President and Founder of Peace-Tech
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
A: This relates to maybe one of your earlier question but I think that there is another thing that we need to look at in the field that we are not looking at and that is the ethical dilemmas that we face as being third parties. Every thing from who do you take money from to who do you talk to. How do people get chosen for participating in the work and how do they get reimbursed for participating, I am talking about local people. The lesson is that we need to be having those conversations more, and building that into the training. Did you take a course in the ethics of international peace building?
Q: Ethics, always seemed to be a chapter in the syllabi, but I don't remember a course specifically dedicated to it.
A: At least it is was in the syllabi, that is good. I just think it is something that we should be paying attention to more.
Q: Does something come to mind where it struck you as unethical, or on the line?
A: Yes. I have personally witnessed situations that people did things that I thought were so outrageously inappropriate, that I was A) embarrassed for them, B) horrified, and C) concerned for the people that it would impact.
Q: Types of things that someone might do second hand without thinking about it?
A: Without thinking about it, and I am thinking about one or two things where people came into the situation where they had never been there before, having maybe read up on it, as if they knew what they were doing, and just started laying things out without talking with the people that had been working there, without building on what had already been done. There was quite a bit of that some years ago, and we talked about it and raised issues about it in various professional forms. Now I think people are better at calling each other, I know a lot of people call me about Cyprus and say, "I know that you have worked here and I am about to go in. I want to make sure this is stepping on some initiative that you have already got into the works that I don't know about it. Here are the people I am working with, I want to make sure that is not taking something from what you are doing or that these are the people, I would like to benefit from your wisdom." To give you an example this is not unethical but it is on the same line, the US government decided to do a high level Track I and a half initiative in Cyprus.
Q: What is Track I and a half?
A: It is semi-official. They brought in Richard Holbrook who was not then ambassador to the UN but had recently left that post. He is a big guy with big guns. He did his homework with us. He convened people who had worked in Cyprus, and said that he didn't know and he wanted us to tell him. The US government decided who he would work without consultation who had done a lot of work there and they chose someone from a very key position that we knew would sabotage it, and did. Had they asked us we would have said, "Wrong choice. Don't even think about it." Not only did they not consult us, when we heard we went to them and said, "You might want to pay attention to some data that we have," and they brushed it off. I don't know if you would put that in the category of unethical, but it had consequences unforeseen by them but we quite foreseen by those of us who knew this situation and had a negative impact on what they were trying to do.
Q: I think that is a great illustration of almost a recommendation on how to go about an assessment, asking people who have been there not only what they know but this is what I am planning to do and are there any reflections on my proposal?
A: Some of that has happened and we have been able to say that it had already been done, and we can propose different ways, or to not do it all.