Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weaponof destruction devised by the ingenuity of man. -Mohandas Gandhi
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Spring 2012 Newsletter

Visiting Fulbright Fellow from Guatamala

Working Paper: Conflict Early Warning Systems

Alumni Spotlight: Presidential Management Fellow

CRI Staff Update: Autumn in Amman

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Visiting Scholar Andrés Álvarez Castañeda Brings Wisdom from Guatemala

CRI hosts Fulbright Fellow during Fall 2011

Over the course of Fall Quarter, the Conflict Resolution Institute was fortunate to host Visiting Fulbright Fellow Andrés Álvarez Castañeda, Head of the Anthropology and Sociology Department at the Universidad de Valle de Guatemala (UVG). Although here for only Fall Quarter, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda served as a resource to students and faculty alike on a burgeoning topic in the field of Conflict Resolution: Conflict Early Warning Systems (CEWS).

Fulbright Fellow
Visiting Fulbright Fellow Andrés Álvarez Castañeda, Head of the Anthropology and Sociology Department at the Universidad de Valle de Guatemala

Interestingly, early warning systems (EWS) have been used since the 1980s to construct prioritized lists for interventions in food insecure countries, but have only recently begun to be applied to situations of conflict. Combining innovative technology and frequent data entry, these systems provide real-time visuals on potential sites of conflict within a country. In Guatemala’s case, the pilot CEWS consisted of an on-line database that was fed information on a weekly basis by local delegates in regions and provinces throughout the country.  Software developed by mathematicians and statisticians aggregated and analyzed this information, producing maps, charts, and figures that provide a visual “pulse” of conflict trends.

Both practitioner and scholar, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda actively participated in the creation of Guatemala’s first CEWS, and therefore offered a valuable and unique perspective on the theoretical and operational underpinnings of these systems. For the DU community, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda presented a well-attended public lecture on his personal experience in implementing and executing Guatemala’s CEWS. The talk proved intriguing, as Mr. Álvarez Castañeda discussed the difficulty of gaining buy-in and trust for the project, not only within Guatemalan communities but also within the national government. His personal experience evidenced the practical complexities of implementing potentially game-changing tools in conflict resolution.

As Mr. Álvarez Castañeda states, “At the heart of everything during my time at CRI was my research on conflict early warning systems. I undertook bibliographic research, but also used this as reflective time. This was a chance for me to get ideas and perspectives from colleagues on future directions for my research and projects.” While his focus at DU was primarily research, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda also worked on a funding proposal for a new early warning system in the Sololá region of Guatemala, as well as an article for publication detailing the Guatemalan EWS as a case study. As he emphasizes, “All of my work is connected to the same goal as a practitioner. The object of the article I am working on is to raise consciousness, so that once the proposal has been completed, the chances of obtaining funding for a new conflict early warning system are improved. This is all ultimately connected to my goal of having a new pilot program in place in two years’ time, but it remains a work in progress.” Mr. Álvarez Castañeda’s working paper on “Conflict Early Warning Systems: The Experience of CEWS in Guatemala” is available through CRI’s working paper series. Read the abstract to Álvarez Castañeda paper here

Aside from these pursuits, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda also presented a public lecture for DU’s Anthropology Department on “Community Museums as Museums for Peace: A Case Study of Rabinal, Guatemala.” Additionally, he was accepted for participation in a competitive Fulbright Enrichment Seminar on “Democracy and Human Rights” at Emory University. As the capstone to his time as Fulbright Fellow, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda was invited to the University of Wyoming for a weeklong visit, where he gave lectures on important issues in Guatemala including security sector reform and indigenous and cultural rights.

Remarkably, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda did not begin his career as a conflict resolution specialist, and in fact is a trained anthropologist. In his words, “Anthropology was my starting point. As an applied social scientist, I began working within interdisciplinary teams on different aspects of Guatemala’s security sector reform. It was there that I first had contact with Fundación Propaz, one of Guatemala’s most important non-governmental organizations in the field of conflict resolution. After undergoing training with them and eventually becoming a certified mediator, I understood that Peace and Conflict Studies was my passion.” Mr. Álvarez Castañeda later went on to earn his MA in Conflict Resolution (University of Bradford) and an MSc in Sociology (FLACSO). Currently, he is completing his Ph.D. in Sociology and Political Science at the Pontifical University of Salamanca. As Mr. Álvarez Castañeda acknowledges, “I went from being an anthropologist, to a social analyst, to conflict and crisis prevention, and now to peace studies. It has been a sort of process, each step gradually leading to new and exciting aspects of human nature.”

A number of factors motivated Mr. Álvarez Castañeda’s decision to take a four-month leave of absence from his position at UVG to participate as a Fulbright Scholar. He elaborates, “Overall, networking was my primary driver and interest. I hoped to be working with contacts for collaboration in the future, and I feel as if I accomplished this and more. The Conflict Resolution Institute is an excellent program within a great university. With DU’s diverse and impressive faculty, I had an opportunity to deepen my understanding on many topics and to explore new ideas. I especially appreciate learning more about the great value of social psychology in conflict resolution, mainly thanks to Professor Tamra Pearson d’Estrée and visiting speaker Peter Coleman.”

On his final thoughts regarding his experience at CRI as a Fulbright Fellow, Mr. Álvarez Castañeda says, “I am very grateful for my time here, and have only positive impressions of my experience. It is definitely important for me to emphasize the value of the Fulbright program as an expression of soft power and academic diplomacy. If the US wants to build bridges of understanding with other countries, Fulbright is definitely the way to go. Ultimately, it’s a seed of peace that will undoubtedly germinate in the future.”

Andrés Álvarez Castañeda can be reached at aalvarez@uvg.edu.gt.

 

-- Ambar Velázquez

 

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