The PeaceTraining scope : Attitudes, skills and knowledge
Inquiries of essential literature and interviews with experts of the field have rendered the ASK-approach the most promising outlook for peace training, combining theory, practice and the meta-level.
Generally, we understand peace training as the process of preparing practitioners for their work in CPPB (Conflict Prevention and Peace Building) activities. Such training can occur before, during, or in-between deployments to conflict zones, which can be both local or foreign. The practitioners come from a variety of sectors, including military, police, diplomacy, civil service, civil society organisations, and peace missions. Fitting this understanding of training for practitioners, we have chosen to utilise the ASK model – consisting out of the three aspects of shaping attitudes, building skills and developing knowledge.
First, peace training involves instilling attitudes within participants that promote the values of peace. Preparing practitioners for their work requires enforcing the belief that peace is possible and desirable and the upholding of certain core norms, which should include the following:
- Equality – to be understood as the belief that all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity etc. are equally respected and valued in the sense of fundamental human rights;
- diversity – including the belief in anti-discrimination, the active challenging of stereotypes, the desire to understand and respect those different from self, tolerance, the recognition of each person’s dignity and the promotion of a non-Eurocentric ethos;
- empathy – that is a non-judgemental attitude, the will to listen to others and not to elevate oneself above others or demonise them;
- non-violence – as the firm stance of disregarding violence as a means for conflict solution, because it always tends to promote more violence instead of creating inclusion and tackle the root causes for conflict;
- and finally, social responsibility – meaning the realisation of a global interconnectedness and interdependence, as well as an accompanying sense of duty for improving the world and guaranteeing dignity to every actor involved.
While some participants may espouse these attitudes upon entering a training, others still need to undergo a transformative process to develop them. Also, many individuals may hold these attitudes in general, yet have difficulty applying them to specific situations. For instance, one could generally believe in equality without being aware of the issue of gender inequalities in particular. Therefore, it is necessary to elevate all the participants onto the same level of moral comprehension.
Furthermore, it is crucial to realise that attitudes are not solely formed through one’s upbringing and experiences, but that they are mainly shaped by the way one processes these experiences. Attitudes can also shift as experiences are made and the scope of reflection is broadened, in other words, encountering new social contexts inspires to reflect differently and incorporate alternative views. Training should, thus, include activities that stimulate reflection. An unfamiliar situation can nevertheless make us revert to attitudes deeply engrained in ourselves. It is hence necessary for practitioners to develop strong skills in self-reflection in order to truly and continuously challenge unfavourable attitudes that might come up at any given time. This approach concurs with the well-established principle of positionality and reflexivity in social science work, requiring researchers and by extension practitioners, trainers and participants – to assess their position within their present context by interrogating their “biases, beliefs, stances and perspectives” (Savin-Baden & Major, 2013, p.71).
Second, peace training needs to focus on skills, that is the capability of actual application of developed techniques for conflict analysis, prevention and peacebuilding in a variety of social contexts. This requires teaching very closely tied to effective practice and real-life scenarios, including for example lessons on how to create trust or how to facilitate dialogue between conflicting parties. Yet, applying skills successfully and confidently requires practice as well, because although many skills within CPPB are applicable across sectors, they need to be tailored to a specific mission or a particular sector. For instance, good communication skills are part of all CPPB activities, but they are applied differently in community-based mediation than in supporting military reform processes. Therefore, skills training has to focus both on the technique and the way that technique is applied to a particular context. We have identified the following skills as cutting across sectors and CPPB activities, and consequently as core skills to be taught in CPPB training:
- Communication – entailing active listening, the use of de-escalating language and non-verbal communication;
- its sub-skill of inter-cultural communication – additionally stressing open-mindedness, sensitivity, respect and adaptation to local contexts as well as cultural rules for non-verbal forms, in order to avoid miscommunication;
- anti-discrimination – being the active challenging of stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination and power imbalances, while creating spaces to empower marginalised people;
- self-care – putting emphasis on the ever-present need for personal safety, resilience, work-life-balance and health;
- stress management – that is, the ability to deal with stress using various strategies like meditation, breathing exercises, music, sports;
- reflection – to be conducted upon oneself (as described above concerning one’s attitudes and behaviour) and upon relationships, employers, co-workers etc.;
- gender awareness and gender mainstreaming – including addressing stereotypes related to gender, the promotion of women’s empowerment and participation, the fight of gender-based violence, and the assurance of the gender lens in all work activities;
- and last, conflict and cultural sensitivity – referring to building relationships with local stakeholder, assessing needs and designing suitable interventions inflicting least potential harm, as well as mainstreaming this sensitivity to all CPPB activities.
Skills put knowledge and attitudes into action. The essence of CPPB work is this transformation of theoretical ideals into behaviour. Knowledge must still not be ignored, as it builds the cognitive basis for understanding the settings, their specifics and demands.
Several different types of knowledge can be acquired from good training. In addition to learning terms, definitions and details within factual knowledge, a training may catalyse participants to explore theories, devise strategies, understand local contexts and develop an understanding of the self. According to a theoretical framework by Krathwohl, 2002 and Wolter et al., 2017, as well as interview data, the following types of knowledge have been found relevant to CPPB training:
- Factual knowledge – covering the basic elements for becoming acquainted with a discipline and for solving problems within its context, e.g. terminologies, definitions, dates, statistics, details of historic legacy and current events, local landscape;
- conceptual knowledge – referring to the interrelationships between the basic elements within a larger structure, e.g. classifications, categories, models and theories;
- procedural knowledge – giving theoretical insight on how to do something, e.g. step-by-step guides, techniques, methods, conflict mapping and conflict analysis.
- Strategic knowledge – consisting e.g. out of identifying and conveying best practices and lessons learned from the field;
- and self-knowledge – that is, consciousness about one’s biases, personal capabilities, strengths and weaknesses.
- Additionally, we want to stress that training should adequately convey the relevance of a local dimension to knowledge for effective and locally owned peacebuilding. Such local knowledge includes factual and procedural knowledge, but of course also language skills and cultural understanding. In this context, our interviewee (NGO Director Afghanistan) utters concern about the UN’s and foreign government’s ignorance of local capacities and knowledge. This criticism goes way beyond training, as it addresses the usefulness of deploying international staff for local peacebuilding. Yet, training can be used to at least adequately prepare the international staff to value and acquire local knowledge as well as effectively make use of it. In turn, this can mean that a head of mission employs more local staff or involves more locals in project planning.Having viewed the three pillars of the ASK model separately it becomes clear that they are very suitable to build the basis for a consistent and profound CPPB training when applied in conjunction, as they mutually support each other’s effectiveness.
Reference: Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212–218.
Reference: Savin-Baden, M., & Major, C. H. (2013). Qualitative Research: The Essential Guide to Theory and Practice. Abingdon: Routledge.