EILEEN BABBITT – PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT MANAGEMENT PRACTICE
If sustainable peace has been elusive to governments, it has been equally elusive to international mediators who work with the stakeholders in intractable conflicts. Since the end of the Cold War, political and economic uncertainties have exacerbated inter-group rivalries to make unimaginable violence all too common. The mediator’s job is to help parties work toward a peaceful solution to the violence but in doing so they often find themselves challenged by human rights advocates who believe that peace withoutjustice is not peace.
Balancing academic life with that of a skilled practitioner, Professor Eileen Babbitt is the Director of the International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Fletcher. As a professional facilitator and negotiations skills trainer, she works internationally with UN agencies, regional organizations and NGOs. “The work I do in practice inspires the kind of questions that I’m interested in researching and teaching. Right now, the important questions have to do with how to pursue both peace and justice,” says Professor Babbitt.
Though peace makers and human rights advocates often work toward similar goals, Professor Babbitt notes that the ways in which the goals are reached, methodologically, are often quite different. The challenge is to help those coming from different perspectives so that they don’t undermine one another when working toward resolving these complicated conflicts. Professor Babbitt says, “I advise members of the international community on the most effective strategies to deploy their resources in these conflict regions. So I’m either acting as a third party or advising people who are third parties.”
Professor Babbitt has worked worldwide, with her most recent projects taking her to the Balkans. “I am involved in a research project for UNDP in Belgrade, working with Fletcher Professor Louis Aucoin. The purpose is to study the progress that’s been made vis-à-vis transitional justice in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, and Serbia-Montenegro. We interviewed many people on the ground in these countries about the effectiveness of the programs, initiatives, and projects that have been on-going, plus reviewed hundreds of pages of reports and official documents.” Their findings will be a working document for UNDP as well a public document aimed to help members of the international community benefit from the learning taking place in the Balkans region on both peace and justice issues.
Professor Babbitt’s second project was as a trainer with the OSCE’s offices in Pristina, Kosovo. With talks underway on the final status of Kosovo, the OSCE contacted Fletcher about providing training for the Albanian political elites who would be on the negotiating team. With Professor Diana Chigas, Professor Babbitt suggested that the Serbian negotiating team should be offered the same training. “When you’re teaching people principled negotiation, it’s always good to have all sides knowing the principles,” says Professor Babbitt. The OSCE agreed and in November 2005, these training sessions took place with political actors from the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities.
About her recent work, Professor Babbitt says, “Both the OSCE project in Pristina and the UNDP project in Belgrade demonstrate an interesting thing: on the Kosovo issue, the Serbs and Albanians both invoke “rights” that they feel are incontrovertible and non-negotiable. So how do you as a third party or an advisor to a third party help people think creatively about rights issues in the context of a highly politicized negotiation? The broader conceptual question echoes the transitional justice questions: how do you dovetail rights and peace making?”
Professor Babbitt challenges her Fletcher students with these questions while incorporating them and drawing on her experiences for the book she is currently writing called Principled Peace: Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Intrastate Conflict, to be published by the University of Michigan Press.
By Deborah Jones, MALD '06