Salzburg Around the World - Minsk

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Jan 28, 2016
by Charles Ehrlich and Patrick Wilson
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Salzburg Around the World - Minsk

Salzburg Global Seminar's Program Director travels to Minsk to discuss regional conflicts and promote constructive dialogue  Charles Ehrlich discussing conflict transformation in Minsk

Program Director Charles Ehrlich traveled to Minsk to serve as a lecturer at the “International University on Conflict Transformation,” organized from 30 November to 5 December 2015 by the Center for Cultural Relations – Caucasian House, an NGO based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The program brought together young professionals from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, including Russian-occupied territories (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), to look beyond regional conflicts and frame constructive dialogue for exchanging new ideas.  

Minsk was selected as a neutral venue accessible to all participants, and the site of current Russian-Ukrainian talks.  

Ehrlich, the only westerner invited, presented two different topics from outside the region based on his own professional experiences in Kosovo and in Catalonia, examining the causes of disputes, reconciliation, and lessons learned for peaceful transformation. He also had the opportunity to engage with other participants on their own views of the disputes in their countries, which complements the work Salzburg Global Seminar has done in conflict transformation since its founding in 1947 as a safe space for difficult dialogue, often among former enemies or across geo-political divides.

“Every case is unique,” Ehrlich stressed, “but we can nevertheless learn lessons from each of them.  It is not appropriate to use one case as a template – or justification – for another. I found the participants in this week-long program open-minded and engaged, and while they had distinct points of view there was also plenty of room for dialogue, and to start with issues on which agreement might be easier to build confidence and understanding before reaching final conclusions."  

Ehrlich raised the example of Spain, where the memory of the brutal Civil War in the 1930s convinced all parties to engage in compromise after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, producing the current democratic constitution.  That constitution, however, ended up becoming more a political document than a legal one, with key issues left unresolved, to allow them to be clarified after passions could cool – for example the powers of the regional governments, particularly over taxation, or the role of the Senate.Yet Spain did not ultimately resolve them when the chance arose in the 1990s, wasting the opportunity and leading to the current constitutional crises.  

Ehrlich also pointed out that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1991 was almost universally ignored, whereas by 2008 its new declaration of independence, coordinated with the international community, resulted in recognition by most countries, including its primary partners in Europe.  


To find out when Salzburg Global's staff might be in your city and to host a Fellowship gathering, please contact Salzburg Global Fellowship Manager, Jan Heinecke.