The Inaugural Pearson Global Forum Featuring USAID Alumni Nancy Lindborg and Rick Barton | General Discussion | UAA Forum

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    Ven Suresh

    “If we knew 100 people well…local, local, local–get to know the local voices. Maybe we might not see a lot of the conflicts we see today, ” said Amb. Rick Barton, founding director of the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) and currently, a lecturer at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He and his panelists highlighted the importance of local engagement. The panel on the “Causes of Conflict” was part of the inaugural Pearson Global Forum that was held on October 4-5, 2018 at the University of Chicago.

    The Pearson Global Forum convened thinkers, influencers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to bridge the critical gap between research and policy. Over the course of two days, attendees heard and interacted with speakers including former Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) and current President of the Institute of Peace Nancy Lindborg, co-author of Why Nations Fail and Executive Director of the Pearson Institute James Robinson, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard.

    Several professors also presented their research. Economist and professor at the Harris School of Public Policy Chris Blattman discussed how cognitive behavior therapy contributes to stopping street violence. More significantly, the therapy program was initially implemented in Liberia, but has since been the model for several programs in Chicago, reminding us that conflict is not a “their” problem, but an everyone problem that we need to work together to resolve. Professor Aila Matanock from the University of California – Berkeley and author of Collecting Peace proposed that peace agreements must incorporate elements that help overcome trust issues and commitment problems. Her analysis and research on El Salvador revealed that agreements without electoral participation provisions that incorporate combatants into the governing structure are less likely to be violated than those that do not.

    A panel on “Using Data to Address Conflict” left the audience optimistic about the increasing specificity and availability of data, and yet cautious because there still remains questions about what can be done when data falls in the wrong hands. Nonetheless, for students of international affairs and global development, there is no better time to learn how to “translate” data into action and serve as knowledge brokers, bridging academia with policymaking. Students were also urged to consider country and cultural context when interpreting data because the wrong interpretation of data can result in unintended consequences.

    The conference closed with a focus on restoring social order. Restoration of social order concerns institutions, infrastructure, but more importantly, individual lives, communities, and cultures that have been transformed. A prosperous democratic society depends on having an ample supply of respectable individuals capable of stewarding public funds responsibly to serve their communities.

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