Summary of "Transformative Approaches to Training: The Case of Somalia"

Summary of

Transformative Approaches to Training: The Case of Somalia

By John Prendergast

This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: John Prendergast, "Transformative Approaches to Training: The Case of Somalia," sect. in Building Peace, by John Paul Lederach, (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 1997), pp. 178-180.

Prendergast analyzes conflict in Somalia using Lederach's models of conflict and peacebuilding. In the early 1990s Somalia was in a state of anarchy, overwhelmed by violent conflicts between rival warlords. The 1993 Addis Ababa peace agreement set forth a two-track approach to restoring peace and civil order to Somalia. Grassroots peace building activities would complement peace negotiations among the rival warlords. Prendergast argues that the grassroots peace building activities of Sweden's Life and Peace Institute (LPI) exemplify Lederach's transformative approach to conflict resolution training. This transformative approach "suggests that training is less about the transfer of content than it is about the creation of a dynamic process involving key people who together focus on the realities of the conflict in their context."[p. 178]

The 1993 Addis Ababa agreement provided for the creation of district councils. These councils would become the lowest level of administration in the reformed Somali government. The LPI has established training centers to offer district councilors training in management and administration.

As a grassroots peace building initiative, the district council approach has some drawbacks. The council plan was drawn up without local community input, and so communities may feel little ownership of the councils. In some places the councils are redundant, or have been marginalized when they threaten established local interests. Over-hasty UN implementation of the councils suffered problems with achieving accurate representation, funding shortages, and external manipulation of elections. There are also questions regarding district boundaries, and council authority and jurisdiction.

Nonetheless, the LPI training program has had positive results. LPI centers have trained hundreds of local community leaders. Training centers bring together a wide range of council members, and encourage cross-community communication. They offer an opportunity for councilors to explore their alternatives and their role in conflict prevention.