THE INTER-COMMUNAL TRUST BUILDING PROJECT

PURPOSE

Through both private and public dialogue, this project aimed to improve relationships between communities with relationships long-stalled following violence. This Track Two approach included utilization of interactive problem solving where other formal diplomatic channels may not have been an option or as a supplement to formal diplomatic efforts. The project's focus was the Armenian-Turkish relationship.

BACKGROUND

Since 1915, Armenian and Turkish societies have constructed at least two, often mutually exclusive, historical narratives regarding the events surrounding the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Yet most scholars concur with Raphael Lemkin's characterization of these events as genocide.

Nevertheless, fundamental disagreement over what precipitated these events and how best to characterize this episode have paralyzed relations between both communities. The lack of mutual understanding has had profound economic, political, and social consequences for both the Turkish and Armenian states, their peoples, and perhaps for the entire south Caucasus.

Despite these realities, there are important individuals and groups in both communities who desire reconciliation and see possibilities for creating it.

The Inter-Communal Violence and Reconciliation (ICVR) Project sought to engage both communities proactively to ensure forward progress in reconciliation through dialogue processes that respected both communities.

 

PAST PROJECTS

The ICVR held two problem-solving workshops to help promote the process of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.

Problem Solving Workshops were used to provide an informal forum where unofficial representatives of the parties to a conflict could engage in problem-solving. Since meetings were private, participants could communicate without the implication that they were recognizing or legitimizing one another's claims or that they could be held publicly accountable for what they said during discussions.

The workshop offered participants the opportunity to accomplish specific goals:

  • Joint analysis of the causes of the conflict
  • Mutual identification of the needs and fears underlying the causes
  • Consideration of how broadly to address both societies' sets of needs and fears
  • Joint identification of the constraints against doing this; and, finally
  • Development of specific steps for taking the learning from the workshop back into the respective communities

On November 16, 2009 the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the University Committee on Human Rights Studies and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy jointly sponsored an event entitled "Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation: Routes Through Empowerment." The event was held at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for Government and International Studies and drew a standing-room-only crowd in the 150 seat Tsai Auditorium. Featured speakers were:

  • Hasan Cemal, a journalist, writer, and the grandson of Cemal (Djemal) Pasha, one of the three "Young Turk" heads of the last Ottoman government during the period 1915-1919;
  • Yektan Turkyilmaz, a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at Duke University. Mr. Turkyilmaz has done archival research in Armenia (View a copy of his written speech here)
  • Asbed Kotchikian lectures in Political Science and International Relations at Bentley University. His academic foci are the history and current day relations in the South Caucasus where has regularly spends time, as well as organizing efforts for peace building and understanding among nations of that region. (View a copy of his written speech here)

Click here to view the video recording of the event. The handout from the event which includes the three short articles by Hasan Cemal along with the introduction by Pamela Steiner, may be downloaded by clicking here.  The document appears exactly as it was for those attending the November 16 event.

On November 17, 2009 a small, off-the-record meeting with Hasan Cemal was held.

 

DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCES

Please click on the following links for downloadable pdfs.

 

CO-DIRECTORS OF ICVR

 
Pamela Steiner, EdD
Faculty Associate, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
 
Eileen F. Babbitt, PhD
Professor of International Conflict Management Practice, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Faculty Affiliate, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative