What does it mean to recognize the need for change?

In a country in the midst of great suffering, imagining that change is possible is one of the most difficult things to do. Conflicts can seem intractable and entrenched aspects of them can seem too overwhelming to change. But what we’ve learned from leaders in other transitional countries is that change is essential to progress, and it is easier to realize change after seeing and learning how it has been done successfully by others elsewhere.

Beyond Conflict brings leaders to countries in conflict so they can share their personal struggles.  Hearing another’s experience often is enough to inspire one to action. Still, in many places, leaders go through the motions of change, introducing new institutions and processes, when they are not fully committed to implementing them. Leaders will make pragmatic shifts because they recognize they have to. But merely pragmatic shifts are unsustainable in the long run.

Realizing real change after war and hatred usually requires a deeper commitment and understanding of the changes required by leaders and the general population alike.  Making that deeper change sometimes takes time, but often it can begin with a simple conversation.

Beyond Conflict starts conversations about change and has had the privilege of working closely with leaders who have shaped and changed history around the world, including Roelf Meyer, South African politician and lead government negotiator to end Apartheid. Roelf’s call for change was particularly potent because he was a privileged member of Afrikaner society who was groomed to become president had apartheid not ended. Instead, he was one of the key people to convince President F.W. de Klerk to release Nelson Mandela from prison and to help bridge black and white societies.

Roelf has described his own personal, slow realization that the old paradigm of white supremacy and black inferiority that had reigned in South Africa since 1652 had to change.

“One might argue that it was damn long before I saw the light, but there it was,” Meyer says.  “I was able to speak on the other side. I was within a new paradigm then, realizing that South Africa’s future could only be based on equality for all, in a democratic environment.”

Since then, Beyond Conflict has brought Roelf to Northern Ireland, Guatemala, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Palestine and Bahrain to share his experience and help others in conflict learn from his experiences.

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