Day six at Talk Together

Participants Blogger #5 talks about cyber space travel difficulties, unidentified objects and the pitfalls of tolerance, compromise and strategy seeking.

“The afternoon session yesterday was supposed to be filled by a lecture from Sidi Muhamed Omar, the former Polisario representative to the UN and Great Britain. This was something that I was really looking forward to participating in, since hearing the different parties of the conflict is at the very core of the Talk Together programme. Mr. Omar was supposed to be speaking to us here in Oxford from Spain via Skype, but unfortunately it seemed that travelling through cyber space can be almost as difficult as travelling has proven to be in real life for some people.

“Due to technological difficulties it was very hard to hear what was being said, and despite several attempts to fix the sound there was little improvement. This is something I think was a great loss for all of us who are trying to gain as much insight into the issue of Western Sahara as possible, because we lost the opportunity to fully communicate with a man who has a lot of knowledge as well as opinions on the matter at hand, and who was representing an official party in this conflict that has proven to be so hard to solve.

“Despite this however, all participants did their best under the difficult circumstances to get as much as possible out of the meeting. One by one people would come up to the computer in the front of the room and ask their questions before then relaying Sidi M. Omar’s answer to the rest of the group.

“I really liked the answer that he gave us to the question of what we in Talk Together can do to help solving this conflict. He told us to keep on reflecting, and that human imagination knows no limits. In the end it is our creativity that makes the boundaries of what we are able to do, therefore our creativity should know no boundaries.

“Today’s first session began with Andy making some notifications. He told us that some of the participants from the refugee camps in Tindouf might be joining us by this evening. This makes me extremely happy, seeing as this project was really all about bringing people from different sides of a conflict together. To get the perspective of Saharawis from Layounne as well as those from the camps would be incredible valuable to all of us.

“It’s strange, but at the end of each session I’ve had with Robert and Mark I tend think that this one was the most difficult. I guess that means that we are gradually progressing day by day and that is of course a good thing. Today we began to think about conflict resolution in a plural sense; no longer only seeing it from an individual’s perspective.

“The session started with Robert listing a number of pitfalls that are common to experience on the way to conflict resolution. He mentioned compromising without a real connection, unclear agreements, tolerance rather than respect and seeking strategies rather than seeing the deeper needs that are unmet. And I have to admit; I could really identify with a number of them. If I am thirsty then I will without a thought see it as my need to get the water bottle that is standing on the table in front of me, and that can create quite a conflict if the bottle in question belongs to for example my sister…

“After going through these pitfalls standing in the way of a good communication, we were divided into three groups. One of the groups was trying to see the conflict of Western Sahara through the eyes of Morocco, one through the perspective of the Saharawis in the refugee camps and the final one through the perspective of those who live in Moroccan controlled Western Sahara. I ended up in the last group and found the exercise to be both very interesting and extremely challenging.

“Since we were working on the Moroccan controlled Western Sahara we had to take into account both the needs of the Saharawi population and the Moroccan one. In the beginning it seemed like these groups would have lot of conflicting need, but the more we discussed the more we seemed to find similarities.

“In the end needing security and safety is a universal need, as is the need for peace and respect. The biggest unmet need we seemed to encounter however, was the need for trust. It appeared to us that so many of the other unmet needs were being affected in a negative way by the fact that there is little trust between the different people. Finding ways to meet these needs however, is still something I’m uncertain of how to achieve.

“We ended today with a session was a very different one from the ones we have had so far. Florie Salnot and Lisa Johanson talked about communicating through design, stating that design process is a way to deal with problems. The participants made groups according to nationality (putting me in the Scandinavian one), and each group was given the same unknown object. The aim of the exercise that followed was to come up with ideas of what this object had been used for, and then trying to see how our ideas could work.

“There was certainly no lack of creativity here at least, as our group went through suggestions ranging from thinking that the wooden stick we had been given could be a bottle opener, an antic fishing rod, sticks to remove hot pots without burning your fingers or some sort of a hammer. In the end though I guess it came down to seeing the unknown possibilities, and I hope we did.”

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