The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen Vol. II 2/03

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PeaceForce Deployed to Zona

Response to "Wherefore Art Thou, Administrative Support?"

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Welcome to the February issue of The School Mediator.

This month, in the growing shadow of the juggernaut, we provide an exercise to explore the relevance of non-violent conflict resolution to the current crisis with Iraq. Take a moment to send along your thoughts.

Wishing you the best, wherever you are,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

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PeaceForce Deployed to Zona

The following scenario is based on the current Iraqi crisis, but is set during a time characterized by near universal understanding of the limitations of war and a parallel commitment to utilizing non-violent methods of conflict resolution.

We can hope that some day, in a considerably brighter future, this scenario might be more realistic. With hundreds of thousands of young people learning conflict resolution/mediation skills every year, it is possible. Isn't it?

Instructions as to how to use the scenario with your students follow below.

For decades, Bull Mono, the tyrannical leader of Zona, had bullied not only the other nations in his region, but his own citizens. Neither past military campaigns--Bull's tenure stretched back to the time before people understood about wars--nor economic sanctions had proven effective in tempering his ways. Bull's neighbors feared him, and the Zonan people were so brutalized and oppressed, there was little hope that they could push for reform on their own.

When rumors/evidence circulated that Bull possessed weapons of mass destruction--weapons that almost all nations had long ago forsworn--international pressure upon him was once again increased. Independent inspectors scoured his country for the alleged weapons. Mono denied, obfuscated, and took only grudging steps toward compliance. The weapons could not be located.

Concurrently, people around the globe were increasingly moved by the Zonan people's plight. From the diverse outlets of the international free press, the world learned that the country's infrastructure was in ruins, that power was intermittent, and that clean drinking water was in short supply.

Zonan children were faring worst of all, in part due to unintended effects of the sanctions: Thousands died each month (only 1 in 8 lived to the age of 5), and fully one third were malnourished.* A growing consensus called for rapid action to end this humanitarian crisis.

An executive meeting of the Council of Nations (CON) was called to address the Zonan situation. Charged with facilitating the resolution of international disputes as well as ensuring basic human rights for all, the CON proceeded to interview a diverse group of expatriated Zonan leaders as well as recent visitors to the nation.

As a condition of joining the Council of Nations, each member nation--and by this time, all but a handful of nations were members--pledged to devote resources toward the research, development, and application of the technology of peace equal to that devoted to the technology of war. Individual nations were encouraged to decrease their spending on war preparations. Many had. But the reverse, spending more on war than on peace, was prohibited.

The Zonan leaders urged the CON to empower the PeaceForce (PF) to intervene. The PeaceForce, comprised of over two million volunteer and professional "soldiers" around the world, implemented CON's peace and conciliation efforts.

The speakers acknowledged that, as always, the human and material costs of utilizing the PeaceForce were high. But they maintained that deploying the Force would prevent even greater loss of life and threats to world harmony.

In the end, CON leaders agreed, and the PeaceForce was asked to prepare for deployment.

Members of the PF were highly trained in non-violent conflict resolution: They carried no weapons apart from their belief in the dignity of all peoples, their willingness to endure harsh conditions, and their resolve to act for peace. As such, they held the respect and admiration of most peoples, regardless of race, creed, or culture; even those that didn't initially respect them often came to do so.

The PF "soldiers" were supported by all manner of state-of-the-art material goods: high tech equipment, food stuffs, medical supplies, transportation, and so on.

The most elite PeaceForce members often risked their lives in the cause of peacemaking. And none expected the mission in Zona to be any less dangerous.

In fact, PeaceForce strategists and planners, those who could remember, looked back on the days of primarily military-oriented struggles as relative cakewalks. It was much more complex to orchestrate actions that engendered a lasting and durable peace, and that used only non-violent means. Consider:

* Peace could not be imposed upon others. All the PF could do was to facilitate conditions in which parties to a conflict could create their own peace.

* Given the PF's commitment to non-violent peace building, their missions often resulted in considerable PF casualties, especially in the early stages and most especially when dealing with holdouts like Bull Mono and his Zonan army, which possessed terribly destructive armaments.

* It was difficult to anticipate the duration of PeaceForce missions. A mission that was expected to last for years might lead to a surprisingly rapid and lasting peace, while another might require PF resources for years and years.

* Almost all CON member nations reserved the right to use military means for self-defense or to protect themselves from imminent harm. The PF command, to the very top, was entirely separate and did not answer to the military command of CON member nations. Nevertheless, politics could get tricky. One or many countries' military commands, as an example, might call for martial action while the PF was in the midst of a slow but steadily progressing deployment.

And so the PeaceForce's strategists set to work planning how to utilize the considerable resources at their disposal--human, material, financial--to bring about a just and lasting resolution to the Zonan situation.

Your Assignment (or an assignment for your middle school-aged or older students):

If you were the Director of PeaceForce Planning, what sort of campaign would you devise to facilitate positive change in Zona? And how do you guess it would turn out? Note that your campaign does not have to end successfully.

Second: What, if anything, have you learned from this exercise that is relevant to the current crisis with Iraq? And what have you learned about your ideas, hopes and fears concerning the use of non-violent approaches to international conflict resolution?
If you were the Director of PeaceForce Planning, what sort of campaign would you devise to facilitate positive change in Zona? And how do you guess it would turn out? Note that your campaign does not have to end successfully.

Second: What, if anything, have you learned from this exercise that is relevant to the current crisis with Iraq? And what have you learned about your ideas, hopes and fears concerning the use of non-violent approaches to international conflict resolution?

Please send your scenarios and related thoughts to us for posting in next month's issue.

*True facts about Iraqi children. From Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, as quoted during radio interview, 2/21/03.

To find out more about one real organization that is beginning to deploy non-violent peace forces around the globe, visit the link below.

Nonviolent Peaceforce

Response to "Wherefore Art Thou, Administrative Support?"

Below are a few of the comments we received in response to last month's newsletter, which bemoaned the ongoing struggle to win administrative support for peer mediation programs.

It is so funny that I read this newsletter today because my colleagues and I were just discussing this very thing: getting the administration involved in our peer mediation program. We were also talking about why teachers are not sending referrals. We still have teachers who are quick to write up detentions rather than send students to mediation. I have 16 mediators in our school who are so bored that they complain to me about doing mediations. I tell them to go out on the playground and be ready to mediate. I know I need to go to administration and keep telling them that I have 16 mediators who are eager to mediate and you are not helping us to meet our goal, which is 20 mediations a quarter.

Andrica Johnson
Fresno, CA, USA

After many years of training mediators and having a peer mediation program, I can truly say that our administration supports us and refers students to us on a regular basis. Teachers and students refer students as well. Our mediators did more mediations in the first semester than we have ever done in a whole year. Our school is 9-12 (2,200 students) and very urban. We also have a group of peer mediator leaders that have a class with me daily. They have been trained to teach conflict resolution skills to the younger students and do this regularly. Our administration believes in us and has great respect for our program.

Thanks for working on this newsletter - Keep up the good work!

Elaine Plummer,
Wellness Educator/Peer Mediation Coordinator
Antioch High School
Nashville, Tennessee, USA

I set up peer mediation programs in Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. I have experienced this lack of administrative support and have a couple of remedies.

First of all, it is useless to just train 20-30 kids in peer mediation without in some way addressing the skills and knowledge of the rest of the school. As much as possible I lobby for a whole school approach. "Systemic change" I call it. The most successful programs (30 mediations a month) have been where we were able to train the entire staff in at least the listening skills that accompany the mediation process. We were also able to get the mediation coordinator on the weekly "staffing" meeting, presenting mediation as an on-going option for problems that arose.

But there is still the problem of changing the habits of an administration that, under duress, falls back on the same old patterns of response. And the administration in a middle school is ALWAYS under duress.

In talking to one principal, who swore by mediation but was still not able to break his habits, we decided he needed a visual aid to remember when Johnny and Frank were sitting in his office, pectorals flinching, that he could call in the peer mediators. We made two signs, one on big white poster board, the other on a sticky note and put them on the wall over the students' chair and one on his computer that read variations of "Have you tried peer mediation today?" We also put them on the wall of the assistant principal and counselor, and moved them from time to time to keep them seen. This school went on to win numerous awards for how much the systemic mediation program changed the climate and reduced the number of suspensions and altercations in the school.

Marcia McReynolds
Listen, Inc.
Vancouver, WA USA

Re. Administrative support: Actually here at Newton North, my main referral channel has been the administration and that includes the principal and housemasters. My thrust has been to try to recruit student self-referrals, but that has not happened yet.

The other day, we mediated two separate mediations concerning racial issues. The referring housemaster asked to attend one of the mediations, which he did. He later reported back as to how impressed he was by the session and now understood the process better. He may be a candidate for subsequent training. Also, administrators have commented that the school atmosphere has improved and credit some of that to the mediation program. While there is still much to be done, mediation yields tremendous benefits to the mediators, disputants and school climate.

Best wishes.

Jeanne White
Newton North High School
Newton, MA, USA

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For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates has been devoted to the application and promotion of mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform schools into safer, more caring, and more effective institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens of thousands of people around the world.

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