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THE POLICY AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION STUDIES CENTER IN AAUP ORGANIZES A WORKSHOP ABOUT CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND RECONCILIATION

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Policy and Conflict Resolution Studies Center in AAUP organized an online workshop about the reality of conflict resolutions and reconciliation in Palestine among the project of enhancing the national efficiency in the conflict resolution and reconciliation researches funded by the European Union under collaboration with Hebron University, Islamic University – Gaza, Friedrich-Schiller University and University of Granada.

Ms. Rula Shawan- te project coordinator and the PCRSC Manager started the session by welcoming the speakers and the guests of the workshop and providing a summery about the objectives of this project while stressing on the importance of the collaboration between universities and the civil institutions that work in the conflict resolution and reconciliation field.

Dr. Nidal Jayousi- the Head of Erasmus Office in Palestine introduced Erasmus+ programs and ensured on the importance of the qualitative activities that will enhance the research spirit between the students and academics in the Palestinian universities. He stressed on circulating these experiences and programs to all community institutions as well not only universities. Dr. Jayyousi also talked about the booklet that the participants in the project are preparing, as this booklet will be used in the trainings that will focus on the research in conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Dr. Bilal Shobaki- the Head of the Political Sciences Department in Hebron University presented the research that was supervised by the Hebron University team. He talked about the role of the team in gathering information and conducting researches in the different universities, centers and institutions on previously published studies and researches about conflict resolution and reconciliation in order to study the gap in this field and conclude the best recommendations to reduce this gap.

Moreover, Dr. Shobaki indicated that the research process was divided into three parts: the first part was done by the Islamic University in Gaza, the second part was done in the middle and northern of the West Bank led by AAUP and the third part was done by Hebron University and included the southern part of the West Bank and Jerusalem. Dr. Shobaki explained the methodology that the team was working according to in analyzing studies and researches, as the team concentrated on the language and the numerical comparison between studies according to geographical division, in addition to the academic field that these studies were conducted through (Social, Political, Economic, Cultural and Legal).

He also presented the conclusions of this research and talked about the sensitivity of the conflict resolution concept in Palestine. He ensured that the concept should be redefined in a better way and stressed that it should not focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict only. He added that they have returned to 16 research centers and Palestinian universities and discovered that most of the studies were in Arabic. He ensured that they should encourage conducting researches and studies in English (not more than 7% of the studies were in English) in order to transfer the ideas and researches to the world. 

Dr. Shobaki explained that they have some studies that are translated from Hebrew language. And according to the geographical division, the research team found that most of the studies were from the middle of the West Bank and this indicates that the southern and northern parts of the West Bank and Gaza are not getting the enough support to conduct academic researches. He asked Dr. Nidal Jayyousi to study the situation and provide the needed support to reduce this gap.

Dr. Jayyousi said that the political aspect had the highest percentage in the researches and that the rest of the topics need to be worked on. And about the financial support, Dr. Shobaki ensured that most of the support is from non-governmental institutions and it covers only 1% of the researches, but he stressed on the importance of the financial support in this field.

He ended his speech by stating the percentages of each field as the conflict management studies had 3%, the conflict resolution studies had 80% and the reconciliation studies had 17%. He added that the majority of the reconciliation studies were from Gaza.

One of the main challenges that faced the team is that most centers and institutions did not collaborated with the teams because of the misunderstanding of the conflict resolution concept that needed to be explained through awareness activities.

On the other hand, Dr. Walid Mudallal from Islamic University of Gaza talked about the challenges that faced his team starting from the misunderstanding of the conflict resolution concept that most has considered it a concept that hides Western agendas especially because it appeared after Oslo, and that the scale is in favor of Israel that is supported by the western counties.

Dr. Mudallal ensured that his team gathered information from many universities in Gaza which are the Islamic University, University of Palestine, Al-Azhar University and Al Quds Open University, in addition to many other institutions and the team focused on the political side more. He said that the reason behind not having enough studies in Gaza is that the topic is recent and no centers specialized in this field are available. Dr. Mudallal also indicated that there are no plans in the universities to develop this field and that language is an obstacle in front of developing the field. Finally Dr. Mudallal stressed on the importance having a specialized center for conflict resolution equipped with professional employees holding Ma and PhD degrees in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation.

Prof. Ayman Yousef from AAUP gave an explanation about the strategies and recommendations that the team has concluded, and agreed with the recommendations of both Dr. Bilal and Dr. Walid. He emphasized on the importance of developing a Palestinian staff to work in the conflict resolution and reconciliation field, and not only to depend on the support from the foreign staff, but to work with them.  

Prof. Yousef emphasized that in the future there should be a focus on two phases: short-term phase that should focus on developing the academic staff and students from the culture, social, humanitarian, economic and legal aspects and ensured that the Policy and Conflict Resolution Studies Center in AAUP will be honored to provide the needed help.

He also assured on the importance of developing the concept from a Palestinian perspective that is different from the internal conflicts around the world (the civil wars) as the Palestinian case is a liberal case and a conflict with the occupation that led to internal division.

Prof. Ayman Yousef indicated that the next step should be the working on the booklet that will be used to develop the research capabilities.

In his speech, Prof. Yousef also talked about building a database specialized in conflict resolution and reconciliation, and this database must include a whole archive from Arab and foreign researchers, and will also include basic and secondary resources of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  

In the final part, Prof. Yousef said that a forum will be established to start giving lectures about conflict resolution and reconciliation, and they will benefit from the experiences of academics and specialists to give lectures in the forum and this place will be open for discussions to enhance the research in these concepts and terms.

About the long-term phase, Prof. Yousef stressed on the importance of working to fund and establish a conflict resolution and reconciliation center in Gaza to take in the research papers in this field. He also ensured that Arab American University is ready to help in the experience part if they want to establish the center, and that this center can be led by Islamic University as a partner in the project.  

Furthermore, he considered that developing a field or a program in the Palestinian universities is one of the outcomes that the project is seeking to achieve and that they could use the help from Friedrich-Schiller University and University of Granada. Prof. Yousef also suggested that the Ministry of Higher Education should encourage Palestinian universities to start teaching conflict resolution as an elective course to all students aiming to enrich their knowledge and enhance the concepts to conflict resolution and reconciliation. Additionally he suggested establishing an electronic magazine to encourage writing in this field, and ensured that the first step to change is to enhance the dialogue and partnerships between universities and the civil community institutions besides the local and governmental institutions to fit with the philosophy of the project that seeks to improve the conflict resolution terminology in Palestine.

Dr. Hisham Mughari from Islamic University recommended that the Ministry of education should focus more on the research field as many libraries and research centers are being prepare, in addition to MA and PhD degrees. Dr. Hisham stressed on the importance of developing the scientific research papers writing, especially because students have a problem in research writing.

Dr. Samir Zaqout from Al Mizan Institution in Gaza talked about the importance to solve the problems of conducting researches for university students and the problem of preparing a researcher in universities especially when it comes to critical thinking capabilities, culture and the moral skills in the scientific research because we find many researches with plagiarism problems in an obvious way.

On the other hand, Dr. Ra’ed Nueirat from An-Najah National University talked about three cases. The first one is that the conflict resolution concept is known to be a western term. The other case is the way to understand this concept that is it is understand from the western perspective only, and till this moment we could not form the Palestinian way or the Arab way to understand it. The third case is the analysis of the researches of conflict resolution since most researches are political and the analysis unit related to it is not about the tools and methodology of conflict resolution, about it is about studies on how to commit to the theoretical frame. And so, Dr. Ra’ed recommends studying the theories and understanding them in order to use them in writing researches about the conflict resolution in Palestine and thus students will use these theories in their researches. This needs a qualified staff that will be able to prepare researchers and students.   

Mr. Mohammad Hadya- the Manager of Act Institution for Conflict Resolution praised the efforts of people who are working on this project and suggested to contact the negotiation unit to get over 80 document in conflict that are not being published yet. He indicated that the first center for conflict resolution was established in Jerusalem and it focuses on two main parts, the first part is about training, conflict resolution, negotiation and arbitration, whereas the second is an academic part as there are a weakness in this field in universities. Mr. Hadya encouraged the participation and partnership between the civil society institutions and the educational institutions and ensured on the continuity of such partnerships and not to be for a temporary period.

In his turn, Mr. Hani Smeerat from Taawon Institution talked about the problems in understanding the conflict resolution concept, and stressed on the importance to build a Palestinian concept for it. He said that he disagree with the research classification way and said that this needs experts. He added that the idea of conflict resolution is not clear as some conflicts are not being resolved, and so we must focus on the effects of these conflicts. Mr. Smeerat considered the conflict resolution school to be weak, and said that the conflict management or conflict transferring are much stronger schools. He also said that we must make a new understanding for the conflict resolution in Palestine away from the clan solutions or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Mr. Nidal Fuqahaa from Alliance Institution added that universities must focus only on the theoretical part of conflict resolution, and stressed on the importance of the partnership relations between universities and the local society institutions that in turn focuses on the practical part on different levels of social, cultural and political cases.

Ms. Rula introduced Dr. Iyad Abu Zunet from Yabous Institution who in his turn confirmed the previous recommendations and added that we should focus more on the future studies and on the partnership relations between research institutions and centers because these centers are closer to reality and to people, and by this we can mix and merge between academic theoretical researcher and the practical researcher. Dr. Abu Zunet added that the researches in this field must be documented and numbered.

From Muftah Institution, Ms. Lamis Shoaibi presented two main ideas which are the women cases and women role in the peace process. She required to show the Palestinian-Israeli conflict more in the researches and emphasized on the readiness of her institution to provide the information in women participation and the Palestinian division.

Prof. Kamal Al Astal- the Political Sciences professor in Al Azhar University talked about the different topics of conflict, such as the geographical part, the economic, the sociology and the arms race … etc. and he emphasized on the importance of using theories that study conflicts and its management like the negotiation theories, the common benefits theory and the conflict management theory in order to establish research centers specialized in conflict resolution from the political, social and economic aspects. 

In his turn, Dr. Ahmad Shihab from Islamic University ensured on the importance to understand the conflict before determining the way to resolve it, using ways such as arbitration and negotiation, as the conflict can be patriotic, political or economic. He also said that partnerships can be done without any support from the government.

From Friedrich-Schiller University, Dr. Iyyad Dijani ended the discussion by ensuring that there is a problem between PhD students in implementing studies as Arab students specifically depend on theories that are not applicable and this is a problem that needs to be solved.

At the end of the workshop, Ms. Rula Shahwan thanked the academics, researchers and the representatives of the centers and institutions for their valuable recommendations and suggestions and ensured these suggestions will be taken into consideration to develop projects and joint work between the Palestinian universities, the research centers and the partnership international institutions.