Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Initiatives: Ecuador-Peru

Ecuador-Peru: Towards a Democratic and Cooperative Conflict Resolution Initiative

The Ecuador-Peru Initiative is a joint undertaking of the Latin American Studies Center and Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), both of the University of Maryland. Between 1997 and 2001 the Project conducted a series of five Innovative Problem Solving Workshops at College Park, University of Maryland for civil society leaders from Ecuador and Peru. These workshops introduced participants to the methods and techniques of Track II/Citizen's Diplomacy including: (a) Trust building (e.g., identification of commonalities and shared interests and destinies) (b) Skills building (e.g., communication, stereo-type reduction) (c) Consensus building (e.g., creativity, win-win, integrative alternative generation) (d) Reentry (e.g., preparing participants to go back and introduce the newly acquired visions, skills and techniques, action commitments, implementation planning and networking). The workshops brought together the most important members of civil society of Ecuador and Peru (Track II/Citizen's Diplomacy). These included equal number of newspaper editors, university rectors, presidents of chambers of commerce, directors of environmental NGOs and human rights/civil liberties leaders and at the second stage indigenous chiefs and Catholic priests from both countries. Successful implementation of commitments made at each Track II workshop resulted in the eventual initiation of the official (Track I) peace process that ultimately addressed the border conflict between the two countries through the signing of the Peace Treaty in Lima.

Having named themselves "Grupo Maryland", these Track II workshop participants from Ecuador and Peru jointly played key roles during and after the official (Track I) negotiations. During the negotiation phases five of the workshop participants became Track I, official negotiators representing their respective countries. Employing the skills acquired at their training in College Park, these negotiators were now able to generate innovative ideas for overcoming impasses and finding win-win solutions during the official negotiations. Further, as leaders of civil societies, these former Citizen Diplomats (Track II) were also able to contribute to the consolidation of the peace process into one popularly-supported, legitimate and just peace. The "Grupo Maryland" members still maintain an active network of communication between their civil societies. A group of six Peruvian and eight Ecuadorian editors, representing the most prominent press in both countries, met recently in Lima to sign a Set of guidelines to build a culture of peace between the two countries and further improve their relations (e.g., communication with the other country's journalists, journalist exchange program, review of reports and coverage that can potentially generate conflicts, etc.). The private business sector, through the chambers of commerce both in Quito and Lima, has subscribed to a treaty of cooperation and there have been several exchanges of business delegations. Plans are being developed for a follow-up meeting as partners continue to monitor implementation of the Peace Treaty.

A chapter on the project has been published in People Building Peace II: Successful Stories of Civil Society, edited by Paul van Tongeren, Malin Brenk, Marte Hellema and Juliette Verhoeven (Lynne Rienner, 2005).