Mitchell Speaks at Georgetown Peace Building Conference
September 8, 2011 – Former Sen. George Mitchell (L’61) joined academics and practitioners of peace today during the opening panel discussion of the “Conflict to Peace: Innovative Approaches to Peace Building” conference. Mitchell, also the former U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace under the Obama administration, spoke at a session on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“There are tremendous obstacles to overcome,” Mitchell said. “In the short term … it’s difficult to be overly optimistic. But I believe that in the longer term, there is a basis for believing that [the Israelis and Palestinians] will be able to take steps [toward peace].”
The university’s Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution program and Georgetown’s Office of the President are sponsoring the conference, which began yesterday and runs through Sept. 9.
Other panels at the conference focus on “Post-Apartheid Nation Building in South Africa," "The Northern Ireland Peace Process and Where We Are Now” and “Practitioners and Organizations on the Front Lines of Change.”
There is also a photographic essay competition sponsored by Georgetown’s Program on Justice and Peace , an academic poster competition sponsored by the Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution and an academic essay competition sponsored by the university’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
The first session’s panelists noted that the Israeli-Palestinian situation is an especially difficult problem to resolve.
“It is one of the most intractable conflicts in the world,” said Carrie Menkel-Meadow, the A.B. Chettle, Jr., Professor of Dispute Resolution at the Law Center. “It’s one of the few conflicts in the world where the solutions – plural are more or less known, [but] what’s so hard is getting us there.”
Omar Dreidi (G’12), who attended the conference, grew up in Palestine and still has family living there.
“I agree with what [Mitchell] is saying,” Dreidi said, “that in the short term nothing is really looking good. Both sides are really stubborn, and they’re not really sitting down at a negotiation table and getting stuff done.”
But he also believes a solution should be talked about and that holding a conference like this one is critical.
“Georgetown has a great reputation of involvement in the Middle East,” he said. “So for the university to bring attention to this very serious conflict that has been going on for over 65 years and provide students and the community with such essential information from top educators is important.”