The International Conference on Conflict Resolution and Education has been held in Ohio for the past fourteen years. Usually, a university or college campus hosts the multi-day event and opens its doors to speakers and participants from all over the world. This year the conference’s theme was Transforming Conflict and Crisis to Justice and Hope: An Initiative for Peacebuilders and it was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event had two sections. The first was a student-led pre-conference that lasted from October 30th through November 1st and the second was the main conference that went on from November 6th through November 7th. Many speakers from national and international organizations participated. Each discussed their work in the field of peacebuilding and some held workshops for emerging professionals. Several student members of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence served on the conference planning committee. While the event was being put together, ACN Peace Scholars were also developing a new peacebuilding initiative titled Peace Talks. Peace Talks were partly inspired by the International Conference on Conflict Resolution and Education. They are group sessions composed of Ashland University students and faculty who meet bi-weekly to discuss issues near and dear to the campus community.
The student-led pre-conference portion of the International Conference on Conflict Resolution and Education occurred the final weekend of October and lasted Friday through Sunday. The first session was titled Justice in Images: From the Amazon Rainforest to the United States of America. In this event, award-winning journalist Tyrone Butler shared photographs of indigenous Brazilian communities within the Amazon rainforest. His narration and use of visual story-telling gave attendees insight into the critical environmental issues that threatened the natives’ existence. The second talk titled Cultivating Peace: Thriving Attitudes and A Resilient Mindset was held on Saturday. It consisted of a panel of experts discussing sources of both unity and disunity in the United States as well as the role young peacebuilders could serve in fostering productive change. The final session on Sunday was titled Young Professionals and Students Resume: Review and Career Information. This workshop allowed attendees to submit their resumes and receive feedback from senior colleagues with experience in the field of conflict resolution.
The main conference of the International Conference on Conflict Resolution and Education was held on November 6th and 7th. The first event was an opening panel with speakers from the YWCA of Greater Cleveland, the Minnesota Department of Education, the Organization of American States, and UNESCO. Members touched upon issues that impacted the United States as well as other countries like racial violence and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Afterward, multiple workshop sessions were held. These focused on researching and teaching civil resistance, listening training in conflict management, and the history of peacebuilding institutions. The following day included workshops on peace pedagogy when studying abroad and facilitating community conversations with the purpose of social justice reform. To finish things off, there were a couple of seminars on Sunday. The first was about the effects of gun violence on communities and the second was on the Take Heart Initiative, a program where formerly incarcerated men mentor inner-city at-risk youth.
Peace Scholars from the Ashland Center for Nonviolence who helped plan the International Conference for Conflict Resolution and Education have also created a new peacebuilding initiative titled Peace Talks. Peace Talks is about holding important conversations in a comfortable setting and a casual manner. These gatherings aim to share ideas and expand participant's understanding of topics by learning about other's experiences. Furthermore, to imitate the forum-like structure of the International Conference for Conflict Resolution and Education, Peace Talks are open to anyone from Ashland University. As of right now, the ACN has held two sessions on the themes of violence and community.
The 2020 International Conference on Conflict Resolution and Education was a success. Dozens of people participated and obtained valuable skills from professionals in the field of conflict resolution. Hopefully, all attendees will go on to use their newfound expertise for the betterment of their communities as the Peace Scholars have done at Ashland University.
Carolina is a student at Ashland University. She plans to double major in Political Science and Political Economics. She is a Peace Scholar for the Ashland Center For Nonviolence as well as a member of the Ashbrook Scholar, Diversity Scholar, and Honors Programs.