Category Archives: Conflict Resolution

Sports Diplomacy: Effective or Not in Promoting Foreign Policy?

My Bowdoin 20th class reunion will be held in May/June 2019 and as such I’ve been reconnecting with staff, students and alumni at my alma mater. Any former government and legal studies majors and the general public may learn from a Distinguished Lecturer in Government Bradely Babson’s course “The Two Koreas and Geopolitics of Northeast Asia,” class podcast held back in May 2018, by current Bowdoin students Tim Ahn ’19 and Sam Jablonski ’18 on the role of sports diplomacy in the Koreas.

In a larger context, the International Sport for Development and Peace Association has a diverse membership of students, educators, researchers, practitioners and advocates of which sports diplomacy is a component. Increasingly, many scholars are publishing their research findings in books, journal articles and media who are affiliated with ISDPA. While the podcast by Bowdoin undergraduates is just one sample of the debates surrounding sports diplomacy, the Journal of Sport for Development Special Issue on Latin America featured an article titled: “U.S. sport diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean: A programme evaluation.

The recommendations set forth by researchers from George Mason University Center for Sport Management are based on the assumption that the “intent of sports diplomacy programs is to create meaningful change in local communities.” Though the costs of sports diplomacy can be expensive and time consuming, I tend to agree with the GMU researchers’ recommendations, since in my own small way I have lived as a volunteer, coach and administrator to play a role in fulfilling the intent of sports diplomacy.

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Creating Future Nelson Mandelas through International Youth Leadership

As the world remembers Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, we are reminded of his important impact in the world of sport and leadership. A year after Mandela gave his speech on the power of sport at the first Laureus Awards event in Monaco, 2000, I was fortunate to volunteer as a Facilitator with Civic Concepts International in Prague, Czech Republic. By participating, speaking and facilitating at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference, this was not only my first overseas trip as an American citizen, but it was the first time I was an international volunteer in what was to me a new region of the world.

Tariq Mohammed and participants at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo credit: W. Webster, 2001.

Our role as facilitators were to create a positive and inclusive environment for cross-cultural learning and dialogue on political and economic crisis simulations. The facilitators also acted as chaperones for the participants on social and cultural excursions. For example, my group (see photo above) visited the Japanese Embassy, toured Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and ate an authentic Czech meal. The combination of activities fostered a genuine exchange of ideas and modes of cooperation. It was not always easy to find solutions during the crisis simulations given different points of view, however by practicing mutual dialogue, negotiation and advocacy skills participants were better equipped to tackle real political, economic and social issues when they returned to their countries of origin.

Embassy Visit of 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference Participants, Prague Czech Republic Photo credit. W. Webster, 2001.

If you are a parent, educator or coach of a recent college graduate, I recommend that you nominate a young individual to participate in forums such as the International Youth Leadership Conference which currently hosts events in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and of course Eastern Europe. In addition to the skill-building activities, there are opportunities to network with leaders from all walks of life and explore a new part of the world to gain a different perspective on your own beliefs and values. If we are to truly create the world that Nelson Mandela envisioned for the future, then today’s youth might want to consider participating in an International Youth Leadership Conference close to you.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development

What Role Can ICTs Play to Improve Sport Governance?

In 2001, the International Year of Volunteers, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, stated that “volunteerism is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about.” Fifteen years ago, in 2003, I set forth from Boston, Massachusetts on my United Nations Volunteer assignment in Kampala, Uganda under the auspices of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) – an initiative envisioned by the Secretary General – to support efforts to bridge the global digital divide. Since returning from my UNV assignment, I continued to be engaged with various volunteer projects in the United States and across the world, with an emphasis on sport for development and peace.

Upon re-reading my 2002 personal statement to the Cisco Least Developed Countries (LDC) Initiative of which UNITeS was a key partner, I am glad to have been asked by the hiring managers to undertake such a writing exercise. Any hiring manager who wants to narrow down their selection of strong candidates, would do well to request a personal statement. Not only does this tool allow for benchmarking but it can also help individuals (and organizations) set future goals. I am making my personal statement public for the purpose of knowledge management to improve education and learning while addressing the challenges of sustainable development, of which ICTs play an important role.

My Pin Collection from United Nations Volunteers (UNV), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2018.

In 2018, major news headlines posed big questions about democratic freedoms and the role of the Internet and social media. Through the Kofi Annan Foundation, Kofi Annan founded the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security and recently published an op-ed which addressed the challenges to the integrity of the electoral process for high-income and low-income countries. The findings of the Commission will be released in the coming months. While I have no direct contact with inner workings of the Foundation, the outcomes from the Global Commission can have a significant influence on the political, economic and social systems of international sport governance.

Sport for development and peace is very much at the heart of democratic institutions, such as the International Olympic Committee which strives to promote universal values enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The role of the Internet and social media are often described as tools to provide access to information on programs and projects that uphold Olympic values. I do believe that greater access to information and transparency preserve the integrity of the sport for development and peace sector. However, I also believe in the need for a system of checks and balances in the areas of corruption, terrorism and crime, which the International Center for Sport Security (ICSS) aims to fulfill. ICSS and its partners are identifying weaknesses in systems of sport governance and leveraging ICTs to protect and serve the cause of peace, development and human rights. The Internet and social media will continue to evolve and so citizens will learn to adapt to new ways of living, working and playing.

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American Global Leadership: The State of the US State Department

The Boston Public Library and WorldBoston, both forward thinking organizations hosted and organized an important event to raise awareness of the role of diplomacy in enhancing American global leadership. Since the end of the second World War, the United States has led the world in military, economic and cultural power, yet the change in today’s global trends – the rise of China, geo-political challenges in Europe and shifting economic tides, gave the speakers an impetus to call on the American public to improve the state of the U.S. State Department.

Building on Ambassador Barbara Stephenson’s compelling column and Ambassador Nicholas Burns’ alarming op-ed piece in the New York Times, their remarks at the Boston Public Library made a strong case in opposition of the 30 percent budget reduction to the U.S. Department of State by the Trump Administration. Ambassador Stephenson outlined the role of American diplomats, their strengths and what happens when diplomacy is done well – in terms of “invisibility and light touches,” while cultivating relationships to better negotiate international agreements and treaties. For example, the Northern Ireland Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement where community-based policing transformed relations between Catholics and Protestants.

Ambassador Stephenson and Ambassador (Retd.) Burns on the “The State of the State Department,” moderated by Mary Yntema, CEO of World Boston at Boston Public Library, February, 2018. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

Ambassador Stephenson closed her remarks by asking what happens when American diplomats are not stationed overseas? Her unequivocal response, was that without the presence of American diplomats, there is a void in the relationship between the United States and the host countries, there is a lack of intelligence or “eyes and ears” on the ground and it is difficult to deal with threats to U.S. interests. In short, Ambassador Stephenson emphasized that the budget cuts were not plausible and not sustainable for American global leadership in the world.

Ambassador Burns, a Massachusetts native began with how Boston, has always been an outward looking city with its seaport and trade relations with many countries. He went on to describe the extent to which the State Department budget cuts and the increase in federal spending on the Department of Defense was not prudent, nor wise. Ambassador Burns shared how the diplomatic corps and military personnel often share serving on the frontlines, therefore requiring better integration of State and Defense Departments. He provided examples such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Korea – where there are currently no US Ambassadors serving to protect and advance U.S. interests – all of which face important, complex political, economic and security issues. Ambassador Burns closed his remarks with an apt quote by Winston Churchill during his 1943 speech at Harvard University, just as the British Empire was on the decline and America’s influence was improving, by stating “the price of greatness is responsibility.” For students, educators and practitioners I highly recommend learning more about the Boston Network for International Development, which is why I attended this educational event.

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Revisiting and Sustaining Peace

Summers are a good time to catch up on reading, reviewing or preparing for what the new academic year may bring. It is a good time to clear out any unwanted materials, articles or books. Sometimes, I find things that I want to keep or share with others. This Dutch documentary titled, “Peace Beyond Borders,” was released in 2011 and would be an insightful source for a college professor teaching a class on East Africa or international mediation.

Thanks to the International Sports Alliance (formerly the Netherlands Sports Alliance), a sport for development and peace, advocacy group whose representatives I met at a conference in Trinidad and Tobago, I received a copy of the DVD. This documentary illustrates how sport can play a role in creating peaceful dialogues and act as a means for conflict resolution by way of getting two sides to the “negotiating table.” The pursuit of peace is a continuous process of refining assumptions and moving towards a compromise which both sides can tolerate.

Among the books, I have kept and continue to refer to is the 1991 work of Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.” I shall not write a book review, but rather recommend it for anyone going through a process of discovery or rehabilitation. There will be those who question definitions or states of peace, but an unknown source stated peace as “it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” Definitely not easy to do and sustain.

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What does Peace Look Like?

The 2016 Positive Peace Report by the Institute of Economics and Peace, helps non-experts understand what peace looks like from a macro perspective. I found the diagram below from the report to be a very noteworthy depiction of what the positive elements of peace look like for a nation. I shall not repeat the content of the report, but would like to elaborate on a couple of contemporary issues.

peace

Source: 2016 Positive Peace Report by Institute of Economics and Peace.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria according to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations is “appauling,” with the thousands of deaths, especially young children. The Secretary General and the international community are taking steps for a peaceful solution to the conflict using diplomatic tools and maneuvers for a constructive dialogue that intends to put an end to the violence. However, many innocent Syrians and peacekeepers are being caught in the middle of the violence.

Approximately 5 years ago, I had the honor and privilege of attending a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has authored many self-help books on health and wellness. Perhaps the Syrian government and its people would benefit from listening, reading and learning from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. When a cease-fire is reached by the Syrians themselves, they may wish to look at themselves in the mirror and make peace with themselves. In my humble opinion, by rejecting violence, it is easier to accept peace.

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, Leadership, Literature Review, Peace Building, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Squashing Barriers: Sources of Inspiration

The Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, MA has a wonderful 2016 summer sport film series which is free and open to the public. As part of my exploration in sport and development, I chose to watch the movie 42, for the first time which is a biographical portrayal about Jackie Robinson. Race and racism, unfortunately still exists in America today as we have seen by the repeated incidents of gun violence.

When I was a teenager in Saudi Arabia and India in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one did not know much of the struggles of Jackie Robinson and his role in the civil rights movement in the United States. Perhaps this was ignorance or because one was consumed by the political events in the Persian Gulf. Today, being a naturalized American of color, I am even more moved by the words “we shall overcome” and Jackie’s story of resilience and courage.

42_film_poster

I have blogged about Khelshala, a sport-based youth development program in Chandigarh, India – founded by Coach Satinder Bajwa – the first person of color to be the Head Coach of Harvard Men’s and Women’s Squash – but I have not given much thought to how Khelshala and its mission fits with the wider world of sport.

It helps to understand the legacies of Jackie Robinson and more recently the passing of Mohammad Ali also known as the “The Greatest” and put squash -a minor sport – into context. James Zug, an American author of Squash: A History of the Game, which mostly discusses the sport in the United States of America is seen as the go-to-guy on writing books about squash. Zug acknowledges squash players of color (such as Anil Nayar of Harvard, Wendell Chestnut of Williams College and of course Hashim Khan, the legendary squash professional of the Khan squash dynasty) who like Jackie Robinson “squash barriers.”

“Squashing barriers” is the essence of Khelshala (an international affiliate of the National Urban Squash and Education Association) in India where social stratification is common. Just as Mahatma Gandhi served as a source of inspiration to Martin Luther King, perhaps Jackie Robinson’s story will serve as a source of inspiration to the children of Khelshala and many others around the world.

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