"We hope this conference provides some practical answers, not only for Guatemala and Liberia, but also other countries facing open and looming conflicts," said Ismail Serageldin, World Bank vice president for environmentally sustainable development. The conference to which Serageldin refers, "The Transition from War to Peace," was held at The Carter Center Feb. 19-21, serving as the first in a series of workshops the World Bank will sponsor in the next two years.
The purpose of the series is to create a framework in which organizations and governments can work collaboratively to establish a foundation for lasting peace. The primary objective of The Carter Center meeting, attended by former President Jimmy Carter and some 50 international officials, was to bring representatives of Guatemala and Liberia together with members of the international donor community so they could begin developing strategies to help these two countries continue an effective transition toward peace.
In his opening remarks, Carter emphasized the global importance of finding permanent solutions to conflicts, preventing them from developing into repeated crises. "We must address how to get beyond the crisis management of a disaster or even the maintenance of peace," he said, describing Guatemala and Liberia as "crisis nations where the permanence of peace has not been ensured." Additionally, he urged the group to find a process whereby local citizens of a country in pending crisis could reach out to appropriate agencies for help. Building upon Carter's remarks, Serageldin stressed the importance of conference participants sharing their strengths and knowledge with one another.
Following the opening ceremoney, attendees broke into panel sessions and discussed a variety of topics, including economic management, demilitarization, human rights and postconflict governance. Group discussion, facilitated by the Conflict Management Group, gave representatives of Guatemala and Liberia an opportunity to exchange ideas and explore solutions to the complex problems facing their countries. Additional discussion focused on when developing countries should hold elections and what role nongovernmental organizations and aid organizations should play in the varying stages of a country's development.
Joining Carter and Serageldin were Jan Pronk, Netherlands development minister; Kari Nordheim-Larson, Norwegian development minister; Peter Bell, president of CARE; Amadou Ould-Abdallah, former United Nations special envoy to Burundi; and Jean Arnault, U.N. chief negotiations moderator for Guatemala. Other attendees included representatives of the U.N. Development Program, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The conference ended with a plenary discussion on integrated strategic planning with former U.N. Under-Secretary-General Dame Margaret Anstee summarizing the common themes that surfaced during the course of the workshop. "The governments of conflict-ridden countries and the international community should collaborate to find ways that will work to address the social, economic, political and environmental issues that will ensure peace," Carter said in closing. "It's the follow up to mediating a peace agreement and holding honest elections that is difficult."
Ann Carney is communications associate at The Carter Center
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