GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Mitigating regional crises and supporting regional stability were the topics of a recent conference here.
The conference titled, "Crisis Management in the South Caucasus and the Western Balkans: A 'Smart Power' Approach," which ran Sept. 5-7, brought 42 representatives from 19 countries, including the U.S. and Russia, together at the Marshall Center.
The participants analyzed the Western Balkans and the Southern Caucasus crises in panel discussions and working groups, with a focus on Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Western Balkans, and Georgia for the Southern Caucasus.
Course director Colonel Heinz-Joachim Henseler said participants then formed working groups and focused on three key topics: self-determination versus territorial integrity, external intervention versus local ownership, and reconciliation versus divided society.
"By the engagement and feedback of the participants during the conference it was obvious that the topics and approach of this project met their needs," Henseler said.
Dr. Sabine Collmer, academic director for the regional security project, said that in terms of reconciliation the participants emphasized the fact that while there is a general inclination among their populations towards reconciliation, these remain largely grassroots approaches; these concepts were seldom successfully implemented in political programs with high visibility actors.
Keynote speakers Austrian Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, former high representative of the International Community for Bosnia and Herzegovina; German Ambassador Dr. Heinrich Kreft, director for public diplomacy and dialogue among civilizations in the German foreign ministry; and retired U.S. Ambassador Matt Bryza, former ambassador to Azerbaijan, opened the event, sharing their experiences and assessments of the crisis regions with the participants.
On day two, participants discussed territorial integrity vs. self-determination; implementing assistance; and the healing process – reconciliation efforts vs. Divided society.
On the final day, Maj. Gen. Philippe Chalmel, defense attaché at the French Embassy in Berlin, spoke on the French-German reconciliation process after WWII; and Dr. Tim Murithi, head of the Justice and Reconciliation in Africa program at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation,Cape Town, spoke on the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa, highlighting what works and does not work.
The conference helps set the stage for a new Marshall Center course, the Seminar on Regional Security. The new course will strengthen participant capabilities to successfully detect patterns of conflict resolution and help them address current and regional security issues with analytical tools, policy approaches and project-based team work.
"We succeeded in creating a lot of interest amongst the participants including their willingness to support the new course in their respective countries," Henseler said. "Especially during the working group sessions a variety of remarkable ideas, new approaches to different topics and valuable advice for the development of the upcoming course came up."
The SRS is an annual three-week course; the first iteration will be in February 2013.