Seed. Tree. Forest — transforming conflicts
Participant’s reflections on the trainings on conflict transformation and emotional literacy
The project Seed.Tree.Forest organized by the Youth Peace Ambassadors Network France and the Youth Peace Ambassadors Network(YPAN) has been an experience of diving into the world of nonviolent communication (NVC), conflict transformation, grassroots peacebuilding and non-formal education.
The project consisted of two trainings held in Banjska (Kosovo*) on 27 July-3 August 2022 and Evians-les-Bains (France) on 12–19 January 2023. In this article, we would like to share with you personal highlights of participants from both of these trainings.
by Alla Petrova
Forest of Peace
#5 Building intercultural bridges
In France, we were imitating a situation of intercultural encounter where people from different fictitious cultures were trying to construct a bridge. This exercise showed me how sometimes challenging international cooperation may be but if accompanied with intercultural sensitivity and
motivation a bridge between cultures can be built and lead to fruitful cooperation. The project Seed.Tree.Forest also represents a bridge that facilitators and participants across the globe managed to construct during this time connecting different cultures with each other.
#4 Feeling like true diplomats
During the second training, we also participated in a role game called the Red Planet: each participant was assigned with a role in a setting of an artificial crisis situation between the nations on Earth and Mars. Negotiating in small and big formats, trying to find a compromise and defend your interests at the same time, I felt both challenged and excited.
#3 Mitrovica: local conflict experience
As a part of the training in Kosovo, we also visited Mitrovica, a divided city with Serbian community on the north and Albanian — on the south connected only with a bridge over a river. What started as an ordinary touristic trip suddenly became an opportunity to experience local conflict on your own skin. Sirens, rumors about shootings, police going around, people leaving their homes surrounded by tension and uncertainty of what is happening and whether we are safe — these are my memories of
this day. I was scared and excited at the same time. Looking back at this experience now, I am thankful for it as it allowed me to understand the local context and post-conflict process in Kosovo better.
#2 Connected by peace, non-violence and human rights
Thanks to this project, I have expanded my knowledge in such essential topics as NVC, emotional literacy and local peacebuilding. A concept of nonviolent communication was a true discovery for me as I have never heard about this before. As an effective tool to communicate peacefully, I find it especially useful not only for interpersonal interactions but also as a way of analyzing your needs and emotions.
#1 Beautiful souls creating a safe space
I was also amazed how kind and sweet the participants and facilitators of this project are. All together we managed to create a safe space where we could share our personal experiences and show empathy to each other. Learning and working on various activities together allowed us to bond
and create friendships that break state borders and conflict lines.
To sum it up, I would like to highlight that this whole project has had a significant impact on my life. Now I feel enriched with new key knowledge, wonderful encounters and amazing experiences. I see how beautiful intercultural cooperation can be and that international sustainable peace is possible. Now it’s time for all of us to go back to our local communities to spread the light of peace further allowing more trees to grow and form a beautiful forest of global peace.
by Maria Afroditi Deilogkou
A short Non Formal Education story of Conflict Transformation
Seed. Tree.. Forest… is a project from the YPAN where a group of young active and potential peace-builders have been encouraged to use Non Formal Education to approach the topic of Conflict Transformation. 24 participants attended the second training course in Evian-les-bains in January and here is a short presentation of what they experienced:
Needless to say, but, the project was a success since it was innovative in many ways. Even if it seemed like a challenge in the beginning, reconnecting half of the group after their first meeting in Kosovo, and managing to integrate a group of newcomers that were though equally curious and willing to experience this personal and collective transformation, it became our reality since the first day, and we naturally grew into a beautiful big family.
In the beginning we were doubtful about the process, we expressed our hopes and fears in small groups while passing through tables exploring what the program would look like and what Non Formal Education is. The same afternoon we formed a circle and turned around the room to listen
to other people’s experiences from their first meeting.
First Day ended in victory, as the objectives were achieved. The group was visibly more unified and the participants were happy with the methods. Some eggs broke in the process but no other creature was harmed in any other way ;)
When we achieved the relational part, it was time to discover our common ground, the ground that was ready for our seeds. Peace, positive, negative, violence, conflict… management, resolution… TRANSFORMATION! Conflict inside a family, at work, in the society, among countries. It sounds different but it is the same and it is neutral. We acted out our different vision of conflict 101 (Who should wash the dishes?) and how to hand it. We managed, we solved and we transformed… and in the end the dishes were still unwashed! :(
We also discussed Human Rights, and their relationship to Conflict. We all draw our line and stepped on it to defend our views. Do the Human Rights Violations cause conflict or Does conflict cause Human Rights Violations? Does the egg make the chicken or the chicken make the egg? Afternoon time was still a moment of performance. This time we were two nations, different but dedicated to pass our message to the other. We are what we are and we don’t change. We are here to work with you but we will keep ourselves as we are….but….hmmm… maybe we teach you about how we do things… and you can help us build a bridge? Yeap…The day ended discussing, this powerful tool and expressing admiration, concerns and sensitivity.
In the next day, we went deeper into the concept of conflict, we got in the roles of different fictional nations and we tried to protect our rights and objectives while negotiating with our fellows to achieve what we wanted. Each one of us, perceived the conflict from a different point of view but we were lead to discuss why it is natural and how to accept it, address our needs and our objectives.
In the afternoon, we found ourselves discussing the concept of dialogue and what makes it so effective for conflict transformation. We tried to negotiate, to find middle ground and in the end we realised how important it is to start from what we have in common, or just a willingness and good
faith, if we really want to make peace happen…
Last but not least, we had our moments of self reflection…what is a onflict, I, want to address, what is a conflict, I, feel I know about. How can I combine them and work on them with others? We formed groups and put our ideas into paper. What comes next? Many, many Wonderfull actions of peace and persistence. Full of motivation and dedication to water our seeds and in the end… smile at the forest we managed to create in our own communities.
I would like to thank all the people that took part in creating this training experience and the trainers that managed to surprise even the most experienced of us with their creativity and inventions of sessions and tools.
By Eliška Jelinkova
The journey of conflict transformation continues in Evian-les-Bains
It is a New Year and you know what that means? Many of us have made the usual resolutions about spending time with the people that lift our spirits and travelling more with purpose, preferably by train to reduce our carbon footprint. I cannot imagine a better way to kick off 2023 than with a training organized by Youth Peace Ambassadors Network.
It is January 2023, and a group of almost 30 youth workers, activists, trainers and peacebuilders have come to Evian les Bains for the next phase of the Seed, Tree, Forest project focused on conflict transformation. The location is in a very serene setting by the Lac Léman (or Lake Geneva), a crescent-shaped lake between France and Switzerland, and overlooked by the Alps.
For the last week, we have been revisiting concepts like peace, violence, conflict sensitivity, culture of peace and human rights as well as more complex approaches like conflict management, conflict resolution and most importantly conflict transformation.
Using non-formal education, the group used different methods like negotiation simulation, conflict tree as well as egg-throwing to practice dialogue skills, learn about different analysis tools as well as break ice between the participants.
Seed, Tree, Forest being a participant-driven process, also gave space for people to run their own workshops during the week. From a workshop on the importance of speaking up, the theatre of the oppressed to expressing experiences of being a perpetrator, victim, bystander and victim with drawings, the week was packed with experiences.
I am leaving Evian re-energised, full of inspiration, and ready to implement the follow-up actions which is the last phase of this amazing project with the support of the people that I now call friends. A bien-tot and until we meet again!