Past Program

Apr 06 - Apr 10, 2014

Conflict Transformation through Culture: Peace-Building and the Arts


With 2014 marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, Salzburg Global Seminar chose this commemorative year to focus its “Transformative Power of the Arts Series” on peace-building, peacemaking, and conflict prevention through the arts.  To this end, Salzburg Global brought together sixty artists, activists, policymakers, educators, and cultural actors from twenty-seven countries around the world for the session entitled “Conflict Transformation through Culture: Peacebuilding and the Arts” which was convened from April 6-10 at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg.

Cultural practitioners participating in the session represented diverse arts organizations including museums, theaters, music organizations, cultural heritage institutions, as well as filmmakers, festival organizers, and performance groups engaged in a broad range of creative practices related to peace-building, conflict prevention, conflict transformation, violence prevention, trauma therapy, conflict diffusion, and social cohesion.  A main goal of the session was to encourage more dialogue between members of the cultural sector and representatives of other sectors working in the areas of peace-building and conflict prevention to foster a greater understanding of the unique and often underestimated role that the arts can play in peace-building strategies.  By bringing together a diverse, dynamic group of key players who otherwise would never have met to exchange ideas, Salzburg Global facilitated fresh thinking in the field of conflict transformation, inspired several innovative collaborative projects and helped to build new and re-energize existing communities of practice.

Through a series of plenary sessions featuring expert presentations and small group discussions, the Fellows first explored the role that the arts have played in post-conflict settings, in reconciliation and forgiveness, and in post-conflict society rebuilding.  The plenary focus then shifted to conflict prevention and “soft power” strategies for building peace, looking at ways in which the arts can help create trust, encourage empathy, raise awareness and inspire tolerance around difference.  The final plenary session then focused on ways to better connect the arts and culture to larger peace-building agendas and policymaking. The Fellows agreed it was crucial to maximize communication and collaboration with policymakers so that culture can assume a more prominent role in post-conflict nation-building contexts, alongside security, governance, and development.   Since cultural differences are so often at the heart of conflict, cultural practice needs to be at the heart of conflict resolution as well. 
The Fellows also participated in five project groups focusing on:

      1. Cultural Heritage and Memory,
      2. Transitional Contexts: Diffusing Conflict and Building Social Cohesion,
      3. The Power of Visual Media,
      4. New Modalities: Bridging Theory, Practice, and Policy, and
      5. Focus on the Next Generations: Children, Youth, and Gen Y.

The groups worked on outlining pilot projects in critical conflict-ridden regions and potential conflict areas around the world.  Several proposals emerged, including a cultural heritage project in Turkey and Armenia, a project to develop an online platform/resource for filmmakers in conflict areas, and a project for reinventing public spaces in divided communities. The Fellows have already embarked on a number of collaborative projects, inspired by their interactions in Salzburg. As an institution founded to promote peace and dialogue between former enemies in the wake of the Second World War, Salzburg Global looks forward to continuing the work in the area of peacebuilding and the art that was inspired by this session in April 2014.


Jean-Christophe Bas
former Senior Advisor, Strategic Development and Partnerships, United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, New York, New York, United States
Jacqueline Bertrand Lessac
Founder & Executive Producer, Global Arts Corps, New York, New York, United States
Margo Harkin
Filmmaker, Derry, United Kingdom
Peter Jenkinson
Cultural Broker, London, UK
Tina Ellen Lee
Artistic Director and Lead Producer, Opera Circus
Michael Lessac
Founder, President & Artistic Director, Global Arts Corps, New York, New York, United States
Colin Munro
Consultant, OSCE and International Organization for Migration, Vienna, Austria
Nigel Osborne
Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Edinburgh; Co- Chair of the World Economic Forum on Culture, United Kingdom
Phloeun Prim
Executive Director, Cambodia Living Arts, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Michael Shank
Director of Legislative Affairs, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington DC; Adjunct Faculty and Board Member, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Virginia, United States
Paul Smith
Director USA, British Council, Washington, DC, United States
James Thompson
Professor of Applied and Social Theatre, Associate Dean External Relations- Faculty of Humanities, Martin Harris Centre, The University of Manchester, Manchester
Michael van Graan
Artist-in-residence, University of Pretoria; President, African Cultural Policy Network, Cape Town, South Africa
Shelagh Wright
Director, ThreeJohnsandShelagh and Mission Models Money; Associate, Demos; London, UK


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