Saturday, December 25, 2010
Confronted by the injustices of the British colonial system as well as the Zionist threat in the first half of the 1900s, residents of Bethlehem firmly supported the cause of Palestinian nationalism. In the 1920s and 1930s, Palestinians in Bethlehem mounted several public campaigns against the British law that repealed citizenship of Palestinians but granted citizenship to Jewish immigrants. In response, Britain cracked down hard on representatives of Bethlehem. For example, in 1938, the mayor of Bethlehem, Issa Bandak, was deported by the British occupation authorities after his outspoken criticism of the British occupation. Much as Bethlehem housed Joseph, Mary, and the newborn Jesus, Bethlehem subsequently became a sanctuary for countless Palestinian refugees expelled from their villages. According to the Alternative Tourism Group (2008), population figures rose from 9,000 to nearly 20,000, while an additional 40,000 refugees stayed temporarily in Bethlehem on their way to exile in the West Bank, Jordan, or other Arab states.
I visited Bethlehem in May 2010. Today, the Bethlehem district constitutes the towns of Beit Sahour to the east and Beit Jala to the west, as well as three refugee camps (Aida, Beit Jibrin or 'Azza, and Deheisheh) to total 76,000 people. Dominated by minarets and bell towers, the city affirms its religious diversity: it has a Muslim majority (67%) and a strong Christian minority (33%). Almost every Christian community is represented: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian, Lutheran and Syrian, all sharing the same Arab-Palestinian culture.
Nevertheless, there is much in-fighting between the various Christian groups over control of various religious sites in Bethlehem. For example, despite being a place sacred to all Christians, the Grotto of the Nativity (see photo at left) - marking the exact place of Jesus's birth - has been the object of bitter dispute between the Christian communities. In 1847, the star was stolen, and the Sultan in Istanbul was asked to arbitrate: he chose to freeze the controversy with a status quo, which pleased no one, neither France, as "the custodian of holy places, nor Tsarist Russia, as protector of all Orthodox subjects in the Ottoman empire. Finally, the star was replaced with a copy. However, prolonged disagreement over custody of these holy places served as pretext for hostilities between the great imperialist powers leading to the Crimean War of 1853-1856, with England, France, and Turkey opposing Russia. Even today, there is a complicated and detailed plan of ownership of particular places and hours for certain religious celebrations and feasts. If one religious community fails to honor another 's plan, for instance by walking down the wrong staircase at an inopportune time, then this is cause for shutting down a whole section of Bethlehem in order to rectify the situation.
The hopeful news is that Bethlehem is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, according to this story from NPR. Mild weather, a booming economy, and thriving tourism (see photo at left) are all helping to bring holiday cheer to the West Bank town. Christian tourists, Palestinian Christians, and even Palestinian Muslims from Bethlehem's refugee camps prayed side-by-side on Christmas Eve. One woman from the camp said, "Because of the hard situation and the pressure we are living in, we take advantage of any joyful moment and bring our children to play."
It's promising to see peace in the little town of Bethlehem for even one night. But let us not forget the wall that continues to surround Bethlehem (as well as the rest of the West Bank and Gaza), the growing number of illegal Israeli settlements that are being built and are eating away at Palestinian land, the failure of peaceful negotiations between the leaders of the region, and the reality that after celebrating side-by-side with people of all faiths, many Palestinian families must return to refugee camps rather than to their rightful homes.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins is an award-winning documentary by New Zealand filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly about contemporary artist, Vanessa Beecroft's relentless attempt to adopt baby twins from Sudan. Beecroft is a world-famous artist, most famous for her live tableaus of nude women standing motionless in empty art galleries. The film delves into Beecroft's professional life, borrowing an a brilliant artistic appeal and well-edited style. But Beecroft's career is only the backdrop to the more disturbing main element of the film, which was her obsession with "having/getting" these two Sudanese babies.
Beecroft explains that she visited Sudan and met Madit and Mongor Akot, who were left by their impoverished father to the care of the local village. Beecroft understood this as abandonment, and after breastfeeding the children herself, decided that it was her responsibility to adopt the children. As a Sudanese official explains, Sudan does not have official adoption laws; if a child is left parentless, then the next of kin is contacted and the community takes responsibility for the care of the child. This is common practice throughout many African societies. This doesn't deter Beecroft, and she goes to great lengths to convince lawyers, officials, friends, and family that what she is doing is noble and in the best interests of the twins.
One of the main themes of the film is that Beecroft's social anthropologist husband is completely unaware of her adoption plans. When her lawyers ask her repeatedly if her husband is "on-board" with the plan, (because the adoption cannot proceed without him), Beecroft insists that he is. When she determines that her husband might be a hindrance to her plan, she considers divorce.
Beecroft explains that her desire to adopt the twins is “not just fetishization of the blacks. It will be a beginning of a relationship with that country.” But her actions throughout the movie consistently contradict those words, as Sudan, its people and its children are consistently objectified by Beecroft.
In one of the more revealing scenes, Beecroft is photographing the unclothed infant twins in a chapel for one of her many Sudanese-themed art projects. One of the Sudanese women enters the chapel rightly complaining that it is not right for foreigners to be photographing naked Sudanese children, especially in the chapel. Beecroft has a physical confrontation with the woman, trying so much to continue photographing the children. When the Sudanese women takes the twins away, Beecroft collapses against a barricaded door, mumbling, "These people."
When the father of the twins expresses doubts that consenting to adoption is the right thing, he tells Beecroft (through a translator) that his community and family are worried that these Sudanese children will be taken away and never understand who they are or where they come from. Beecroft quickly responds that she will connect with the Sudanese communities where she lives in New York and visit Sudan with the twins when they grow up. But since she has thus far not made attempts to learn the language or understand the culture, it is unlikely that this will happen.
I believe that Beecroft believes that what she is doing is in the best interests of Madit and Mongor. However, she is unable to that these children may do very well living in their communities, raised by extended family. Beecroft's vision of child well-being is warped by her own Western perspectives of childhood as well as a desire to possess these children and incorporate them into her future artwork. She is also an egoist, comparing herself to the likes of Angelina Jolie and Madonna in her attempts at adoption.
I am not against international adoption, but I am against Westerners believing that they can come in and correct a situation simply because they have the means. As one of the priests that Beecroft seeks (and ignores) advice from says, taking the children away from Africa drains the human capital. These children are needed in their countries to build up their communities/countries and make them strong.
The one redeeming scene was when Beecroft makes a final visit to the village of Madit and Mongor. Tears of joy overcome her as she is welcomed into the community. She sees the twins and then says good-bye.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Jeffrey Gettleman's article in this weekend's New York Times chronicle's one Lost Boy's - Joseph Gatyoung Khan - homecoming to his village to participate in the Southern Sudan referendum. After leaving his village at the age of 8, Khan was settled in the United States, working his way from the midnight shift at a casino to a university education at the University of Iowa. He hasn't seen his parents in over 20 years. The following video from The New York Times, shows Khan returning to his village and the mixed emotions he feels upon his arrival.
What I find most interesting is when he says that the world doesn't need him, but his village does need him. I wonder what Khan will be able to do for his village if, indeed, he decides to stay. There are so many valuable human resources that leave villages like Khan's because of war and conflict and poverty. Imagine what great things they can do once they return.
Khan has not yet decided if he will stay in Southern Sudan.
Friday, November 26, 2010
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law the Child Soldier Prevention Act, designed to bar US military assistance to states designated by the State Department as having recruited child soldiers into their armed forces. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN's top advocate for child soldiers, expressed her disappointment at Obama's decision, saying that this is a step backward. The White House argued,
"The decision to waive prohibition of military assistance to countries that use child soldiers was in the interest of national security in allowing the US to support countries that back American anti-terror policies or face fragile political transitions. It maintains that continued military assistance would actually accelerate these countries' ability to end controversial practices, including the conscription of child soldiers" (Turtle Bay, October 28th).
There are about 300,000 child soldiers across the globe. The UN is engaged in discussions about the fate of child soldiers in Chad and South Sudan, where local governments have pledged to release as many as 900 children from conscription by the end of the year. Jo Becker, from Human Rights Watch, has acknowledged that Congo and South Sudan have made previous commitments to release child soldiers that they have never honored.
The UN itself has UN peacekeepers cooperating with governments and militaries that use child soldiers in Congo and Somalia. As one UN official said, "We can't get too high on the moral ground" (Turtle Bay, October 28th).
Friday, November 19, 2010
The subject today is my promotion of TEDxMcGill 2010 (http://tedxmcgill.com/) event on November 20 at Marché Bonsecours in the Old Port of Montreal from 1-7pm.
TEDxMcGill 2010's theme is Relentless Curiosity:
"Children have the unstoppable propensity to always be asking "Why?". The world that perceive is constantly new and they are inundated with new ideas, new objects, and new people. Child-like curiosity is at the heart of an enjoyable learning experience. Curiosity, and especially a relentless pursuit guided by curiosity, is also a quality of passionately engaged people. This year, TEDxMcGill aims to share in the energy of that pursuit. We are asking our speakers, our attendees, and our extended community to adopt a relentless curiosity and pursue the answers to the child-like "why". We aim to bring together a community diverse in knowledge, yet unique in their passion for it."
My 10-minute talk will focus on how important a “sense of place” is for children affected by war. I will speak about my work in Chechnya, northern Uganda, and then focus on my most recent work with Palestinian youth, using maps and narrative to illustrate sense of place. I will post the talk here after it is complete. But in the meantime, you can go to the TedxMcGill website to see a live stream of the event.
All of my fellow speakers are quite impressive, and I am honored to be able to present my ideas among such interesting other talks.
For more information regarding the event please see http://tedxmcgill.com/info/ and the following article in the Montreal Gazette: http://communities.canada.com/montrealgazette/blogs/universitycity/archive/2010/11/12/ted-talks-coming-to-mcgill.aspx .
Monday, November 15, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Qalqilya is located along the 1949 Green Line and less and 20K from the Mediterranean Sea. However, like most Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, its residents are denied access to the sea. It is an enclave or ghetto with over 44,000 residents, completely encircled by the separation barrier, disguised from the Israeli-side by a huge earth-bank, and in desperate economic circumstances. Unemployment runs at 60-70% and most families survive on foreign food aid. Closure means that men cannot work outside Qalqilya. Since 2002, in addition to curfews, economic stranglehold, and the change in landscape from the Ariel settlement bloc, thousands of hectares of prime farm and urban land have been confiscated and destroyed for construction of the separation wall and even more recently the creation of the seam zone between the Green Line and the separation barrier, in favour of new settlement expansion. The separation barrier that surrounds Qalqilya is slowly strangling the community, as there is no room to grow, as all cities must do to survive. The only entry and exit point - the checkpoint for Palestinian workers to move in and out of Israel - is tightly controlled by the Israeli military [see the photo below].
Qalqilya was the first town to vote Hamas into power during the local elections, which might explain (but not justify) Israel's heavy-handed treatment of the town. My guide told me that when he would often take a group of tourists to the top of a local school to get a better view of the separation barrier, and its impact on the town. He was informed by the Israeli military that if he continued to show people the view of the separation barrier from the school that they would destroy the school. This is an example of collective punishment of the whole community.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Today, I discovered other social issues that exist in the society in addition to the occupation and conflict. I visited the Arab Women's Union Society, which runs an orphanage for girls (ages 6-20). Many of the girls are not only orphans, but have been further stigmatized because their mothers were executed for being collaborators with Israel. Having a parent who was killed for being a collaborator with Israel is a serious stigma. But their mothers were not willing collaborators. Most likely, these women become involved in affairs with men before or outside of marriage, which is a serious offense in Muslim society. Israel uses evidence against them (e.g., photos or video) to blackmail them into giving them information about the community. The woman often feels as if she has no choice: she can be shamed in front of the Muslim community or give information to Israel. Either way, she will suffer and her children as well. The children of these women are shunned forever, and many of them were living in this orphanage. They were very sweet young women, who gave me lunch (watching my every bite), and then taking me to their common room for an "American" dance party.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Much of the area of the South Hebron Hills has been confiscated illegally by the Israeli government and illegally by Israeli settlers to build the growing settlements of Carmel, Ma'on, and Otniel. Avichai told me about his training, which carried an overtone of treating all Palestinians as potential "terrorists", even if they had not committed any offense. He also said that his main job was to protect the settlers, even though they are living illegally on Palestinian land. Avichai introduced me to Yassir, a Palestinian resident of the village Susiya, who told the story of his village (consisting of tents and small caves) being destroyed by the settlers during the heat of July one year. The Red Crescent Society came and provided them with more tents, which were only large enoughfor the children to stay in. But the Israeli civil administrators came and confiscated the tents saying they were illegal. When the villagers sought shelter in the shade of the olive trees, the military came and chopped down their olive trees. When they went to stay with the shepherds and their herd, the military came and blared their sirens so the herd would scatter in fear. I was moved to tears when he said, "We have only tents and caves - they are nothing - and they want to destroy it all." [See the photo of Yassir's home consisting of tents, with the Israeli settlement - red-roofed homes - in the distance behind it.] Unfortunately, stories like this are not uncommon.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Today, I also visited the village of Sebastia, about 15K from Nablus, on the road to Jenin. My guide, Hassanein, told me the following story: "Archaeological evidence proves the site was Chalcolithic Period. In the 12th century BC, a small city grew up which acquired its economic and political power in the 9th century BC, when it became the capital of the Kingdom of Israel (or Samaria). King Omri, sixth king of the kingdom, elevated Samaria to his capital, open to the estern mediterranean cultural sphere. The influence of the Phoenician cities made itself felt in all aspects of life: material, culture, commerce, and religion. Threatened by the rise of Assyria, King Omri cemented an alliance by marrying his son Ahab to Jezabel, a princess from the powerful Phoenician city of Tyre. Ahab erected a temple to her gods, Baal and Astarte, in the city, thus infuriating the Judaeans who condemned this act as the work of an infidel. They looked upon the Assyrian conquest by the troops of Sargon II of the Kingdom of Israel in 721 BC as a divine punishment. The city regained its status as a provincial capital during the Persian period. In 331 BC, Alexander the Great made it a Greek settlement; the city was under Hellenistic cultural influence until its destruction by John Hyrcanus in 108 BC. Herod, the right-hand man in palestine of the Roman Empire, rebuilt the city on the model of the Greek polis, or city. He renamed it Sebaste (Augustus the Greek), in honor of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (27BC - 14AD). In the second century AD, Emperor Septimus Severus conferred on Sebaste city status with all the pertainingprivileges. As the popularity of Christianity grew in the 4th century, this former center of Graeco-Roman paganism went into permanent decline."
I was especially interested in the recent history of Sebastia. Currently, the site of the ruins in considered Area C, which means it's under full Israeli occupation, and the town is considered Area B, which means its under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control. (In contrast, Nablus is an Area A, under full Palestinian civil and military control, with no Israeli allowed to enter.) It seems like Israel has complete control of all of these historical sites around Palestine, which is where a lot of tourists come. The owner of the Palestinian cafe, where we had lunch, said that he wants to expand his business (put a roof on the cafe, and create wash rooms) but he is not allowed, because his cafe is in Area C. Another interesting thing is that the ruins (and the towns) are covered with graffiti, much of which expresses anger against the occupation. For example, in the Byzantine Church of St. John, where John the Baptist's head is supposedly buried, there are many blue Stars of David spray-painted on the ancient stones on the ground. These were painted on the ground by Palestinians to symbolize "stepping on" the State of Israel. In the Old City, there are Stars of David on almost every corner, some with a line through it, others as a part of an anti-occupation sentiment in Arabic, and others supporting the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine). Some of the translations I have made read: "Together we get freedom," and "Those believers who feel God in their hearts, keep our promise with him and say the right thing."
I visited the Samaritan village on the top of Mount Gezerim, guided by Husne Kahim (pictured below), the Samaritan's high priest and 163rd descendent of Adam (and he has the framed family tree to prove it). Nablus is the home to one of the world's last Samaritan communities. Samaritans are one of the world's smallest communities, numbering about 725 people (as compared to 146 in 1917). At it's peak, the Samaritans numbered over a million followers in the fifth and fourth centuries BC.
Their religious observances cement cohesion of the community and are strictly defined, with no tolerance for breaches. Women are particularly affected by laws to ensure their purity; they are not permitted to participate in any ordinary activity for seven days during their menstrual cycle or after their have give birth (40 days if the baby is a boy and 80 days if the baby is a girl).
They hold three passports: Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian. Samaritans believe that Mount Gezerim was not only the first piece of land ever created, but it was also the land out of which Adam was made, the only place spared in the great flood and the place where Abraham went to sacrifice his son (opposing the common belief that this took place in Jerusalem). Their small population, coupled with their refusal to accept converts, has caused a history of genetic disease. A Samaritan male may do so on the condition that his future wife convert and submit to a six-month trial period under the direction and supervision of a priest who decides in the end if the marriage may take place. The Samaritan High Priest said this process has been been done with 25 Jewish, 3 Muslim and 5 Christian women. However, there are few non-Samaritan women who want to live segregated on top of a mountain in the middle of Palestine.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
with the children after. After a debriefing with the children, they decided to perform a reprisal in which the soldiers were much less violent, and instead formed a barrier of interlinking arms across the stage not allowing the other children to pass from one side to another. This reiteration illustrated the current occupation in a very poignant way, as mobility is greatly restricted; however, the first performance was not forgotten.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Many Palestinian adults express a palpable hopelessness that is heartbreaking. When I asked one successful administrator from An Najah University what he thought about a solution to the conflict, he told me, "There is no solution. There is no future. There is only the present. That's why I won't get married. I don't want my children to live in this." Since I have arrived the city has been in a constant state of reconstruction and improvement, rebuilding damaged buildings and the sprouting of new commerce. When I expressed my amazement to some residents of Nablus about the growth of the city, so soon after hostilities have died down, they said that people are trying to rebuild as quickly as possible before another rise in conflict begins. However, I think of all of the investment in children's programs as hope for the future. The West Bank has a great number of programs just for children and youth, which proves that there is some hope for the future, despite the persistent hopelessness felt by many adults.
Today, I visited Balata Refugee camp, which is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank, home to 25,000 refugees, some who have been there since it was created in 1953. With 75% of Balata's refugee population under 18-years-old, there are numerous programs for children and youth.
In Witness in Palestine, Anna Baltzer writes: "Balata sees more violence and incursions than most other places in Palestine, which is evident as you walk through the camp. There are bullet holes in every house, school, and store. The children are tougher than those in other Palestinian communities, and their parents are more suspicious. But the barrier is easily broken with a little Arabic and indication of solidarity" (p.47).
Their resilience is illustrated in the colorful graffitti marking the concrete walls around the camp: "Boycott Israel, Free Palestine," and "Love Palestine, Hate Racism, 1 People, 1 World!" The alleys between the UN-constructed 4-story buildings were tiny – just a few feet across, windows into dark rooms facing each other, so everything said in one house is heard in the next.
Nablus hosted a photo exhibit to com- memorate 62 years since Al-Naqba, or "The Catastro- phe". After a variety of partition plans, even proposals to transfer the Palestinian Arab population, on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly approved a partition plan - Resolution 181. Although Jewish people owned 6.5% of Palestinian land in private or collective property holdings, the Jewish state was awarded 56.5% of the territory of Palestine, and the Arab state was awarded 42.9% in the UN partition plan. Thus began the Arab-Israeli war, which brought independence for Israel and "catastrophe' for Palestinians. At the start of the 1948 war, 940,000 Palestinians lived in what was to become Israel. By the end of the war, 150,000 Palestinians remained in areas under Israeli control. Though israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion frequently said, "Israel did not expel a single Arab," it is clear that many were forced to leave by Israeli military units.
Friday, May 14, 2010
I am now in beautiful Nablus, nestled between Mount Ebal to the north and Mount Gerizim to the south. Today, Friday, is a day of rest, so I spent the day catching up on reading and writing. Walking the empty streets, I notice relics of the city's violent past: some windows punctured with bullets and streets lined with peeling posters of Palestinian martyrs. Contrary to the Western media's depiction, every person killed in the conflict (whether a combatant or a civilian) receives a tribute poster. Nablus was the focus of repeated Israeli incursions during the second Intifada (meaning "shaking off"), when Israeli planes, tanks, and bulldozers targeted the city, killing dozens of civilians and damaging or destroying about 700 buildings. In fact, today is Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Day in Israel) or Al-Naqba ("The Catastrophe" in Palestine), and to remind the city's inhabitants, the Israeli military flew several planes over the city in the morning, breaking the sound barrier. I can see the Israeli army has set up posts in the mountains surrounding the city, and often Palestinians in Nablus will tell me that they always feel as if "we being watched by Israel". During my first evening here, a gentleman sent a plate of fruit to my dinner table and introduced himself as Professor Sa'ed Jamal Abu Hijleh, a Palestinian poet/human geographer/political science professor/radio host/bogger. I don't usually accept fruit from strangers, but I trusted my instincts, and Sa'ed has become a great resource here in Nablus. Despite his exuberant activism, Professor Sa'ed Jamal Abu Hiljeh became extremely emotional when he started to tell me when his mother was killed by Israeli soldiers. In 2002, the 61-year-old grandmother was sitting on her front porch embroidering, when Israeli soldiers opened fire upon them killing her and injuring her husband. There is a memorial website for her here.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Dror (1984) calls policymaking “a very presumptuous activity” (p.13). Though the same might be said about research. In comparing the two activities, Edwards (2005) describes the “uneasy relationship” between research and policymaking. Whereas policymakers believe that research doesn’t concern itself with issues that are relevant to the lived realities of the studied populations and is often “driven by ideology” masked as intellectual inquiry, researchers believe that there is a lack of government interest in research and that there are roadblocks put in place by policymakers to make research more difficult to carry out. Furthermore, Edwards describes a general anti-intellectualism embraced by policymakers, in that they are wary about critical analysis because it could make certain policies embarrassing or irrelevant. Similarly, researchers note that there is a lack of incentives for researchers to create policy-relevant research. To Edwards (2005), all of this bickering illustrates two distinct cultures, but more significantly, two distinct ways of communicating.
Stone (as cited in Edwards, 2005) outlines twelve perspectives that encompass the many reasons that there is a gap between research and policy. Though all of Stone’s supply side, demand side, and socio-cultural factors are insightful and accurate, the ones that I see as being the most striking are:
- Comprehension: Researchers don’t understand what the policy process is and how research fits into the policy process.
- Communication: Researchers don’t have the adequate tools to convey messages about their research to policymakers.
- Anti-intellectualism in government: Government ideology is driven by an inherent distrust in using pure science to base policy decisions.
- Politicization of research: Researchers and policymakers are not viewed as being objective, but rather present information and/or make decisions based on ideology.
Dror’s (1984) concept of “fuzzy gambling” challenges some of these above factors, with policymaking being a process of unknowable, and constantly changing “rules of the game” (p.15). There is an assumption that research is a yes/no or true/false process. But, Dror (1984) suggests that it is more of a “multi-valued” logic. By viewing research and policymaking through this lens, research and policymaking become more open to dialogue between one another, because they understand that it’s not an all-or-nothing process.
Building upon the policy gambling perspective, Dror (1984) suggests that policy scientists broaden their methodologies, including methodologies “capable of handling irreducible uncertainty, including qualitative uncertainty with inability to specify qualitatively main alternative possible futures” (p.16). Social workers work with qualitative data all the time, in listening to clients’ situations and when conveying these situations through advocacy efforts in attempts to persuade colleagues and government bodies. Edwards (2005) mentions a valuable qualitative methodology, which bridges research and policy: the case study. Edwards notes: “To determine more systematically what works when, there and how, ideally calls for case studies designed to illustrate the diverse ways in which research can connect to policy” (p. 71). Qualitative research methods are an important addition to the policymakers’ toolbox, for they can persuade and convince in a way that quantitative data alone cannot. For example, the United Nation’s Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict has been consistently monitoring the six grave violations (killing and maiming of children; recruitment and use of child soldiers; rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; abduction of children; attacks against schools and hospitals; denial of humanitarian access to children) against children during armed conflict. In the gathering of evidence, the UN has solely relied upon qualitative data, which has made quite an impact on the depth of the problem. Nevertheless, the scope of the problem has yet to be understood, and therefore, efforts are being made to supplement the qualitative data with quantitative methods, both of which provide breadth and depth.
Perhaps the divide between research and policy is not so dichotomous. Aren’t researchers always asking themselves, How can our work be relevant and useful? Or is this an idealistic or naïve perspective of research? As a humanist science, social work researchers should be constantly thinking about their work’s impact on practice and policy. For example, I worked as the program manager for the Care and Protection of Children in Crisis-Affected Countries (CPC) Initiative (www.cpclearningnetwork.org), which sought to create a global network of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to collaborate on research projects to develop new methodologies for child protection in crisis-affected settings. This culminated in the Child Protection Action Summit, which gathered these figures for a four-day meeting to discuss ways that international child protection research could be relevant to policy, and vice versa. Edwards (2005) notes that even though the literature may suggest that if researchers and policymakers work closely together then there should be good policy outcomes, this might not be true in all circumstances, because there are multiple factors at play. For what didn’t work with CPC was what Edwards noted was most important for the success of bridging the divide. She notes: “The degree to which research influences policy often depends on individuals building relationships of mutual trust and respect, rather than on an ongoing and sustained discourse between governments and researchers” (p.73). CPC conducted the Child Protection Summit, holding conversations with the goal of creating common research priorities. However, over one year later, these conversations are no longer taking place. Meetings are currently happening with researchers and practitioners determining the research agenda, with policymakers at the receiving line of research several years after the major decisions have been made. Why can’t we include policymakers in the “ongoing and sustained discourse”, starting from the research proposal and moving forward? We know that it shouldn’t be such a dichotomy, but rather a partnership. Nevertheless, we still don’t know how to effectively bridge the divide for effective partnerships between research and policy.
Dror, Y. (1984). Perspectives on public policy: On becoming more of a policy scientist. Policy Studies Review, 4(1), 13-21.
Edwards, M. (2005). Social science research and public policy: Narrowing the divide. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 64(1), 68-74.