Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Platform for "competing narratives" as Troubleshooting

South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper today covered the release of a UN report that reminded me of last night's conversation and especially Ajulo's thoughts on a US-Iraq TRC. The report chooses to highlight one notoriously complex and intractable conflict for special attention. Notice too how truth is conceptualized here as "dispassionate and objective" while also plural. The group attempts to provide a "model" for mutual respect. It seems it has an analysis of power and privilege that would resonate for Commissioner Cynthia Young (based on her annexed "reflection" in the GTRC report). I found most interesting the suggestion that one "practical political" solution would be a White Paper that created a platform for "competing narratives" to be articulated and considered ("expressed and heard").

Here are the relevant excerpts:

"The report was prepared by the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilisations, an initiative launched in 2005 by [Secretary General Kofi] Annan and co-sponsored by Spain and Turkey. Its aim is to respond to the broad consensus across nations, cultures and religions that all societies are interdependent, bound together in their development and security, and in their environmental, economic and financial well-being.

"The primary political force that has served to widen the rift between Muslim and Western societies is the widespread perception that there is a double standard as to when universal principles of human rights are championed and when they are ignored," said Shamil Idriss, deputy director of the Alliance of Civilisations.

Eloquent statements in support of democracy lose their relevance when democratically elected governments are shunned and sometimes subverted by powerful countries, according to the report.

The Alliance of Civilisations seeks to counter this trend by establishing a model of mutual respect between nations and cultures.
Arab-Israeli conflict
One of the major obstacles to bridging the rift between the Muslim and Western societies is the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"We may wish to think of the Arab-Israeli conflict as just one regional conflict among many," said Annan. "It is not. No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield."

"As long as the Palestinians live under occupation, exposed to daily frustration and humiliation, and as long as Israelis are blown up in buses and in dance halls, so long will passions everywhere be inflamed," Annan said.
In order to address the issues outlined in their report, members of the High-Level Group offer a number of practical political solutions.

They suggest that a White Paper be created, analysing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "dispassionately and objectively, giving voice to the competing narratives on both sides", reviewing and diagnosing the successes and failures of past peace initiatives, and establishing clearly the conditions that must be met to find a way out of this crisis. ...."

for full story see:
reported by Mithre J Sandrasagra | United Nations Correspondent


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