Episode 007 - Gay Rosenblum Kumar

An Insider’s View of the Evolution of UN Peacebuilding Initiatives

Episode Summary
Gay Rosenblum-Kumar: An Insider’s View of the Evolution of UN Peacebuilding Initiatives

Susan interviews Gay Rosenblum –Kumar, a seasoned United Nations veteran, about her early career as a U.N. peace observer in South Africa and her later initiatives to co-develop the U.N.’s system of Peace Development Advisors (PDA’s). She provides examples of PDA initiatives in Ghana and Guyana, offers keen insight into the evolution of the peacebuilding field inside the U.N., and talks briefly about her most recent work with GAAMAC on genocide prevention.To play the episode, click the image to the right or download below.
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Gay Rosenblum-Kumar’s Bio

Gay is a conflict transformation specialist with 30 years experience in the UN and with NGOs. She has formulated numerous country-based conflict transformation programmes and co-founded the UN’s first cadre of peace and development/conflict transformation advisers. Gay has been involved in: conflict analysis and response development, capacity-building for mediation and dialogue, electoral violence prevention, and conflict-sensitive policy and practice. Currently, she is a consultant/senior advisor to the Swiss Task Force on Dealing with the Past and Prevention of Atrocities; a senior advisor to Nonviolent Peaceforce; an adjunct professor at NYU teaching peacebuilding and development and continues to consult with the UN and other entities. She is on the board of the New York Peace Institute and the Free Yezidi Foundation. Gay has a MA from the School for International Training.

Show Notes (See below for links to resources and topics mentioned in this podcast)

  • Gay Rosenblum-Kumar is a conflict transformation specialist with 30 years of experience in the United Nations and other NGOs and governments.
  • Formulated country-based conflict transformation programs
  • Co-founded UN’s first cadre of peace and development conflict transformation advisors
  • Conflict analysis and response development
  • Capacity building for mediation and dialogue
  • Electoral violence prevention
  • Conflict sensitivity policy and practice
  • Consultant to Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs task force on dealing with the past and prevention of atrocities
  • Adjunct prof NYU teaching peacebuilding and development
  • Board of NY Peace Institute
  • Board of Free Yezidi foundation
  • MA from the School for International Training
  • Rumi Quote “Try not to resist the changes that come your way, instead let life live through you.  And do not worry that your life is turning upside down.  How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come.”
  • Martin Luther King quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
  • Gay advises: do not hide your true feelings and beliefs and do not worry how other people will think less of you.
  • What planted the seeds of peacebuilding
  • A trip to the UN in 4th grade opened up a world
  • Graduated college with a degree in social science in 1977
  • Using the telephone book she plotted a walking tour to ask for jobs
  • It can’t hurt to ask, it can’t hurt to try, the worst thing that happens is people say no; you might be a little embarrassed
  • Walked to the recruitment office for general services for the UN
  • Either you need a PhD or you need to be able to type 80 words per minute
  • Walked into a lobby attracted to African Art and got a job at the Africa America Institute
  • Next a Master’s Degree at the School for International Training.
  • learned process skills
  • Facilitation
  • Cross-cultural dialogue
  • Adult learning techniques
  • Next, Gay joined the UN doing anti-apartheid work
  • IN 1992, joined a UN mission of peace-observers in South Africa
  • Contact with the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)
  • The development of the UN Peace and Development Advisors
  • Department of Political Affairs at the UN rejected her ideas
  • Her mentors advised her to continue forward and ask for forgiveness rather than permission
  • So she brought her ideas to the UN Development Program and they were receptive
  • In 2001, Gay got grants to do trainings inclusive conflict analysis, conflict resolution, governance and conflict, and conflict and social development
  • Began to develop this capability one country at a time
  • From the ground up
  • Staff specialists were deployed in countries with tensions and not full-blown conflicts
  • Peace and Development Advisors
  • Work was done in Ghana and Guyana
  • Training
  • Creating peace teams
  • Private Sector initiative
  • Peace can be profitable
  • A national dialogue process
  • Using a standard template in every community
  • a dialogue process,
  • a visualization process
  • Of course, the needs are similar: education, food, shelter, voice
  • Trained Guyanese students at the university
  • Creation of an Ethnic Relations Commission in Guyana
  • Is conflict prevention too interventionist?  Does it impede sovereignty?
  • No, peacebuilding, helps countries to strengthen governance and avoid violence that might threaten sovereignty
  • Conflict Transformation is the key to sustainable peace
  • Conflict is normal and is fluid
  • What is needed is a process that allows for deeper understanding of self and protagonist and use this as an opportunity for growth
  • This is the opposite of what the UN has been doing, which historically is reactive
  • High-level intervention is disempowering for the people involved in the conflict
  • A quote from the Secretary General’s report emphasizes that the responsibility for preventing conflict should rest with the member-states and their civil societies, the role of the UN should be to impart the skills that can assist
  • UN Staff college website has courses on conflict analysis
  • Build on precedent and nurture fledging coalitions
  • If they are not inside your tent, they are outside of the tent trying to knock it down
  • With success, some gravitate towards it gladly and others feel that you are stepping on their turf
  • Don’t be afraid to try, to knock and to ask
  • Believe in people, see the best in them and you will get the best
  • GAAMAC (Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes)
  • Helping states to develop capacity to ensure that atrocities like genocide will never happen
  • Building Infrastructures of Peace
  • National Human Rights Commissions
  • National Mediation Centers
  • Local Peace Committees
  • Where people feel heard and can raise their voices to have complaints and issues resolved
  • You have to be peaceful to be a peacemaker; you must look deeply into yourself to become mindful and peaceful in order to enter the field
Links and Resources mentioned in this Podcast

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