With one final sleepless night and plenty of last minute scrambling, I was ultimately able to get my life in Boston in order. That statement might be a bit generous as I only completed about half of the tasks on my pre-departure “To Do List”, but the fact is my bags have been checked through to Kathmandu and I just finished lunch on Bond Street in London, so I guess I at least did enough to get on the plane.
Having finished my first year at the Fletcher School and my summer in Nepal having yet to begin I find myself more or less in limbo. Moving to and from various schools and countries I have been in this kind of situation before, and I really enjoy it. When in transit there is no way for people to contact you and no expectations that you will contact them until you arrive at your destination, so in general you are left to your own thoughts and ideas with very few distractions. I hate sitting on cramped 12 hour flights as much as every other person I know, but I enjoy down time in airports and I love half day layovers where you have enough time to go into town and visit a museum or get a decent lunch. This time around I have about 12 hours to enjoy London, a city I know well from a semester of study abroad and interning here.
London being the starting point for my physical journey to Nepal might be taken to be very symbolic in that my initial time in London in 2003 started me on the path of research and scholarly interests that have led me to Nepal. While I studied in London I also interned for a Member of Parliament, Lady Sylvia Hermon from North Down in Northern Ireland. In Lady Hermon’s office I started research into the conflict in Northern Ireland and the fragile peace that had emerged after the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement.) Specifics of the research aside, let it suffice to say that any research into Northern Ireland, or any conflict for that matter, uncovers that there is no single cause for the hostilities. In fact upon close inspection one discovers a series of divisions, differences and inequalities between groups in society that caused disagreements, increased tensions and ultimately resulted in violence.
In Northern Ireland you can start with the basic religious difference between the Catholics and Protestants, piled on top of that basic division there is economic inequality, political conflict and cultural/historical animosities. Perhaps all societies have all these kind of differences among various elements of their population groups, but in societies that have suffered from civil war often all of the differences tend to line up together so that the same people who are arguing over religion are also attacking each other because of political and economic inequalities. The cumulative effect of all of these points of contention clearly collects and positions two distinct sides which tensions build fast and often erupt into violence.
This alignment of divisions and problems is also present in Nepal. Minority rights issues have compacted with problems over inequality of political power and economic wealth to create clear fault lines in the society and country as a whole. These fault lines have been exploited by the Maoists to increase their traction and support base, and directly caused a lot of the hostility and violence that has plagued Nepal. These divisions are also the major reason why the peace made last year remains a very tentative and uncertain peace. For a lasting and long term solution all of the various problems of society and the political system must be addressed.
In studying Northern Ireland I looked into how police reform was playing into the elimination of these fault lines, now in Nepal I will be approaching a solution to these divisions from the perspective of democratization and reform in the realm of political representation. Both of these topics are strung together by the common goal of creating political environments from which post-conflict societies can move past the problems of the past and start developing a better future.
I hope to further my understanding of this process within the specific context of Nepal, which I certainly will learn much about, as well as in a greater theoretical sense that can be more universally applied. With London having been such an effective jumping off point for my initial interest and study in the topic I take my long layover here as a good omen for this next step in my personal development as a student of the process of post-conflict reconciliation and growth as well as someone who hopes someday to make a difference to someone somewhere through the use of this field.
Posted Jul 19th, 2007