Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Since I was a kid I always lived “internationally”. My family background and my father’s profession took me very early far from my country, Uruguay, for many years. When I came back home I finished high school and studied law at the university. Then I decided to specialize in Public International Law, which I did it in France. I didn’t really feel like practicing as a lawyer. When I came back to Uruguay again I had the opportunity to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From there on I have always worked in international law or relations related fields. In the past years I have been devoting to the academic world and I teach Public International Law at the same university where I have studied. In between I have worked in an International Organization, in the Congress, in an NGO, had a case before the International Human Rights Court, etc.
Why do I mention all this? Just to state that I have always been in connection with conflict resolution but never actually had the opportunity to see it from a different perspective than the legal one. It is not that this is a wrong perspective, of course it is not. It was just an incomplete way to approach the whole issue, even from the outlook had to be legal. Of course I was always in touch with a State and governmental perspective, and from an International Law point of view.
What was lacking was the knowledge of the source of the issue and mainly the capacity to understand how many actors were playing a role in the conflict and their importance. So many individuals and local stories were forgotten or ignored in this approach that inevitably something would be missing.
I am in the process to apprehend a new set of knowledge that I do not always share in its grounds. It is somehow artificial in some aspects, it seems not well funded in others, and it looks like common sense in most issues. I try very hard not to have a legal mindset when I listen to the topics. And by so doing little by little something started coming out of the Peace Program for me. There are new perspectives, stories, visions, knowledge, understanding and focus on the conflict resolution issues. It is sometimes the same but the emphasis is not in rules or in politics but in the individuals and the communities. The instruments that shape peace are indeed diverse and I can foresee that at the end of the journey I will have a new set of them to be used in my legal expertise and in the international law classes.
How could I not assimilate all the examples, experiences and tools that I have heard about and not to find something useful for the practice of conflict resolution? I realize this will fortunately not be possible. Like a young writer find a style of his own after he has read all the most relevant books in literature, in my case to be exposed to the various topics of the programs, the different styles of the professors, and the diverse experiences and thoughts of the fellows, I will only be able to develop my ability to analyze conflicts in a more comprehensive way.
It is not that I agree with all what I have heard. But even in the disagreement you find a good source for new inputs since you reflect on something you perhaps never did before. And of course sometimes I can learn things without having to agree or disagree with, it’s just new knowledge that you earn for your profit. When referring to the latter it is impossible not to mention the field trip to Mae Sot and everything we saw there. And it will probably be the same in our next international trip to Nepal.
This is my vision of this experience. In any case it will redefine my perspective regarding conflicts and for sure enhance my knowledge. An opposite outcome would not be logical. And besides this I also think that I have had the privilege to share this process of growth with a group of great people the same feeling to building a better world.
Alejandro Pastori, Uruguay
Rotary Peace Fellow, Class 20.