Peace on Earth


On this Christmas Eve, as I reflect back over the past year, a whirlwind of images and feelings come up.  It has been an intense year of travel to countries dealing with violent conflict or war, political instability, and economic disparity. Then in my own country, we witnessed a divisive election year, a politically polarized society, ugly rhetoric against people of different races or religious beliefs, and a series of mass shootings including at an elementary school, movie theater, shopping mall and place of worship.

We are a world at conflict on the individual, community and nation state levels.  We see actors on the world stage who use fear to control people and foster hate and division, pitting one against another.  Religion, ethnicity, race, gender, country of origin, are all inflammatory fodder for stirring up emotions of fear and in turn — hate.  It’s been far too common to find individuals and leaders using violence for their own agenda and pushing the fear-mongering and hate-mongering buttons to manipulate and coax people into doing their bidding.

A survey of the headlines over the past year is enough to make even the most optimistic, despair.  We barely have time to acknowledge one tragedy, when another one is on its heels, followed by another after that.

But if you look beyond the headlines and politics, struggles for power and control, you still can find those who relentlessly hold tight to the vision of peace and justice and work tirelessly for a better world.  It is through their sheer determination and effort that there is ample reason for hope.


Don’t complicate the transition (in arabic). Graffiti I came across while driving around in Misurata, Libya. May 2012

During my travels in Libya, I met people in Benghazi, Misurata, Tripoli and Zawia who took my colleagues and me into their lives and homes.  They shared their hopes and dreams for a new, peaceful Libya, free of dictatorship, violence and extremism. I received numerous messages of sincere regret and sorrow immediately after US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his colleagues were killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi. They wanted America to know that these horrible acts were not representative of the vast majority of Libyans. They took to the streets by the tens of thousands to demonstrate as much.


Choosing our fish to take to a restaurant for grilling in Taiz, Yemen, June 2012

While in Yemen, I traveled to Sana’a and Taiz, meeting amazing young women and men who, despite guns being trained on them as they marched, took to the streets to demand a positive government responsive to the people.  “The youth are Yemen’s hope and future as we have just created a mess,” was a sentiment I heard twice, once from a retired army general and then again from a retired political leader — both frustrated with the slow pace of change and battles for power raging across Yemen and fueling violence and instability.

While in Burma/Myanmar and reiterated during subsequent visits to the US by representatives from Burma/Myanmar, I was surprised by the openness of those I met in the government, who, despite having been isolated for many years under the former repressive military regime, were anxious to get caught up on developments related to good governance, rule of law and conflict resolution.  Each meeting turned into an invigorating and open discussion of ideas, as we discussed what other countries in transition experience and the challenges they face.

Aung San Suu Kyi with me and Suzanne Di Maggio at USIP event,  Washington, DC, September 2012 (Photo Credit:    )

Aung San Suu Kyi with me and Suzanne Di Maggio at USIP event, Washington, DC, September 2012 (Photo Credit: Asia Society/Joshua Roberts )

In Iraq, I had the honor to meet with dedicated civil society representatives who were earnestly organizing dialogues with police to find ways to solve justice and security challenges facing their communities.  In the absence of effective central governance, the citizens and police decided to keep things local and seek common ground and work together.

Buddhist monk in Boudhanath.  Kathmandu, Nepal. October 2012.

Buddhist monk in Boudhanath. Kathmandu, Nepal. October 2012.

While in Nepal, I surveyed the past six years from when I first arrived at the tail end of popular protests that resulted in the King stepping down and re-instating the political process.  Despite a very rough period of political instability and violence after the King’s ouster, and the all too familiar charade of political actors stirring violence for their own ends, Nepal managed to end its ten-year civil war, quell ethnic, religious and communal violence and move tentatively forward.

Then in my own country, despite the politics of division, the elections resulted in the re-election of the president.  The issue of economic inequality has come to the mainstream and is being openly discussed.  The horrific epidemic of gun violence has stirred up a movement demanding action to address its root causes.

So as this year draws to an a close, I want to focus on the people and their determined actions that have resulted in cultivating peace against seemingly insurmountable forces and odds, rather than giving way to the divisions and violence so many attempt to sew.

If there is one universal lesson my travels have revealed, it’s that when each of us owns our own power and makes a determined stand on principles of fairness, equality and justice, then even the most powerful who employ the formidable levers of division, intimidation, violence and coercion — become powerless. Further, while fomenting divisions can sow violence, building unity and understanding can be powerful steps toward creating a lasting and resilient peace. 



Practitioner’s Toolkit for Justice and Security Dialogues

Peace Dove amidst the back drop of destruction in downtown Zawia, Libya

Here is a piece from USIP’s website on our Justice and Security Dialogue work. I am cross-posting it here.  This is the original link:

USIP to Develop Practitioner’s Toolkit for Justice and Security Dialogues

Photo courtesy of Shobhakar Budhathoki
(Photo courtesy of Shobhakar Budhathoki)

August 6, 2012

The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) will draw on its innovative effort to sponsor dialogue between security agencies and civil society in Nepal and Iraq to develop a new “toolkit” to help practitioners in the field run similar programs in Iraq and other transitional or post-conflict countries.

The new effort is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and USIP itself. It will bring together specialists for working meetings this fall to identify the contours of a practical, how-to toolkit, including training and other videos and a justice and security manual laying out methods for conducting such dialogues. Those elements of the toolkit are to be completed and translated into Arabic by next summer, when they could be used for further programming in Iraq and elsewhere.

USIP’s dialogue efforts in Nepal, which began in 2006 and continues today, are meant to help bridge a gulf of mistrust between civilian police and the justice and security sectors, on one hand, and civil society and local communities, on the other. That mistrust, aggravated by many years of political and other conflict in the Himalayan nation, has hampered Nepal’s ability to provide security and justice, and deepened tensions in ways that have hindered economic development and good governance.

A similar dynamic has played out in Iraq and other countries that have suffered from conflicts and experienced jarring political transformations.

Just one example of the impact of justice and security dialogues in Nepal is when USIP established a forum for dialogues to build trust between police and civil society and to address challenges to security and the rule of law in Biratnagar, Nepal. Following two dialogues that examined why youth seemed to be increasingly participating in lawless and violent activities and what young people could do to reverse the trend, participants agreed to a nine-point Birat Youth Declaration and promised to work with the Nepal Police and civil society to strengthen security and the rule of law.

After a year, the impact was dramatic. According to the Nepal Police, in the district of Morang violent demonstrations carried out by youths fell more than 80 percent because of USIP’s involvement.

The future toolkit will also draw on the experience of USIP’s rule of law work to date in Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and South Sudan. USIP specialists say it will help identify and sustain the best elements of justice and security dialogues for use in other settings in the future. Yet, they also caution that justice and security dialogues must be tailored to the specific context of a country and its dynamics: No one size fits all.

Justice and security dialogues are a critical tool to help build a positive and collaborative relationship between the community and the various justice and security stakeholders in transitional or post-conflict countries, says Colette Rausch, director of the Institute’s Rule of Law Center. “The complex challenges of our world can only be resolved when people come together to understand and overcome differences, build trust and work together to solve problems,” she says.


Pickling from Iraq to the United States

Pickle shop in Erbil, Iraq

I was in Erbil, Iraq earlier this week for a two-day conference to meet with our Iraqi colleagues and share experiences and lessons from their work on a rule of law program being implemented in different parts of Iraq. Erbil has really developed economically over the past few years and the security has improved. When my luggage was lost in transit, I went to a new mall to pick up something to wear for the next day’s conference. I was amazed at the Family Mall, complete with shops of every variety, children’s rides (including a train that weaves through the mall) and restaurants.

After the two-day conference was over, a few of us took a walk around Erbil to see the Citadel (currently undergoing an archaeological renovation), the Mudhafaria Minaret (36 meters high), Minaret Park (a beautiful family-filled park with water features, topiaries, statues of historical figures) and the covered market. (A photo slideshow of these sites is set forth below.)

It was just outside the covered market that we came upon a shop of pickles. They pickled olives, cucumbers and other vegetables. The shopkeepers kindly offered us a taste of a pickled cucumber.

The cucumber variety is one that is long and thin. We came across vendors of such varieties along our tour.

This discussion of pickles brings me back to the United States and how I have spent countless hours over the past few weeks pickling in order to keep up with the cucumber and green bean harvest from our community garden plot and patio container garden at home. I have become fascinated (maybe bordering on obsessive, I admit) with various ways to pickle (hot water bath, fermenting in a barrel or clay jar, refrigeration pickling) as well as combinations of pickling spices. I just had a conversation last night with my brother Ingfried from Germany who uses terragon (must be the French variety, he says) and it goes particularly well with pickling onions and garlic.  I will try that when I harvest my onions soon.

So in the meantime, here are a few recipes that I have been using to pickle green beans, cucumbers and peppers.  An alternative, if you plan to use the pickled items in the short-term (within the month or two), there is no need to prepare them in a hot water bath.  Just simply stick them in the refrigerator, wait about a week or two (depending upon your taste), and enjoy them as “refrigerator pickles.”  As for the green beans, this year I decided to not blanch or “pre-cook” the green beans before canning them.  I will see how they compare when I open them up this winter.

Pickled Green Beans


  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 sprigs fresh dill weed
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water


  1. Cut green beans to fit inside pint canning jars.
  2. Place green beans in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water, and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, for 3 minutes. Plunge beans into ice water. Drain well.
  3. Pack the beans into four hot, sterilized pint jars. Place 1 clove garlic and 2 sprigs dill weed in each jar, against the glass. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to each jar.
  4. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring vinegar and water to a boil. Pour over beans.
  5. Fit the jars with lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Pickled Cucumbers or Peppers


  • 2 – 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 – 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup sea salt
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 – 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 – 1/2  teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 – 1/2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 3 teaspoons dill seed
  • 3 sprigs of fresh dill


  1. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a stainless steel saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Reduce heat and keep to a soft boil.
  2. Put  1 garlic clove, 1 sprig of fresh dill, 1 teaspoon dill seed and 1/2 teaspoon each of the mustard seed, celery seed, coriander seed and dill seed into each of three hot and sterilized pint jars.
  3. Pack cucumbers (or peppers) into the three jars. (I used three medium-sized cucumbers.)
  4. Pour the hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remover air bubbles, adding more liquid if need be to get it back to 1/2 inch headspace.
  5. Wipe the rim; center the lid on the jar; screw the outer band to a fingertip-tightness.
  6. Process the filled jars in boiling water of a hot water canning pot for 15 minutes with the canning lid on. Remove canning lid.  Leave in for 5 minutes more.
  7. Cool and store on a wire rack.

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Cooking under a Cloud

It was a tough weekend. Recovering from a major sinus infection and, never having had one before, I waited until it was full blown before I went to the doctor. Now, how was I to know that the fact that I could not open my mouth very far, could not chew without pain and everything I ate tasted like rusty metal was a result of a sinus infection? I have never had one so how was I to know?

Further, if I ever thought of one, it was with the assumption that the pain was around the forehead and nose, not the jaw for goodness sakes. I am not big on going to the doctor and usually just brave things out and let my body deal with it. But the day before my scheduled departure for Iraq, colleagues pressed me to get it checked out rather than wait until I got to Iraq to see how things developed. So I called my doctor who graciously squeezed me in, diagnosed the infection and prescribed antibiotics as a necessity not an option (given my adversity to antibiotics except when absolutely critical). Consequently, my scheduled trip to Iraq was not to be. I was very bummed as I was really looking forward to going. But there will be another opportunity….

My energy levels were not optimal but I am not so great at taking it easy so I figured cooking would be a good thing to occupy myself with. I decided to make a balkan dish that my friend Teuta had made many times. So, I chopped up the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) onions and garlic.  I sauteed them with olive oil, pepper and salt. Then added the cubanelle peppers from my community garden plot, a yellow pepper I bought and some oregano, basil and marjoram from my backyard container garden.

Sauteed Onions, Peppers and Herbs

While that was going on, I blanched in boiling water for a few minutes the squash that came from the CSA.

So all seemed to be going well. Despite my illness and low energy levels, I was holding my own. Until I set the spatula on fire.  You know, I just don’t know what happened. I have set wooden spoons on fire before.  One burned right through so I had to toss it. But the spatula was metal. I guess I just had too much going on for my half functioning self. I admit that I did notice that flames were shooting out from the pot of water that I was boiling to blanch the squash. But I must also admit that I thought it was strange but my brain was not functioning at its full level so nothing registered on the first flame sighting. It was not until the smell factor kicked in.  Ahhh, then my brain got it because it had sight and smell to work with.  My really cool metal spatula had flames shooting off it and something was burning to a crisp. Apparently, the morning’s eggs (from the CSA) were still on the spatula and that and splattering oil from the meat was enough to start the little bon fire. After rescuing the stapula, I sadly looked at it and wondered whether all that charred mess would clean off.

Vowing to be more careful, I turned to draining the cooked ground beef. I lifted the heavy pot to drain the liquid into a container. Well, this did not go so well. Somehow a piece of very hot ground beef was released and landed on my exposed toe. I screamed. Shock more than pain. Then Gnogi the Corgi ate the evidence as it bounced off my toe. At this point, I wondered if maybe even cooking was a bit too much for me. But I was too far into the process to give up.  So I soldiered on. I combined the vegetable and meat, added some tomatoes that my friend Elizabeth and I had canned last Fall and cooked all that down.

The meat mixture was then layered with the sliced squash and everything went into a beautiful red Crueset pot that my husband and son graciously got for me for Christmas.  (I know because I made it abundantly clear that I wanted THAT pot for Christmas and nothing else could make me happier. Sad but true. A pot for Christmas was number one on my list. Who knew when I was younger that it would come to a stage where all I wanted for Christmas was a cooking pot. But anyone who knows about Crueset cookware knows that it isn’t just any “pot.”)

Balkan Dish

The Crueset then went into the oven and we had dinner. End of story. Oh, and I also managed to make a salad with lettuce from our patio and porch containers together with tomatoes from the community garden plot. All is well. No further fires or injuries. Now I look forward to the time when my jaw is pain free and the food I eat no longer tastes like rusty metal.

Homegrown Salad

Justice and Security Dialogue: A New Tool for Peacebuilders

My institute posted yesterday a Q and A from me on work we have been doing in Nepal and are adapting for Iraq and other conflict-affected countries. I have seen firsthand the power and impact of bringing people together to bridge differences, build understanding and peace and counter crime and instability.

Justice and Security Dialogue: A New Tool for Peacebuilders

June 2011 | On the Issues by Colette Rausch

June 22, 2011

USIP’s Colette Rausch explains what Justice and Security Dialogue is and why it’s becoming a valuable tool to combat lawlessness and promote the rule of law.

What is Justice and Security Dialogue? How does it work?

Simply put, Justice and Security Dialogue (JSD) is a way of bringing together security forces and local communities to dispel mistrust and build cooperation in countries emerging from conflict. As its name suggests, JSD revolves around a series of facilitated dialogues at which police officers, civil society representatives and “ordinary” citizens (and sometimes a variety of other stakeholders) meet to overcome a legacy of suspicion, division, and fear by voicing apprehensions, fostering understanding, identifying shared concerns and building relationships.

But JSD extends far beyond these facilitated conversations, vital though they are. The trust established in these frank and revealing exchanges becomes the foundation for a variety of other activities. Sharing information and problem solving: Police officers and local residents exchange information about sources of crime and violence, brainstorm about the best ways to tackle them, and discuss how the police as an institution can best reform.

  • Coordinating efforts in the fight against crime: JSD participants work together in very concrete ways to curb crime and boost security.
  • Protecting human rights and promoting security: Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) cooperate with local government officials and members of the security forces to ensure greater respect for both human rights and law and order.
  • Influencing policymaking: Ideas for reforming outmoded laws and improving police performance are fed from the local level into the national policymaking process.
  • Turning rule of law from a concept into a practice: All JSD participants—from very senior to very junior officers and officials, from defense lawyers to prosecutors, from industrialists to farm laborers—learn what a society governed by the rule of law should look like and discover their own roles in making that vision a reality. All sides begin to see that stability, security, prosperity and democratic consolidation cannot be achieved without the development of a sufficiently robust system of security and justice that enforces the law, holds violators accountable, protects the legal rights of groups and individuals, and provides predictability and transparency in the treatment of all parties.

JSD works by emphasizing the three P’s of partnership, process, and pragmatism. A series of nested partnerships allows JSD to operate simultaneously at different levels: international-national, national-local, NP (Nepal Police)-civil society, and so forth. Ties between partners are strengthened by constant consultation and collaboration. The process of working together is seen as no less important than the accomplishment of specific goals; stakeholders learn how to set and prioritize goals, achieve results, and create sustainability. The content of JSD activities is shaped by the pragmatic concerns of participants—not by the agendas of international actors or the research interests of scholars—and the aim of those activities is to enable participants to take what they have learned and apply it in the field.

Why is JSD needed?

Maintaining law and order usually gets harder, not easier, when a peace agreement is signed. The combatants may stop fighting, but they can become a rootless, unemployed, and disaffected group, whose frustrations fuel political, criminal, and domestic violence. Wartime powerbrokers are often reluctant to relinquish the profitable fiefdoms they constructed during the conflict, and as peace approaches they shift gears into organized crime. Meanwhile, ethnic or religious extremists stoke sectarian or religious-based tensions and political stakeholders jostle for power, their rivalries spilling onto the streets in the form of demonstrations, rallies and general strikes, all of which can easily escalate into violence that endangers the peace process itself.

The job of combating this tide of crime and instability falls, naturally enough, to the country’s security forces. However, in the aftermath of conflict, their reputation has been tarnished by their conduct under the previous regime, their material and human resources have been badly eroded, and their morale is desperately low. Civilians want protection but they don’t trust or respect the security forces. And those forces can’t tackle crime without community support. It’s a Catch-22 situation, and one that threatens to stifle ambitions of building a stable, democratic, law-abiding and rights-respecting society.

The only way out of this dilemma is to help the security forces and the public they are meant to serve recognize that their interests are not contradictory but complementary—that justice, which the community wants, and security, which the police emphasize, are inextricably linked and mutually supportive. And this is where JSD comes in. JSD fosters the community and police partnership upon which the promotion of rule of law and the reduction of crime and violence relies.

What can JSD do that other peacebuilding techniques can’t?

JSD is certainly not the only peacebuilding tool designed to achieve community and police partnerships. Many other forms of dialogue focus on partnership and/or process and/or pragmatism—but not too many focus on all three. Some programs don’t try to move beyond the initial dialogue, leaving it to participants to decide if and how to translate enhanced understanding into practical action. Other programs do try to help their participants make that transition, but often the process of dialogue and its practical applications are kept separate. In the case of JSD, the progression from improved understanding to cooperating on joint proposals is built into the dialogue itself. And participants are encouraged not only to turn joint proposals into joint action but also to develop an ever-expanding variety of joint activities. One of the most distinctive aspects of JSD is that its structure enables cooperative relationships to be built on multiple levels simultaneously: geographically, at the local and the national levels; professionally, at junior as well as senior levels; socially, at the grassroots, among the middle strata of society and within the elite.

JSD’s emphasis on partnership is akin to efforts by other dialogues to create a sense of “joint ownership.” However, the closeness and the openness of the partnerships that characterize JSD are unusual. Also distinctive is JSD’s progression from a partnership initiated by international and national-level actors—but highly responsive to local-level concerns and highly committed to empowering local actors—to a partnership in which local stakeholders decide for themselves the content and structure of their dialogue while the national and international partners take a back seat and offer support only when requested. JSD multi-tiered partnerships allow the program to operate at different levels of society—grassroots, mid-level, and elite—and to serve as a conduit between them. One consequence of this is to create a cycle of mutually reinforcing activity: getting input from the public about their concerns and needs, developing active relationships between civil society and the police, feeding ideas into the policymaking process, enacting reforms that reshape the justice and security sector—thereby changing the public’s experience of policing and creating new feedback.

Where has JSD been used, and what impact has it had? Where will it be used next?

JSD started in Nepal, where a 2006 peace agreement brought an end to a very bloody ten-year conflict between Maoist rebels and an oppressive monarchy. The Maoists entered a coalition government and the monarchy lost its political power, but the country has since been roiled by a surge in crime and political turbulence that has threatened to derail the peace process. A lack of political will to impose the rule of law has been matched by a lack of the capacity to do so, with the Nepal Police (NP) struggling under the burden of inadequate resources and training, a reputation for incompetence and corruption, and a deeply mistrustful public.

A partnership between USIP, high-ranking NP officers, and human rights activists has sought to bridge the divide between the NP and the public. A series of facilitated dialogues at numerous locations throughout Nepal have brought together NP personnel and members of the local community, as well as representatives of the country’s political parties, local government officials, and a variety of other stakeholders. From the perspective of participants, the dialogues have been surprisingly open and constructive. The revelation that the NP and civil society have shared concerns and can jointly devise solutions has inspired a determination to maintain this process of dialogue. It has also generated a variety of tangible results, including joint initiatives to tackle drug abuse and discrimination, as well as cooperation to resolve potentially violent disputes. The NP has recorded a substantial drop in crime in a volatile district where JSD has been operating. Reports indicate a growing public awareness on issues of gender violence, child labor, police roles and responsibilities.

In the capital, through JSD, productive working ties with the government agencies and ministries that run Nepal’s security and justice systems have been developed. JSD also has close ties to the human rights community, women’s groups, minority rights groups, youth organizations, and members of the legal profession, whose concerns and ideas help shape JSD activities.

JSD has had to contend with a variety of challenges that have slowed its progress. Logistical challenges faced by all Nepalis—such as limited electricity supplies, monsoons, and street protests—disrupt schedules. Levels of knowledge and professional competency among some stakeholders have turned out to be lower than expected, causing delays. Frequent changes in government oblige JSD staff to start again in building relationships with key officials. Continuing political instability at local as well as national levels undermines the rule of law and can discourage participants in JSD programs.

Even so, a program that was initiated by a partnership between USIP staff based in Washington, D.C., and national-level actors has recruited numerous local partners and entrenched itself at the community level. Local self-sustainability may be achieved within the next few years.

JSD has been distilled into a framework that can be used in other countries emerging from conflict. The framework is flexible—indeed, it demands customization—but the essential elements of the Nepal program has been initiated and is about to expanded in Iraq, a pilot has already been launched in Sudan, and trials in Afghanistan are planned. USIP has also adapted the program for Guatemala, where military officers and human rights NGOs have met to discuss how to address past abuses by the military. A variety of United Nations and U.S. government agencies have monitored the JSD program in Nepal, sent delegations to learn from its experiences, and are actively considering developing JSD-inspired programs in other countries emerging from conflict.

(Here is the link to the report on JSD: