant observer, I assimilated a number of components of the “pyramid model” of intercultural competencies through my own intercultural experiences over time. Projected in a sequence of imaginary frames, the imaginary film of personal memories brings together several significant sequences. First of all, my childhood years in multicultural Tulcea, when my circle of friends included Jews like Salomeea Feimblatt, Mircea Harnik and Ada Leibovici, but also Muslims like Cadâr and Eiub Musa. Long conversations with Professor Iosif Natansohn, my guide in learning about the tragic events of the Iași Pogrom in June 1941, followed during my student years. From my first years of university activity, the conversations with Leon Volovici were significant for me when I managed to understand the nefarious role of university anti-Semitism beyond the attempts of some to mask or minimize the “Jewish problem” in Romanian history and culture. In this process, I was concerned with the configuration of self-awareness against the background of awareness of sociolinguistic diversity, cultivating the skills of observation, listening, evaluation, relating and educating the appropriate attitudes. The outcome ? A mixture of curiosity, respect, openness and satisfaction, discoveries and coexistence in the colorful landscape of multiculturalism.

Pleading for the plurality of ways of life, the discursive-pragmatic scenario of converting composite identities into connective identities proposes a general common sense idea that good can be achieved through different psycho-cultural models. The existence of multiple ways in which people can thrive and even be happy leads to the idea that, despite the fact that these ways of life are different and even competing, none of them is best for everyone. Modus vivendi, or the coexistence of different ways of life, is based on the idea of the existence of several psycho-cultural models that are profitable for people precisely because none of them is the best for everyone. Modus vivendi does not mean the search for the ideal regime but the achievement of a reasonable compromise through the institutional and/or interpersonal reconciliation of different ways of life and psycho-cultural patterns. Here, it is about a reasonable compromise based on the existence of socio-psycho-cultural pluralismModus vivendi, therefore, does not mean raising standards to a superordinate value that all ways of life should respect, but accepting the idea that all ways of life contain values and interests that make from peaceful coexistence a necessity and reasonable compromise. In other words, I plead for a realistic-pragmatic method for interpersonal securitization (Carpinschi, 2002).

But, these statements with a melioristic tone may seem too abstract and too vague. In this frustrating ideological context, I felt the need to collaborate with researchers from the so-called “Global South”, dramatically confronted with the problems of inequities and psycho-cultural disparities. So that, in a collaborative study with an African researcher from the Republic of Togo, I developed the idea that — in the absence of real intercultural dialogue and inclusive policies based on addressing the issues of judicious redistribution of resources, reallocation of values and social reproduction — a modus vivendi is impossible (Carpinschi, Tonyeme, 2011). If modus vivendi cannot be perceived as a universal rule in a world torn by irremediable contradictions, terrorized by anti-Semitic extremism, a question remains: is there still a chance for the “commonsense” civilization in this world?

  Is there still a chance for common sense civilization in this world?

   It is becoming increasingly evident that, superimposed on the old Islamic communities established in the West, the migration waves of the last 15-20 years have raised new challenges for the functioning of democratic regimes. In the circumstances of the increasing dangerousness of anti-Semitic extremism, propagandistic polemics, raising the tone, and increasing the climate of violence are proving completely unproductive. Under these circumstances, pursuing the implementation of a self-reflexive intercultural project, I tried to demonstrate that by converting the spirit of interculturality from a conceptual metaphor into a discursive-pragmatic scenario and the dynamics of composite identities into the dialogue of connective identities we could assimilate moderate multicultural communities the culture of mutual recognition as a deliberative-consensual behavior model capable of making the multicultural world of globalization more inclusive and desirable. By cultivating intercultural competencies, we, people with composite identities, can gradually assimilate a “culture of connectivity” (van Dijck, 2013), thus manifesting ourselves in the multicultural world of globalization as connective identities capable of shaping interculturality as a lifestyle through the behavioral model of the culture of mutual recognition. By assuming the culture of mutual recognition we assimilate the lesson of the dialogue of connective identities in the multicultural world of globalization. It is about a moral judgment that reveals, from the perspective of common sense, the absurdity of any manifestation of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobic nationalism and theocratic fundamentalism maintained, against the backdrop of the dictatorship of fear and pseudo-religious oppression, through the tribulations of captive thinking and the absence of a culture of recognition. In this unfolding of ideas, the fight against anti-Semitic extremism appears from the perspective of therapeutic self-reflection as a psycho-socio-cognitive and moral effort aimed at the survival of common sense in a multicultural world. And yet, looking around to the world at the crossroads of some politico-cultural contradictions that seem irreconcilable and of some unknowns with existential impact, an unsettling question always accompanies me: is there still a chance for the “common sense” civilization in such a world?

Bibliographical references (in order of citation)

1. adevarul.ro › Știri locale › Constanţa

2. adevarul.ro › Știri locale › Constanţa

3. www.digi24.ro › Știri › Actualitate

4. www.contributors.ro › 2 HOME

5. www.contributors.ro › 2 HOME

6. Alexandru Lăzescu, Reinterpretarea creativă a genocidului la Curtea Internațională de Justiție de la Haga. (The                           Creative Reinterpretation of Genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague), Ziarul de Iași, 15. 01. 2024.

7. Michel Foucault, Le monde est un grand asile. In Michel Foucault, Dits et Écrits, ÉditionsGallimard, Paris, 1994,  Tome II. Texte n°126. p. 434.

8. Peter F. Drucker, Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself, Leader to Leader, No.16, Spring 2000.

9. Dan P. McAdams, & Kate C. McLean, Narrative Identity in Current Directions in Psychological Science (2013),  Volume 22, Issue 3, pp. 233-238.  

10. Emmanuel Lévinas, Între noi. Încercare de a-l gândi pe celălalt (Between Us. Trying to Think the Other), Editura All, Bucureşti, 2000, p.155.

11. Emmanuel Lévinas, Totalitate și Infinit. Eseu despre exterioritate (Totality and Infinity. Essay on Exteriority), Polirom, Iași, 1999, p. 61.

12. Emmanuel Lévinas, Între noi. Încercare de a-l gândi pe celălalt (Between Us. Trying to Think the Other). Editura All, Bucureşti, 2000, pp. 14, 15. 

13. Nicholas, Asher, Lexical Meaning in Context. A Web of Words, New York, Cambridge University Press2011, p. IX.

14. Yvonne Volkart, „Connective Identities” in Catalogue essay of the Internet and CD-ROM, part of the show double life. Identity and transformation in contemporary art, Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2001.

15 Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity witout Groups, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 4. 16. Ibidem.

17. Anton Carpinschi, Is the Culture of Recognition still Possible in the Multicultural World ?culture-impact.net › is-the-culture-of-recognition-still-possible-in-the-multi… Jan.24. 2022.

18. Brian H. Spitzberg & Gabrielle  Changnon, Conceptualizing Intercultural Competence in The  Sage Handbook of Intercultural Competence (Edited by Darla K. Deadorff), Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc. 2009, p. 44.

19. Karla K. Deardorff, Identification and Assessment of Intercultural Competence as a Student Outcome of Internationalization in Journal of Studies in International Education, Vol.10, Issue 3, 2006, pp. 241-266.

20. Anton Carpinschi, Tolerarea ca „modus vivendi” (Toleration as “modus vivendi”). Studiu introductiv la volumul: Michael Walzer, Despre tolerare (On Toleration), Institutul European, Iași, 2002,  pp. I – XVI.

21. Anton Carpinschi, Bilakani Tonyeme, Cultural Minorities and Intercultural Dialogue in the Dynamics of Globalization. African Participation, Culture, Peter Lang Academic Publishing Group. Volume 8, Number 1, 2011, pp. 7-26.

22. José van Dijck,  The Culture of Connectivity. A Critical History of Social Media, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013.

 Bibliographical references

– ASHER, Nicholas (2011), Lexical Meaning in Context. A Web of Words, New York, Cambridge 

                 University Press.

– BRUBAKER, Rogers (2004), Ethnicity witout Groups, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

– CARPINSCHI, Anton (2022), Is the Culture of Recognition still Possible in the Multicultural World ? culture-impact.net › is-the-culture-of-recognition-still-possible-in-the-multi…    Jan. 24. 2022.

– CARPINSCHI, Anton (2002), Tolerarea ca „modus vivendi” (Toleration as “modus vivendi”).  Studiu  introductiv la volumul: Michael Walzer, Despre tolerare, Institutul European, Iași, pp. I – XVI.

– CARPINSCHI, Anton and TONYEME, Bilakani (2011), Cultural Minorities and Intercultural Dialogue in the Dynamics of Globalization. African Participation, Culture, Peter Lang Academic Publishing Group. Volume 8, Number 1, 2011, pp. 7-26.

– DEARDORFF, Karla K. (2006),  Identification and Assessment of Intercultural Competence as a Student Outcome of Internationalization in Journal of Studies in International Education,Vol.10, Issue 3, 2006, pp. 241-266.

– DRUCKER, Peter F. (2000), Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself, Leader to Leader No.16, Spring 2000.

– FOUCAULT, Michel (1994), Le monde est un grand asile. In Michel Foucault, Dits et Écrits, Éditions Gallimard, Paris, Tome II. Texte n°126. 

– LĂZESCU, Alexandru (2024), Reinterpretarea creativă a genocidului la Curtea Internațională de Justiție de la Haga (The Creative Reinterpretation of Genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague). Ziarul  de Iași, 15. 01. 2024.

– LÉVINAS, Emmanuel (1999), Totalitate și Infinit. Eseu despre exterioritate (Totality and Infinity. Essay on Exteriority), Polirom, Iași.

– LÉVINAS, Emmanuel (2000), Între noi. Încercare de a-l gândi pe celălalt (Between Us. Trying to Think the Other). Editura All, Bucureşti.

– McADAMS, Dan P. & McLEAN, Kate C. (2013), Narrative Identity in Current Directions in Psychological Science (2013), Volume 22, Issue 3, pp. 233-238.  

– SPITZBERG, Brian H. & CHANGNON, Gabrielle (2009), Conceptualizing Intercultural Competence in The Sage Handbook  of Intercultural Competence (Edited by Darla K. Deadorff), Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

– Van DIJCK, José (2013), The Culture of Connectivity. A Critical History of Social Media, Oxford University Press,  Oxford.

– VOLKART, Yvonne (2001), Connective Identities in Catalogue essay of the Internet and CD-ROM, part of the show Double Life. Identity and transformation in contemporary art, Generali Foundation, Vienna. 

Cologne Mayors’ Conference

Cologne Mayors’ Conference

Cologne Mayors’ Conference
“Euro – Middle East City-to-City-Cooperation”

– Conclusions –

On the occasion of the “Cologne Mayors’ Conference Euro-Middle East City-to-City Cooperation”, held from 29th November to 1st December 2011, mayors and leading representatives of Palestinian, Israeli and European municipalities, municipal associations and networks, experts and governmental officials convened in order to discuss and explore the potential and perspectives of Israeli-Palestinian as well as Euro-Middle East city-to-city cooperation with the objective to improve the living conditions of citizens and facilitate mutual understanding, respect and peace in the Middle East.

The Cologne Mayors’ Conference “Euro – Middle East City-to-City-Cooperation” has been jointly organized by the City of Cologne, the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA), the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI), the German Association of Cities (Deutscher Städtetag) and the Municipal Alliance for Peace in the Middle East (MAP). The owners of the conference and follow-up initiatives are APLA and ULAI, the municipal associations in Palestine and Israel and also the stakeholders of MAP.

VNG International (Netherlands), the German and French sections of CEMR, Cités Unies France (CUF), and the Standing Committee for the Euro Mediterranean Partnership of Local and Regional Authorities (COPPEM) have been partners in preparing the conference.

The Cologne conference was divided into two parts:

  1. a)  Round table between Israeli and Palestinian mayors which has been held from 29th to 30th November 2011. The round table developed and endorsed the “Cologne Memorandum of Agreement for Cooperation Activities” (see page 2-3 and appendices 1 and 2).
  2. b)  Forum “Euro – Middle East City-to-City-Cooperation”, 30th November to 1st December 2011, to which European mayors and representatives of municipal associations, governments and donor organizations have also been invited (see page 4).

The mayors’ conference was preceded and accompanied by a Youth Forum, held from 26th November to 3rd December and organized by the City of Cologne, the Cologne Catholic University of Applied Sciences and the Peace Research Institute for the Middle East (PRIME). It brought together students from Bethlehem, Cologne and Tel Aviv-Yafo who developed ideas for the Middle East 2025.

The results of the round table and the youth forum (see appendix 3) served as inputs to the forum.

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Cologne Memorandum of Agreement for Cooperation Activities

On the occasion of the “Euro-Middle East City-to-City Cooperation conference”, hosted by the City of Cologne and the German Association of Cities, a round table between mayors from Palestine and Israel was organized by the Municipal Alliance for Peace (MAP) on 29th and 30th November 2011.

The purpose of the Round Table was to enhance concrete cooperation between the two sides, to upscale MAP and broaden the scope of its activities. During the discussions, mayors and experts raised different ideas for cooperation which are needed for the benefit of people on both sides. The talks, moderated by Mr. Jeremy Smith, an international expert on local government and former Secretary General of the IULA and CEMR, were creative, intense, inspiring and finally- operative. The participants also reaffirmed the “Wittenburg Joint Understanding” of 2003 and the “MAP Declaration” of 2005 which set out the basic principles for cooperation activities (see appendices 1 and 2).

The dialogue covered a wide spectrum of subjects, from which the following concrete projects were agreed upon:

  1. Mayors’ network:
    It was decided to create a sustainable and long-term Israeli and Palestinian Mayors’ network which will meet on a regular basis to facilitate cooperation on a number of fields, and provide solutions for pressing, day-to-day issues dealt with on the municipal level on both sides. The network will comprise a steering committee of 12 mayors from each side and the general network will be open for unlimited membership of committed mayors.
  2. The steering committee will meet on a quarterly basis and deal with the following specific issues:

2.1 Promotion of local and international tourism:

  • –  Organizing a mayors’ workshop, to study successful models of Israeli-Palestinian and other cooperation in the field of tourism.
  • –  To arrange a visit of international tour operators in Israel and in Palestine in order to meet with mayors and professionals on both sides and raise their awareness to the potential benefits of visiting sites on both sides. That is, giving a platform for the uniqueness of the region and its cultural heritage.
  • –  Maintain and develop touristic sites in cities in both sides, based on mutually agreed-upon tourist packages.
  • –  The establishment of a capacity-building center for tourism services.
  • –  Measures to enhance internal tourism.2.2 Environment protection and awareness:
    • –  Public health and pesticides: Coordinating efforts and providing information to confront and control the spread of diseases, pests, etc.
    • –  Organize campaigns and cooperation on environmental awareness amidst the public on both sides.

2/17

– The promotion of Haifa-Jenin-Gilboa cooperation model regarding the rehabilitation of the Kishon River and other rivers.

2.3 Exchanges of visits of both sides, with an emphasis on mayors, professional staff,
and community representatives and the enhancement of the ties between Israeli and Palestinian cities in general.

  • –  Once every six months a joint Israeli-Palestinian mayors meeting will be convened in a rotatingmethodology in order to broaden the network on both sides.
  • –  Organizing exchanges for Palestinian children’s fun day in Israeli cities and as much as possiblevice-versa.
  • –  Offering summer camps for Israeli and Palestinian youth in Israeli cities (and vice-versa)
  • –  Set up more triangles of cooperation between a Palestinian, Israeli and international cities asmodels for emulation, that are similar to the models of Cologne-Tel-Aviv-Bethlehem.2.4 Informal Education for Peace and confidence-building:
    • –  Setting up an informal program for peace education, confidence-building and leadership skills for Israeli and Palestinian youth.
    • –  Mayors on both sides will lobby with the responsible authorities to improve the water quantity.Other important issues were raised by the participants including gender equality, disasters and emergencies etc. It was agreed that the steering committee would look at ways of taking forward these issues as appropriate.

3. Role of MAP secretariat:

It was agreed that the MAP secretariat would facilitate the organization of the steering committee and mayors’ network, in agreement with APLA and ULAI.

– Examining the promotion and introduction of a treatment plant in the Bethlehem governorate.

Note: There would be scope for the steering committee to take forward environmental and related public health issues that in their view should be promoted.

private sector

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2.5 Water:

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– Introducing technological means for the preservation and purification of water resources.

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Cologne Memorandum on Euro-Middle East City-to-City Cooperation

On the basis of the round table conclusions European, Israeli and Palestinian mayors agreed to strengthen the Euro-Middle East City-to-City Cooperation. A number of bi- tri- and multilateral cooperation projects and ideas have been presented, discussed and developed further.

There was a broad consensus that

  • −  the cooperation between European, Israeli and Palestinian municipalities shall be deepened and widened
  • −  further sister city partnerships between European, Israeli and Palestinian municipalities shall be founded
  • −  the cooperation between the existing European Euro-Middle East networks shall be enhanced
  • −  a regular exchange between European municipalities actively involved or interested in Euro-MiddleEast city-to-city cooperation shall be established.The conference was characterized by a high spirit of cooperation, openness and mutual respect. The conference underlined that municipalities have – despite of all political obstacles – their own sphere of competence and that they can build bridges of trust through concrete cooperation projects. The conference also underlined that more funding will be needed in order to exploit the full potential of city-to- city cooperation and that existing funding programs of national governments, the European Union and the United Nations shall give more attention to its unique role.Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and the Union of Municipalities of Turkey have kindly offered to hold the follow-up conference 2012 in Turkey.

MAP-Declaration, June 2005

ANNEX 2 MAP-Declaration, June 2005

 

From 1 to 3 June 2005, local authorities from around the world have gathered, in The Hague, The Netherlands for the Conference “Municipal Alliance for Peace in the Middle East”, organised by the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), to explore possible joint actions to contribute to just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Following the deliberations of the conference, we have agreed to the following declaration, that is initiated by the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) and the Union of Local Authorities of Israel (ULAI), and supported by the political leaders of the participating local authorities and their representative organisations:

Considering the long history of dialogue between the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) and the Union of Local Authorities of Israel (ULAI), particularly within the international arena under the umbrella of the UCLG, (United Cities and Local Governments),

Following the outcome of joint working meetings between senior representatives of APLA and ULAI together with the world organisations that preceded the UCLG (i.e. IULA and FMCU), during the joint IULA/FMCU meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico, in June 2002, that agreed to organise a joint international local government conference,

In pursuit of the subsequent discussions and understandings reached in Rome, Athens, Thessaloniki and The Hague,

Strongly condemning all acts of terror and violence that continue to be inflicted on the Palestinian and Israeli citizens,

We, as local political leaders and representative organisations of local authorities, feel obliged to act on the increasingly louder calls from Palestinian and Israeli citizens to pro- actively work towards ending the conflict on the basis of implementation of the international resolutions in which the Palestinian and Israeli citizens can live side by side in two independent states, Palestine and Israel, in security, peace and prosperity. The only manner to achieve this, is through mutual dialogue and cooperation, whereby the Palestinian and Israeli local authorities, supported by their international partners, are to work as partners in order to build trust and overcome problems on the ground.

We call upon the Palestinian and Israeli national leaderships to intensify their constructive dialogue and to effectively address the problems that stand in the way of just and lasting peace. Particularly in view of the renewed peace talks at national level, it is our duty to work with our citizens towards increased mutual understanding, trust and cooperation, as an essential basis for lasting peace in the region.

It is in this context, we have agreed to start on-the-ground cooperation through joint projects in Palestinian, Israeli and international partner municipalities, that are aimed at promoting lasting peace in the region. To support this trilateral cooperation, APLA, ULAI and the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) will establish, in close cooperation with the European Network of Local Authorities for Peace in the Middle East, the Central Union of Local Authorities in Greece, the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, and other relevant partners, the ‘Municipal Alliance for Peace’, or MAP. United Cities and Local Government, as the world organisation of local governments in the world, regards MAP as an important initiative to achieve its ambitions in the field of city diplomacy, and fully support the alliance. The Municipal Alliance for Peace aims to mobilise support from municipalities around the world, as well as support from the international donor community for these initiatives and provide hands-on support to the municipal trilateral cooperation. For the establishment of MAP, a cooperation outline, along with a local action plan has been agreed upon during the conference. To be able to realize the ambitions of MAP and ensure implementation of its local action plan, we support the establishment of a joint international secretariat of MAP in the region.

We call upon local governments worldwide and the international community to support this initiative and join the Municipal Alliance for Peace, to allow us to achieve our ambitions to increase mutual understanding, cooperation and improve the daily life of citizens in Israeli and Palestinian municipalities.

Cultivating Collective Healing

Cultivating Collective Healing:

Understanding Recovery, through Trauma,

Culture and Intercultural Community Resilience

Bruce St. Thomas, Ed.D  & Marie Sheffield, MA 

                  

Roots of Collective Trauma

In the midst of generations of prophecies echoing through the narratives of First Nations, a common refrain warns that there will come a grievous time that will be marked, by increasing winds, and by the health of our children as endangered. Paradoxically, this is also a time of possibility. 

We are here now. 

Recent studies (Deng, K et. Al, 2021; Harvey, 2019; Shaw & Miyawaki, 2024) highlight the accelerating pace of winds across continents, signaling a planetary shift. The global average wind speed has surged in less than a decade, a significant uptick that underscores the urgency of our situation. Yet, amidst this whirlwind, critical aspects remain overlooked. Studies suggest that winds under 40 mph, crucial indicators of change, are often excluded from assessments, leaving us blind to the profound impact on climate disruption and its cascading effects on human and ecological well-being.

Climate models and projections often ignore wind, despite its potential to signal and accelerate climate disruptions. Wind is a wild card we ignore at our peril, given its capacity to increase wildfire risks, aggravate drought and endanger [humanity]. (Schauffler, 2021)

The ever-growing winds and the vulnerability of the world’s child populations are apparent, often surpassed and are at high risk. Today’s children are the ‘canary in the coal mine’. At the end of 2022, UNICEF reports that more than 43.3 million children were displaced. UNICEF’s 2023 report highlighted the genocide of the Ukrainian people, noting a staggering 7.1 million displaced children. By January 2024, the United Nations reported a further 3 million Ukrainian children displaced by recent conflicts, along with 170,000 children displaced in Haiti. As of March 2024, according to UNICEF, 1.7 million individuals remain displaced from Gaza, half of them children, with approximately 17,000 children left orphaned.

Turning to the fundamental needs and sorrows of children, UNICEF underscored that nearly one billion children face multidimensional poverty, lacking even the most basic necessities like nutrition and clean water. They and others also revealed a grim statistic: an additional 100 million children have fallen into multidimensional poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Falk, 2022). In February 2022, UNICEF and others reported that 5.2 million children had lost a parent or caregiver due to COVID-19 (Christensen, 2022).

Taken together, a staggering 1,159,467,000 children out of 2,397,435,502 children (almost half of the global child population in 2023) are navigating decentralized and adverse childhood experiences (ACE). These figures do not capture the full extent of the crisis, with undocumented children and their families facing untold hardships. Moreover, losses continue to mount beyond March 2024. This trend suggests a concerning rise in generations raised amidst decentralization, with direct correlations to abuse, neglect, and disease, impacting not just humanity but the very ecologies that sustain life.

In war, it is children who suffer first and suffer most. The cost of this violence to children and their communities will be borne out for generations to come. (as cited on, https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/children-gaza-need-lifesaving-support)

Without the support to integrate or find support to heal such wounds, children carry the trauma into all relations and into the generations. Alice Miller, an acclaimed, Polish born Swiss psychologist and author, explores these effects on children, stating:

Evil exists. But it is not something that some people are born with. It is produced by society, every day, every hour, unceasingly, all over the world. It starts with the treatment meted out to newborn babies and carries on in the parenting methods practiced on small children. Such children may BECOME criminal at a later stage, if they have no helping witness to turn to. In their childhood years, serial killers and dictators all have one thing in common: they had no such witnesses to turn to for help. Every dictator torments his people in the same way he was tormented as a child. The humiliations inflicted on these dictators in adult life had nothing like the same influence on their actions as the emotional experiences they went through in their early years. (Miller, 2015)

If unsupported, children feel a sense of hopelessness and are fearful to let others know how they actually feel. Depression and accompanying feelings of guilt and worthlessness can dominate their moods. Humiliation and shame are suppressed through forced power and acceleration, infecting collective conditioning of sociocultural beliefs. Jane Ellen Stevens, an American journalist and researcher focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences, writes to the power of such suppression,

Adolf Hitler’s father Alois was an illegitimate child. He was suspected of being the son of a Jewish merchant from Graz because his mother, Maria Schickelgruber, became pregnant when she was in his domestic employ. The suspicion was not easy to disprove because Adolf Hitler’s grandmother received alimony from the merchant for a period of 14 years. Alois must have suffered greatly from this social stigma; the fact that his name was so often changed (Heidler, Hydler, etc.) is a clear indication of the fact. For him, the opprobrium of being both illegitimate and of Jewish descent was a source of unbearable shame. But there was no way he could rid himself of this humiliation. The easiest way for him to vent his pent-up resentment was to take it out on his son Adolf in the form of regular, merciless floggings. … In the entire history of anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jews, no other ruler had ever hit upon the idea that, on pain of death, every citizen in his country must provide proof of non-Jewish descent extending back to the third generation. This was Hitler’s OWN PERSONAL BRAND OF MANIA. And it is traceable to the insecurity of his existence in his own family, the insecurity of a child constantly living under the threat of violence and humiliation. Later millions were to forfeit their lives so that this child—now a childless adult—could avenge himself by unconsciously projecting the grim scenario of his childhood onto the political stage. … Examine Vladimir Putin’s childhood and you will see an eerie parallel to the atrocities playing out in Ukraine today. His life is a stark example of how childhood adversity is the root cause of most social, economic and mental health issues, as well as violence and chronic disease, as the science of positive and adverse childhood experiences demonstrates. (Stevens, 2022)

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) of such dictators as Stalin, Hitler, and Putin underscore the reality that without support in belonging, the distorted worldviews and neglect of tyrannical leaders will continue to perpetuate collective trauma on the masses through disinformation campaigns, psychological harm and social distortions.  

In a society where pain is common, it becomes normalized. Anxiety may be contagious as everyone begins to live in a state of chronic stress. Individuals may suffer and entire communities struggle to move forward after a traumatic encounter (Sahle, E. 2023).

If the transmission of trauma is not integrated or healed, it permeates individuals, families, cultures and systems. A primary outcome of collective trauma spreads the loss of self and cultural identity and the inability to relate compassionately toward others. Keeping the trauma suppressed and silenced creates a significant incapacity to navigate differences and resolve ongoing conflicts. This reality is exemplified in the tumultuous journey of Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, whose life story is steeped in betrayal and collective trauma of the historical oppression of his own Oromo people (Berhanu,G.,  2021; France-Presse, A. 2020). Ahmed’s upbringing was shaped by war, loss of loved ones, and the clash of inter-religious beliefs within his own family, a microcosm of the broader intercultural conflicts that have plagued Ethiopia for centuries.

 Compelled by his mother to fulfill a prophetic role as the 7th king, and savior, of Ethiopia, Ahmed’s journey from Nobel Peace Prize laureate to a descent into dictatorship is a tragic tale of collective trauma and cultural corruption (Berhanu, G., 2021). Ahmed ascended through the military, as a child soldier; a co-founder of the Ethiopian Information Network Security Administration; and then through false narratives, the political ladder to assume the mantle of Prime Minister. He presented himself as a beacon of hope, promising peace and reconciliation for all Ethiopians, including the historically marginalized Oromo and Tigrayans. However, beneath the facade of peace initiatives lurked a darker agenda.

Despite being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to make peace with Eritrea, Ahmed’s true intentions became apparent when he turned on his own people and then orchestrated a joint offensive with Eritrean forces, and against the Tigray Region in November of 2020. The Norwegian Peace Prize committee, once his champion, now issued a stern admonition.

Abiy’s critics say that what cemented his status as a peacemaker on the world stage was based on a farce, and that the alignment with Eritrea was yet another effort to consolidate his power, paving the way for the two sides to wage war against their mutual enemy, the TPLF [The Tigray People’s Liberation Front]. Soon after the Eritrea-Ethiopia border reopened in 2018, reuniting families after 20 years, it closed again. Three years on, Eritrean troops are operating with impunity in Tigray, and there is little sign of a durable peace. (Mackintosh, E. 2021).

In 2020, under Ahmed’s rule, Ethiopia descended into a maelstrom of violence, with hundreds of thousands of people brutally raped and killed, with widespread human rights violations perpetrated against the besieged people of Tigray. The deliberate blockade of humanitarian aid, including medical supplies and food, compounds the suffering of thousands facing famine. In an atmosphere where dictatorship prevails, conspiracy theories abound, fueled by social media narratives that seek to sow division and discord. 

The absence of empathy and the festering wounds of unhealed trauma have rendered Ahmed incapable of fulfilling his responsibility to bring about genuine peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia. Instead, his regime is characterized by control, manipulation, and a thirst for vengeance – hallmarks of dictatorial rule driven by unresolved trauma and chaos of his own past.

 The endless chaos composed of multiple combats threatens the sense of unity. The inability to compromise, with a “my way or no way” attitude, creates conspiracies. Several narratives are hyped in social media to saturate as much attention as they can. The nature and depth of these traumas imprint themselves on the unconscious and determine how we experience incidents (Sahle, E. 2023).

Collective trauma underscores the devastation of losing the community and often the culture in which people create their individual and collective identities. The fragmentation and disconnection created by such cyclical losses, throughout generations, further alienate and separate people and their recovery. Moreover, such collective trauma moves quickly beyond individual identification into the multiple and complex consequences resulting from such tragedy.

Cultural Amnesia

Modern cultural heritage has a painful and unintegrated ancient history. Cultural heritage, narrative traditions and value systems are central to understanding identity, yet are often overlooked, abandoned, or lost when one is forcibly removed from the collective network and their land. Equally important is to understand that among the consequences such disruption in social norms and collective meaning frequently results in severe isolation, both internally and externally. Patterns of abuse including increased family violence, child and spouse abuse, attachment disorders, substance use, and public violence permeate through the physical body, relationships, offspring, and communities and repeatedly shift cycles of health toward furthering collective toxicity and polarization.

Ancestors still loom strongly in present genetics, character choices, passions, and interests. The human need to create safety and a sense of belonging and connection forced ancestors to incorporate the social norms of newly inhabited cultures. Forged into generations are the diminished ongoing generational adaptations in cultural identity, the environment, and ultimately the world community. Culture affects all people; it is in a state of constant change and adaptation, a navigation tool. Humans define and present such beliefs in our words, actions, behaviors, thoughts, and decisions. Generations of ancestors, forging forward, often repressing traumatic memories and losing cultural foundations, nonetheless carrying the past within. It becomes silenced through the generations, often showing up in behaviors and activations without the story of its roots behind it, it has been decontextualized. 

Resmaa Menakem (2017), an African American author, psychotherapist and anti-racist, in his book My Grandmother’s Hands, speaks to impacts of collective trauma and the path towards healing.

Trauma decontextualized in a person looks like personality. Trauma decontextualized in a family looks like family traits. Trauma decontextualized in people looks like culture. (Menakem, 2021)

Such cultural amnesia is also the loss of ancestral ways of orienting to and navigating within the world. It is not only projected on refugees, asylees, and oppressed populations but also all cultures within the world; the persecuted and the persecutor; the underserved and underrepresented. Indigenous cultures and their histories and languages, along with the histories of marginalized people, have been silenced.

In dominant cultures, diverse perspectives are often negatively referenced, and are misunderstood, overriding the in-depth healing traditions of world societies. There is a predominant tendency for dominant ideologies to judge and dismiss rather than engage in a more in-depth dialogue, which could inform deeper collaborations concerning the mutuality of meaning, values, and knowledge that grows from a shared perspective. Such dialogues are the central source of legitimizing in-depth cultural identity as a central theme in promoting individual, family, community, and societal health.

Dr. Yael Danieli, an internationally recognized Jewish American clinical psychologist, victimologist, and traumatologist and founder of the International Center for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma, spoke at the University of Southern Maine about her extensive research and significant concern about Genocide Recovery. After gathering genocide and Holocaust survivors throughout the world community, 100% of everyone who gathered complained that no one would listen to them or believe the depth of their trauma.

In additional research, she describes the generations of children born from survivors who inherit not only the DNA changes resulting from the trauma but also suffer from intergenerational wounds to their souls.

 “The psychological trauma that reflects both survivors of physical and cultural genocide and those generations that follow them” (Danieli, 2019). 

While Dr. Danieli well described the survivor syndrome, she also recognizes that without the chance to be heard, understood, and healed, generations of people continue to feel oppressed, and vulnerable, and often experience genocide as the larger conspiracy of “silence” never addressing healing, reparation, or admitting wrongdoing.

Panel members, speaking at University of Maine, from the Native American community of Maine Wabanaki, the African American community, the Jewish American community, and the German American southwest community verify that the genocide and trauma that they and their families face continue today. Whether the perpetrator or the persecuted, this unified, political effort continues to disparage, marginalize and re-traumatize, fragmenting cultures and people throughout the world.

Intercultural Community Resilience

When cross-cultural dialogue is approached through an ethnocentric lens, misunderstandings abound, leading to significant obstacles in understanding and cooperation. Consider the experience of newly arrived refugees turned colonists in North America, and the profound impact on Indigenous communities. Here, misinterpretations were rife, stemming from differing cultural perspectives. For instance, the Iroquois Confederation held a deep-seated cultural norm that prioritized decisions with consideration for the welfare of seven generations to come. Conversely, the colonists, grappling with their own collective trauma and reactive responses, were focused on immediate union-building, neglecting the future implications of their actions. These missed opportunities for genuine engagement across differences have perpetuated the collective trauma and fragmentation still felt today in the United States.

Forced migration within a framework of systemic trauma and oppression often leads to isolation and assimilation, described as the “unmitigated evils” by Goldbard (2006).

 In such circumstances, the hurried convergence of diverse cultures fails to foster safe and mutual understanding. Economic pressures further compound these challenges, leaving little room for authentic connection amidst the struggle for survival. This reality has persisted for centuries, echoing through history. For example, in 1640, “… a Swedish minister created a one-hundred-word phrasebook of words in the Susquehannock [an Iroquoian people who lived in the lower Susquehanna River watershed in what is now Pennsylvania] language that consisted entirely of nouns for food, tools, animals, and trade goods—from Aanjooza, “Linen Shirts” offered by the Swedes, to Skajaana, “valuables skins or furs, as sable etc.” provided by Indians—and verb phrases relating to trade and exchange. (Eustace, 2021, p. 7)

Little was known about intercultural communication at this time. The important thing here is to know that language, lifeways and landscape are the expressions of one’s cultural context and a direct source for collective healing. Direct meanings of language are the first step, but understanding the context through relationships is the most imperative. 

As this Swedish minister pursued trading, he concretely used the word Skaddanijnu, “Will you sell or barter something?” And to include additional items for free within the trade, he said “Kassha schoeoenu,” which meant, “Give me that for nothing.”

As that last phrase hints, however, [North American] Native Nation ideas about exchange differed in essential ways from European assumptions. The phrase supposedly meaning “Give that for nothing” could better have been translated as “Please demonstrate your generosity and benevolent intentions with a gift.” Not only is this a loss in translation, but a major miscommunication resulting in disappointment and fracture. This opportunity could have been absolved if this minister had known the importance of collective culture. Fostering connection and friendship is essential. And indeed, words for friendship account for four of the seventy-six words or phrases. Unlike the motives of personal profit and imperial power driving colonial settlers, Native peoples were interested in establishing relations of reciprocity that would expand their circles of community. (Eustace, 2021, pp. 7–8)

Change within these entrenched systems demands a profound shift in expanding the understanding of what it means to be human. The current global crisis presents an opportunity to embrace, appreciate, and integrate the diverse tapestry of the human experience. By leaning into our differences, we embark on a journey towards recognizing ourselves in others, laying the foundation for collective solutions.

Traditional, high-context cultures and their economies embody principles of prosperity, abundance, and communal well-being, contrasting sharply with the scarcity-driven, individualistic values often prevalent in Western societies. This divergence has led to a rejection of Indigenous knowledge and a disregard for the interconnectedness of humanity and nature. Yet, these lost principles of wholeness and interdependence persist as unconscious sources of violence and discord in our modern world.

Across the globe, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment, grappling with generations of collective trauma that have permeated every facet of society. Individuals, families, and cultures have become disoriented amidst this unintegrated trauma, yet within these same systems lie the seeds of resilience.

Resilience is built into the very cells of our bodies. It is as much a part of us as our ability to heal. Like trauma, resilience can ripple outward, changing the lives of people, families, neighborhoods, and communities in positive ways. (Menakem, 2021, p. 55)

Human, natural, and community organisms have this shared identity. Human senses and physical systems, wetlands, and natural ecosystems move instinctively toward equilibrium. Within this matrix lies the inherent ability to interact and strive toward balance and wholeness. Greater than the sum of its individual parts, this can only be done together. 

It is in the belonging to this collective intelligence that persists toward healing action, creating new behavioral and social norms. Throughout the world, humans, who unveil the importance of ancient knowledge from land-based and cultural roots, bring both cultural and healing practices to the forefront of well-being. After years of working with intercultural advisory councils and intercultural communities, the importance of re-rooting and Intercultural Community Resilience leads the way. Parallel by nature, we are being asked to stop drawing a line between “us” and “them.” This repeated pattern throughout human history marks the end of the collective and the beginning of dissolution.

Democracy, in its essence and genius, is imaginative love for and identification with a community with which, much of the time and in many ways, one may be in profound dis- agreement. (Robinson, 2010, p. 28)

When we think of the social transformation initiated by such renowned North American leaders as Sitting Bull, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou, we see evidence of conflict and the spiritual and imaginative scale and opportunity for humane advancement. Although much has changed in the past half a century regarding consciousness, systemic racism is alive and persists. We see, feel, and hear it every day. It is not possible to shift healing throughout humanity with old systems that dominate its inception. Arnold Mindell, PhD, an American author and facilitator of social transformation using conflict and diversity, states,

Resolving violence, [racism] and terrorism requires every level of organization, from the individual to the United Nations, not only to tolerate, but also to understand the rage, hurt and need for transformation. The smaller arenas are as important as the World at large. … The most fundamental forum is your own heart. Both as a facilitator and as a human being, you must learn to hear yourself there. Then you will know how to hear others when they are angry and hurt. The less we listen, the angrier people become, not only because of their enemies, but because of us. (Mindell, 2014, pp. 94–95)

When trouble knocks, the willingness to open the door brings expansion and opportunity amidst the unknown. For the individual who opens the door today, knowing that they are a part of the whole ecology begins the process. When showing up with this knowledge, there is also an understanding of how important it is to be responsible for self-compassion and the well-being of others. 

The individual self cannot be differentiated from the community self; they are one spirit. Relationship-healing means getting to the bottom line, feeling that what we are experiencing belongs to the community. It is the spirit moving us in unknown ways, making us afraid, angry and also peaceful. (Mindell, 2014, p. 166)

The task is to clear internal conflicts and forces of pain while identifying the highest and best attributes for clarity, purpose, and presence. Resolving these deep-seated issues demands a willingness to listen and understand, from the personal to the political. As conflicts and tensions escalate, it is our capacity for empathy and compassion that will guide us towards healing and reconciliation.

A re-cognition of the mutual values of civic life, individual and collective knowing, and presence becomes a shared path through an Intercultural Resilience Exchange process. The preservation of diverse individual and collective cultural values and respect is critical in the process of Intercultural Resilience Exchange. 

Through this exchange, community resilience emerges as mutuality is discovered through differences, “acknowledging the multidirectional ebb and flow of cultural influences’  (Rideout, 2015, p. 58). 

This process results in a re-visioning, a new collective memory, and new narratives of becoming, giving united strength for new choice points and direction forward. Participants glean insight by understanding how Intercultural Resilience Exchange informs the collective healing process as well as provides direct expression and content that leads to collective healing action.

In confronting the chaos of our times, we must recognize that within the cracks lies the potential for renewal and growth. Like the ancient art of Kintsugi, our collective journey towards healing embraces our brokenness as a source of strength and vitality. Meaning emerges from our shared experiences, offering solace amidst uncertainty and fear. Intercultural Resilience Exchange serves as a bridge towards a more interconnected and resilient global community, where diverse perspectives enrich our collective understanding.

To acknowledge that chaos is in our midst is irrefutable. As the winds pick up and exacerbate the climate crisis and the level of decentralized children spreads, these adaptive capacities are essential for survival. As we stand on the precipice of a technological revolution, we are called to redefine what it means to be human (a human revolution). Cooperation and compassion have always been our greatest assets, guiding us towards a future where harmony between humanity and nature is not only possible but essential for our survival.

References:

Abiy Ahmed-Ex Child Soldier with PTSD. (2024). Ethio Chronicles, MSNBC. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n7m9pTtVNg

At least 170,000 children displaced amid escalating violence in Haiti, (2024, January), UNICEF. Available at:

https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/least-170000-children-displaced-amid-escalating-violence-haiti#:~:text=At%20least%20170%2C000%20children%20displaced%20amid%20escalating%20violence%20in%20Haiti

Berhanu, G.  (2021). Three for One : The many faces of Abiy Ahmed – Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Nobel Peace Laureate. Borkena. 1, May. Available at: https://borkena.com/2021/05/01/three-for-one-the-many-faces-of-abiy-ahmed-prime-minister-of-ethiopia-and-nobel-peace-laureate/

Children in Gaza need life-saving support. (2024). UNICEF. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/children-gaza-need-lifesaving-support

Danieli, Y. (2019, April 3). Memory trauma and the generations of genocide. Gloria S. Duclos Convocation, Portland, OR.

Deng, K., Azorin-Molina, C., Minola, L., Zhang, G., & Chen, D. (2021). Global near-surface wind speed changes over the last decades revealed by reanalyses and CMIP6 model simulations. Journal of Climate34(6), 2219-2234.

Eustace, N, (2021). Covered with night: A story of murder and indigenous justice in early America. NY Liveright Publishing Corporation.

France-Presse, A. (2020). Ethiopia protests: more than 80 killed as singer’s murder lays bare grievances. The GuardianAvailable at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/04/166-dead-following-protests-at-shooting-of-ethiopian-pop-star

Gemechu, M. (2022). How Abiy Ahmed Betrayed Oromia and Endangered Ethiopia. Foreign Policy.

Available at: https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/least-170000-children-displaced-amid-escalating-violence-haiti#:~:text=At%20least%20170%2C000%20children%20displaced%20amid%20escalating%20violence%

Goldbard, A. (2006). New Creative Community: The art of cultural development. New Village Press.

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Mhaka, T. (2023). Abiy Ahmed’s imperial ambitions are bad news for Africa, and the world.

Al Jazeera, 14, November. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2023/11/14/abiy-ahmeds-imperial-ambitions-are-bad-news-for-africa-and-the-world

Mackintosh, E. (2021). From Nobel laureate to global pariah: How the world got Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopia so wrong. CNN, 7, September. Available at: https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/07/africa/abiy-ahmed-ethiopia-tigray-conflict-cmd-intl/index.html

Menakem, R. (2021). My grandmother’s hands: Racialized trauma and the pathway to mending our hearts and bodies. Penguin UK.

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Sahle, E. (2023). Collective Trauma: Promoting Tenacity in Healing. Fortune News, 11, February. Available at: https://addisfortune.news/collective-trauma-promoting-tenacity-in-healing/

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Wikipedia contributors, (2024, March 15). Abiy Ahmed. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 2nd, 2024, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiy_Ahmed.

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Reflections on the Municipal Alliance for Peace in the Middle East

Reflections on the Municipal Alliance for Peace in the

Middle East

Peter Knip

Introduction

The Municipal Alliance for Peace in the Middle East (MAP) was a framework for Israeli-Palestinian municipal dialogue with contributions from foreign municipalities and their associations as well as other international actors. 

MAP was established at a conference in The Hague in June 2005. Its founding was endorsed by 33 Israeli and Palestinian mayors in the presence of municipal representatives from 15 countries and a range of international organizations, including UN-Habitat, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), UNDP, WHO, the Glocal Forum, and UNESCO. 

MAP was run by an International Board consisting of the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA), the Union of Local Authorities of Israel, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the European Network of Local Authorities for Peace in the Middle East (ELPME), the City of Hamar, the City of Rome, the City of Barcelona and the City of Cologne. 

The President of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) chaired the board. 

The establishment of MAP was the culmination of a long process of preparations and dialogue between APLA, ULAI and their international partners including the cities of Athens, Barcelona, Rome and The Hague which started in the end of the nineties. Once MAP was established, a secretariat was created in Jerusalem. Its responsibilities and tasks were to support lobbying activities, assist in the formulation and implementation of concrete (trilateral) project proposals focused on palpable local results, coordinate and foster mutual learning, and mobilize resources. 

National conflict dynamics between Israel and Palestine, in combination with the conflict between Fatah and Hamas within Palestine, the lack of sufficient support from the donor community, including financial constraints and managerial difficulties, made it very difficult to achieve concrete results. These circumstances created a culture of fear, which led to a declining willingness of both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides to continue and finally to the termination of MAP by the end of 2012. 

Below more information is given about:

  • The process that preceded the establishment of MAP: 1999-2004
  • The establishment of MAP in 2005
  • The development and termination of MAP: 2005-2012
  • Reflections on lessons learned from this attempt by the world of local governments to contribute to peace.     

The process that preceded the establishment of MAP: 1999-2004

At the request of Yasser Arafat, the first President of the Palestinian Authority, and with financial help from the Dutch government, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) supported the establishment of the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) in 1997.  At that time, it was the first national association of municipalities in the Arab World.  APLA’s participation in the World Organizations of Local Governments (IULA and UTO) quickly caused tensions. 

In IULA, of which the VNG and the Union of Local Authorities of Israel  (ULAI) were already members for many years, there were constant debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between representatives of APLA and ULAI during meetings. It also endangered initiatives of rapprochement aimed at a merger between IULA and UTO (a process that led to a merger between the two organizations into UCLG in 2004) because UTO took a clearly pro-Palestinian position where IULA tried to remain neutral in the conflict. 

Aware of the risks, IULA and especially its European section, CEMR facilitated a special meeting between delegates from APLA and ULAI in Barcelona in 1999 during the World Congress of IULA. It was agreed that APLA and ULAI would embark on a process of further dialogue. Subsequently, various exchange visits took place, and discussions were held hosted by international local government partners. These culminated in a meeting between the executive administrators of APLA and ULAI at an IULA/UTO meeting in Guadalajara in June 2002. At this meeting, the first practical ideas for cooperation, in the form of a joint municipal conference in Israel and Palestine and a municipal reconstruction program, were conceived. Due to the fact that both APLA and ULAI had a close partnership with and a lot of confidence in VNG, the VNG was asked to facilitate the further process of dialogue and cooperation.

Declarations were drafted, discussed and sometimes signed. For instance, in 2002, the ‘Rome Declaration’ was adopted (but not signed). This stated that ‘while aiming at a peaceful and secure solution to the problem, both sides should promote socio-economic as well as people-to-people co-operation on the local level for the purposes of rehabilitation, economic development and prosperity, as well as the sustainability of peace’. A meeting at the Wittenburg Estate near The Hague, facilitated by VNG, took place in January 2003. A very important common understanding was reached (the Wittenburg Declaration(1)) on prevailing political issues, including violence and terrorism, the recognition of a two-state solution, Jerusalem, settlements, water, refugees, and borders. The remainder of 2003 saw no concrete progress, but the willingness of APLA and ULAI to cooperate was again confirmed in the signing of the ‘KEDKE Declaration’ at the invitation of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communes in Greece (KEDKE). 

It goes without saying that the increased violence between Israel and Palestine severely undermined the confidence that national Israeli and Palestinian leaders would reach an agreement acceptable to both parties during this period between 1999 and 2004. After an earlier period of hope, the Oslo Accords (1993), the Interim Agreement (on West Bank and Gaza, 1995), the Wye River Memorandum (1998) and the Camp David summit (2000) resulted in little change on the ground. Subsequently, the second intifada started in 2000. 

International visits ran into practical problems, such as the Israeli Defense Forces closing off roads after the Netanya hotel bombing in March 2002. The facilitation of a process of dialogue required much resilience before MAP was even established. Palestinian and Israeli municipalities alike suffered the effects of violence. Palestinian mayors and the national leadership were criticized by Israel and the international community for not making enough efforts to stop the bombings. Israeli and Palestinian mayors saw their municipalities hit by violent actions and subsequent retaliations, causing outcry over civilian casualties. Nevertheless, contacts on the local level were maintained, and agreements between APLA and ULAI that would form the basis for more elaborate cooperation were signed during this period. 

General willingness to co-operate was there. There was still hope on the ground.

The conflict became more and more volatile in this period. In 2003, Israeli President Ariel Sharon and Palestinian then-Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas were still discussing the implementation of the Road Map for Peace. Abbas managed to persuade Hamas and Islamic Jihad to agree to a ceasefire. However, the truce disintegrated with a series of suicide bombings, raids and assassinations. The construction of the separation barrier was speeded up. In autumn 2004, Israeli forces entered Gaza after a series of rocket attacks. These events all had impacts on the development of MAP. There were few opportunities for Palestinian partners to travel to Palestine, and it was difficult for APLA to be represented at international meetings. For instance, a planned roundtable session preparing for the establishment of MAP in The Hague had to be canceled. When the declaration for the founding conference was discussed at a preparatory meeting later in 2005, a reference to the ‘Israeli occupation’ was deleted from the text. 

Nevertheless, since a general agreement on political issues had already been reached in Wittenburg, MAP’s founding conference in The Hague could take place despite these difficult circumstances and focus on the objectives of MAP itself, such as initiating ‘on-the-ground cooperation through joint projects in Palestinian, Israeli and international partner municipalities, that are aimed at promoting lasting peace in the region’. The conclusion is that the overall conflict influenced the thoughts and attitudes of the involved parties and clearly resulted in obstacles and difficulties at the local level. However, the impact has not been as severe as one might have expected: it did not stop the process as a whole from progressing. The foundations for MAP were established.

Having been part of the Barcelona meeting in 1999 and all dialogue meetings and preparatory meetings for the establishment of MAP since Guadalajara 2022, I observed a special cultural phenomenon during many meetings. The meetings between the Israeli and Palestinian municipal administrators often followed the same course. It started with very sharp reciprocal accusations and fierce statements about what went wrong on the Israeli or Palestinian side in the presence of the international partners. There was often a tense atmosphere of conflict. The delegations hardly spoke to each other in the corridors. But during the first day, the request came to the president of the meeting (quite often to Wim Deetman, President of VNG) to meet as Israelis and Palestinians without international participation. Very often, they returned from this meeting with tears in their eyes, hands of Palestinian mayors around the shoulders of Israeli colleagues, and vice versa, speaking to each other. The subsequent dialogue was never completely without tension but was much more open, with a mutual willingness to look for solutions acceptable to both. 

‘We’ as foreign mediators felt the complexity of the conflict, how the conflict holds both sides captive and how both sides longed for a peace beyond reach.   

The establishment of MAP in 2005

In addition to the intensification of the political conflict, financial constraints and organizational weaknesses hindered the establishment of MAP. 

Throughout MAP’s conception phase, the financing of activities was a continuous source of concern. Although VNG had accepted the invitation to facilitate the process, they had no budget to finance it. IULA and CEMR did not have a budget either, while APLA and ULAI expected that their travel costs to international meetings would be financed. On the one hand, several municipalities were prepared to cover the costs of reception during dialogue meetings. On the other hand, The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially allowed VNG to draw on funds allocated to VNG International’s technical assistance work with APLA. Direct contacts between VNG board members and ministers were required to achieve this agreement. This ensured some stability at the operational level. A grant proposal submitted in 2002 to the EU Partnership for Peace Programme was unsuccessful, with the EU citing a lack of funds. However, the application feedback also identified significant concerns:  ‘The proposed activities under the programme may be adversely affected by external circumstances that are beyond the direct control of the project. Particularly the security circumstances and travel restrictions on the West Bank can change rapidly, without prior notice.’ 

Early in 2004, however, the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved new funding for the dialogue through VNG. One might argue that the lack of finances in Palestine has been a positive, rather than a negative, influence on APLA’s willingness to participate in MAP. The logic being, that the lack of available finances from national Palestinian institutions increased the interest of Palestinian local authorities in tapping external funds. However, the uncertainty of funding for the process and the willingness of international parties in the process to finance the follow-up to the initiative have been a problematic factor in this phase of MAP’s development. 

In the process towards MAP, the institutional weakness of APLA was certainly a handicap. APLA was a very new unexperienced association of municipalities with hardly any visibility and results for its members. Due to its institutional weakness within Palestine, not all municipalities were already members, and the membership fees were hardly paid, which was known to ULAI and reduced its credibility. ULAI had a longer tradition since 1938 and represented since 1953 all municipalities in Israel. Differences in organizational culture between the VNG and the associations in Israel and Palestine often slowed down the pace of progress. There was often annoyance from the Dutch side about the failure to fulfill agreements or to fulfill them too slowly by the partners in Palestine and Israel. Conversely, the proverbial Dutch directness was not always appreciated. 

Last but not least one might see the differences in the motives for involvement between APLA and ULAI as a weak point. APLA had a utilitarian stance toward the idea of MAP. Its support was rooted in the needs of Palestinian municipalities. Its approach emphasized tangible, material results, because these legitimize the participation of local politicians. The dialogue, in this view, is instrumental in technical reconstruction.                                                                                                                                         Another motive was that MAP was seen as a platform through which the plight of Palestinians could be brought to international attention. For ULAI, dialogue itself was the key activity: it emphasized people-to-people actions with the support of municipal leaders. Peace-building was an important focus of ULAI’s activities at that time.

Several other factors contributed more positively to the final establishment of MAP: the involvement of international partners, the involvement of associations of municipalities and the sustained local willingness to engage in dialogue. The support from international partners has been crucial for the establishment of MAP. Apart from the World Organization of Local Governments, UCLG, the support from the strongest national associations in the world (among others, Canada, France, UK, Netherlands), several big cities, and a few UN agencies like UNDP/PAPP was essential to keep the process going. The leadership of the local government associations, especially those of APLA and ULAI, were of tremendous importance in the phase leading up to MAP. A politically charged process will not take root if the involved mayors are only speaking on behalf of their own municipalities. A mechanism to bring in the support of many municipalities is needed, and this can be realized through the presidents of associations. Despite the difficult circumstances, APLA and ULAI delegations did meet on various occasions. The involved parties were convinced that, at the local level, modest but real contributions to peace could be made. This sustained local willingness to engage in dialogue resulted in meetings and declarations and created momentum at a local level while it convinced the international partners that their preconditions for involvement, namely local commitment, were fulfilled. 

Organizing MAP’s 2005 founding conference was a true exercise in diplomacy. All the identified agencies and organizations that might attend were visited by VNG, APLA and ULAI jointly in advance. A commitment to participation in the conference and beyond was discussed and made explicit in the conference background document (2). Political and geographical spread, as well as the sizes of the attending municipalities, were finely tuned. After the establishment of MAP, a greater awareness among international organizations and municipal associations emerged. This resulted in moral support, human resources and financial assistance. 

The development and termination of MAP: 2005-2012

In the year the Municipal Alliance for Peace was established by APLA and ULAI the conflict worsened. In 2005, local elections took place, with Hamas gaining power in many municipalities, and in 2006 Hamas won legislative elections. The rise of Hamas influenced MAP in several ways. Firstly, APLA struggled to come to terms with the new reality, and as of late 2007, it still had no new Executive Board. ULAI adopted a more distant stance to the dialogue, preferring to see how matters would develop, and the Government of Israel discouraged its municipalities from talking to Hamas-run municipalities. Secondly, struggles between Fatah and Hamas greatly affected the environment in which projects were organized. It became increasingly difficult to organize MAP activities, especially in Gaza. Thirdly, the situation provided a justification for foreign partners to opt out, claiming they could not participate as long as Hamas was in power due to their own government’s standpoint. Few new MAP partners presented themselves, and some existing ones became less active. 

Financing MAP’s activities continued to be a source of concern as well. Funding opportunities became increasingly scarce as funding agencies became worried that money would benefit bodies and people, who were officially excluded on the basis of various lists and government policies. Additionally, the unstable project environment, especially for peace-building activities, made donors reluctant to advance money. A donor conference organized by APLA, ULAI, and VNG by the end of 2005 showed plenty of goodwill but no final commitments to finance. Eventually, funding was obtained from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs to formally sustain MAP after its establishment. Since late 2005, MAP has received additional financial support from UNDP/PAPP, which has allowed it to allocate funds to Palestinian beneficiaries without legal implications, unlike many other donor organizations. However, MAP has never received massive support from the donor community in order to get the chance to create substantial visibility on the ground to influence conflict dynamics at the national level.

Managerial difficulties occurred too. A secretariat was created in Jerusalem. Its responsibilities and tasks were to support lobbying activities, to assist in the formulation and implementation of project proposals, to co-ordinate and foster mutual learning, and to mobilize resources. Political sensitivities, constant worries over funding and vulnerable personal relationships have hampered its work. The secretariat in Jerusalem was most of the time fully occupied with fine-tuning local activities with APLA and ULAI and did not have time for all other tasks. Both APLA and ULAI failed to assign staff members to deal with MAP affairs. The possibility of a secondment of a Dutch expert with substantial experience in mediation was a great disadvantage and a relevant source of information on what happened on the ground, but she was of course not able to solve all bottlenecks. After two years of operation, only a few of its objectives had been realized. Practical commitment was a problem for all the parties involved. 

With the conflict intensifying and constituencies splitting, relationships within MAP’s International Board became fraught. Mutual tolerance between APLA and ULAI at the executive level deteriorated. The impact of these managerial difficulties at the local level might have been even more severe than the impact of the conflict and emphasizes that ownership, commitment, and the organizational setup are major factors in determining the effectiveness and efficiency of a peace process as imagined by MAP. A declaration signed by APLA, ULAI and VNG in 2007 does indicate a willingness and desire to eliminate managerial difficulties – by further institutionalizing MAP and incorporating it within a foundation, by installing an international team member in the local Secretariat and by appointing a rapid intervention team of Israeli and Palestinian mayors to deal with urgent on-the-ground issues. Although the extension of the local team with an international expert turned out to be helpful in formulating concrete projects between municipalities, efforts to establish a joint Israeli-Palestinian foundation and an effective intervention team failed.  

New institutional weaknesses influenced the commitment to realizing MAP’s objectives in this phase. The significant change within the APLA membership following local elections, the practical obstacles resulting from intra-Palestinian unrest and travel restrictions, and severe tension over a ULAI Congress in Jerusalem weakened the involvement of APLA. It had four different presidents during the period covering MAP’s establishment and development, and two executive directors. This has harmed the continuity of the process. The limited opportunities to meet with the APLA presidency have hindered political decision-making. Since the elections of January 2006, the APLA General Assembly has not convened for a very long period, and a new Board was not elected, avoiding a Hamas-dominated APLA. 

Initially, the willingness to engage in real dialogue, seen in the preceding phase, continued into this one. The extensive list of 33 Palestinian and Israeli municipalities participating in the founding conference bears witness to this. APLA, ULAI and VNG reconfirmed their commitment at the political, executive and administrative level to the objectives of MAP in Jerusalem in July 2007 in a declaration signed by the associations. At the local level, sustained municipal willingness remained an important favorable factor in MAP’s development. The fact that local willingness to talk was reconfirmed by APLA and ULAI in 2007 and that Israeli and Palestinian municipalities continued to discuss project opportunities with international partners gave room for a more positive development. Concrete trilateral municipal cooperation projects were developed. Whereas the associations of municipalities and the international organizations were the drivers of the process in the earlier phase, individual municipalities were now more central. The year 2007 saw projects starting to be implemented. Two projects started in the environment field, involving 11 municipalities (four Palestinian, four Israeli, and three Dutch). Politicians, municipal staff and citizens were in regular contact to implement project activities. The formulation of three other projects on water management, sewage, and park development started in late 2007 and early 2008 and was partly implemented afterward. 

One special factor in this phase is that municipal peace initiatives in the form of concrete projects draw heavily on the internal organizations and on the competencies of the involved municipalities. In the MAP environment, the diplomatic qualities and technical competencies of local civil servants and local politicians in the projects needed to be high. Other organizations could assist, but in the projects, they cannot substitute for municipalities. It has been stated a couple of times that mayors in Israel and Palestine had to deal with issues of legitimacy and popular support. This is equally true of the foreign municipalities in trilateral cooperation projects. Legitimacy and popular support must be carefully maintained both in the field and at home. We might observe here a certain discrepancy between the ideals of the international staff of associations of municipalities and UN Agencies on the one hand who were inclined to think that mayors and councilors are ‘poised to be the new diplomats of our world’ and that, ultimately, local governments could play crucial roles in peacebuilding in the world and local government representatives on the other hand who felt limited by the expectations of their population. 

The conflict dynamics in these years increasingly affected the possibilities for constructive dialogue and cooperation. In the summer of 2007, the Fatah-Hamas conflict led to Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip, which in practice divided the Palestinian Authority in two. By the end of 2008, after rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities by Hamas, an Israeli operation against Hamas began with an intense bombardment of the Gaza Strip, followed by a ground invasion in January 2009. Amidst this deteriorating political situation we undertook one last major initiative to bring all key actors together outside the conflict area in Germany, in close cooperation with the city of Cologne by the end of 2011. The Cologne Memorandum for Cooperation Activities (3) reflects the results of the meeting in which new commitments to intentions for more and better cooperation were formulated. However in the months after this congress

MAP was increasingly confronted with messages from mayors in Palestine who did not want to be involved in dialogue with Israeli colleagues any longer because of the continued settler policies and oppression by Israel or did not dare to be involved because it would undermine their legitimacy.

We could increasingly observe a culture of fear, more risk avoidance and a stronger enemy image of Israel amongst Palestinian local government representatives. In the meantime, we also observed increased hostile feelings against Palestinians amongst Israeli local government representatives and a declining belief that local contacts with Palestine would contribute to peace. In my personal contacts.  I also felt a certain feeling of hopelessness and a growing number of Palestinians who did not believe any longer in a two-state solution. 

After a relatively quiet period in which, under the pressure of the Obama government, some progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations seemed possible, continued rocket attacks originating from the Gaza Strip led to Operation Pillar of Defense by Israel in the Gaza Strip in November 2012 in which many Palestinians were killed. In combination with a lack of progress in many other fields of disputes between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the willingness to participate in contacts with Israeli partners declined. It was increasingly felt that the time for peace dialogues and concrete cooperation ‘from below’ was over, and MAP died more or less a silent death. A last initiative to bring the main Israeli and Palestinian partners together in The Netherlands failed because APLA informed VNG that they could not account any longer for forma land informal meetings with ULAI. With finances from the Dutch government, VNG could only continue several projects for municipalities on the West Bank.

Reflections on lessons learned from this attempt by the world of local governments to contribute to peace. 

• A process such as MAP requires a more conducive environment that offers a realistic perspective on positive change through dialogue and cooperation. The influence of a single municipality is limited, especially in complex conflict regions such as the Middle East. Initiatives from the local government side can work when parties at the national level are stalemated, but only if national governments leave room for it: politically, practically, and legally. Ideally, there should already be a rapprochement. 

• This type of process from below by local governments is very dependent on donor funding. Cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, donor preconditions and political preferences have resulted in missed opportunities and slowed down the dialogue process.

• The capacity of the main local stakeholders is important, and the qualities of individual local politicians and civil servants matter. Furthermore, there is no reason to assume that foreign municipalities automatically have sufficient capacity and quality.

• The MAP case presents a dilemma of legitimacy versus efficiency and effectiveness in municipal peace initiatives. While having many international actors and peace initiatives under one umbrella creates legitimacy, streamlining efforts, or at least coordinating between different initiatives, which is necessary to retain efficiency and prevent the available capacity of local stakeholders from becoming exhausted, was often extremely difficult. 

• Trilateral technical cooperation can be a very useful basis for dialogue. Third parties can provide technical and financial assistance, a neutral zone for meetings, and access to their network. On the downside, however, trilateral cooperation may make project development more complex than in a bilateral situation and is also more difficult to organize than dialogue. 

• True commitment and ownership by local stakeholders—municipalities and their associations—require the support of mayors, councils, citizens, and civil society, but also concrete, visible results. Tangible outputs can be the cement in cooperation exercises. 

• A process like MAP needs extreme patience, constant nurturing (politically and often financially) and regular face-to-face contacts, which initially were more effective when they took place outside the conflict region. 

• Conflict resolution, development aid, and community development are not mutually exclusive; they can go hand in hand and reinforce each other. 

• To explore the added value of local government involvement in peace-building and conflict resolution, national, international, and supranational governments should acknowledge such a role and operate accordingly.

Notes:

(1) Wittenburg Joint Understanding, January 2003. See: wp-content/uploads/2024/04/Wittenburg-Joint-Declaration.pdf

(2) MAP-Declaration, June 2005. See: Map-declaration-june-2005/

(3) Cologne Memorandum of Agreement for Cooperation Activities. See: Cologne-mayors-conference/

Used Abbreviations:

* MAP = Municipal Alliance for Peace in the Middle East

* UCLG = United Cities and Local Governments

* UNDP = United Nations Development Programme

* WHO = World Health Organization

* UNESCO = United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

* APLA = Association of Palestinian Local Authorities 

* ULAI = Union of Local Authorities of Programme 

* UNDP/PAPP = UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People 

* VNG = Association of Netherlands Municipalities

* FCM = Federation of Canadian Municipalities 

* ELPME =  European Network of Local Authorities for Peace in the Middle East

* IULA = International Union of Local Authorities

* UTO = United Towns Organization

* CEMR = Council of European Municipalities and Regions

* KEDKE = Central Union of Municipalities and Communes in Greece