"Understanding the Conflict in Central African Republic" -workshop for young professionals

Defence Forces International Centre FINCENT 23.5.2018 11.03
Press release

The Finnish Defence Forces International Centre and Laurea University of Applied Sciences organized the workshop "Understanding the Conflict in Central African Republic" at the Crisis Management NOW-event organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 17th of May in Helsinki, Finland.

The pilot workshop brought together experts and young professionals interested in conflict management, peacebuilding and crisis management. The workshop was prepared in collaboration with several student organizations around Finland, who were responsible for the recruitment of participants. A total of 22 participants attended the workshop from the University of Lapland, University of Tampere and University of Helsinki with a variety of backgrounds: international law, international criminal law, world politics, political history, regional development or, for example, applied psychology.

Participants were divided into small teams.

Objectives of the workshop were to deepen the understanding of conflict analysis and comprehensive crisis management approach. The material was based on the EU Horizon 2020 "Improving the Effectiveness of Capabilities in EU Conflict Prevention" (IECEU) research project and, more specifically, the deliverable 3.3. Central African Republic research report results. The workshop integrated the research findings into practice in an innovative way by establishing an interactive environment for participants to build conflict analysis capacities.

Greater demand for young professionals in peacebuilding

The workshop was opened by Hussein al-Taee from the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). In his opening speech, al-Taee highlighted the importance of new generations in peacebuilding: "young students have a special strength, compared to previous generations; the contemporary young are able to look at things in a versatile manner, compared to older generations. One way to do this is through new tools, such as social media, which serve as window into other realities", al-Taee described. Beyond that, al-Taee gave concrete examples of peace mediation situations and offered practical tools for participants to use in the workshop.

Active listening and impartiality are one of the key tools in peace mediation, says Hussein al-Taee.

The workshop was facilitated by Marjo Mäenpää from Finn Church Aid, Pasi Hario from Laurea and Hanne Dumur-Laanila, who currently works as a consultant for FINCENT. Ms. Mäenpää has previously worked in CAR as Country Director at Finn Church Aid. In her speech, Mäenpää opened up on the complex conflict situation in CAR, which was an unknown conflict for most of the participants prior to the workshop.

Participants were able to ask advice from the experts.

Concrete and effective way to learn

Prior to the workshop, participants had read the given research material in order to familiarize themselves with the conflict. The research material was also used in a more detailed way in the workshop. During the intensive workshop sessions, participants became acquainted with the CAR conflict; its history, key international and national players, and the attempts to resolve it. Effective interaction between participants was needed when analysing the conflict situation.

The structure of the workshop was three-fold. Participants were given specific tasks where they had to further analyse the conflict situation and its historical timeline. The second phase consisted of analysing motivations, strengths, weaknesses and resources of actors. The final step was to analyse in teams, what kind of steps are needed in order to create peace in CAR. At the end, each team presented their findings.

Learning in an interactive manner.

One of the participants, Jussi Korhonen, currently studies Applied Psychology in the University of Lapland. He participated in the workshop as he wanted to gain a deeper understanding of international conflicts, peace mediation and what crisis management is about. He didn't have previous knowledge of the conflict in Central African Republic.

Korhonen is interested in working in the future in humanitarian issues.

According to Mr. Korhonen, the practical tasks proposed in the workshop; to analyse conflict situations or actors involved in conflicts are an effective and concrete way to learn, because it helps analyse the conflict situation in-depth and the mechanisms behind it. Furthermore, Korhonen was pleased to see that there was good level of professional knowledge from diverse backgrounds which was beneficial for learning from each other.

Text: Hanne Dumur-Laanila

Photos: Niina Kaltiainen/FINCENT and Ilpo Vuorivirta/Laurea