Delegations for Dialogue, organised their inaugural fact-finding programme in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2017. A total of 18 student delegates representing nine countries were selected to participate in this week-long exploration into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Iraq's Kurdish Autonomous Region in light of September's independence referendum.
TRANSNISTRIA: JUST A CONFLICT ON PAPER?
By Ferdinando Cinotto, SOAS University of London
Walking down the streets of Tiraspol, the capital of the self-proclaimed “Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic” (known commonly as Transnistria), no sense of strife, danger or even distress can be perceived. Streets are clean, supermarkets are full of products (yet largely empty of people) and the hammer and sickle flag waves proudly atop many buildings. If you stop a random passerby and ask them about the ongoing frozen conflict with Moldova, they would smirk at you and proclaim that no such conflict exists. “It’s just government propaganda” they would probably say “the common people don’t care anymore”.
A similar view is echoed by the citizens of Moldova, who regard Transnistria as a lost cause and would rather see their government tackle more important and pressing issues. This is a scenario hard to imagine, considering that only 25 years ago a serious war was fought between the two sides, with thousands of victims.
However, the opinions and the rhetoric radically shift once you ask the same questions to the politicians on both sides of the Dniestr river. Moldovan authorities continually stress how the existence of the Transnistrian state and the presence of Russian troops there represent both a breach of international law and a serious threat to their sovereignty, and they insist on the human rights violations supposedly committed by the Transnistrian regime. On the other side, the authorities use referendum results to justify their demands of independence and international recognition, and accuse the Moldovans of trade embargos, espionage and subtle warfare.
Why, then, all of these audacious claims and aggressive threats elicit close to no answer from the public of both states? Why do politicians, diplomats, and economists care so much about a conflict that in reality seems to have been over since 1992? Geopolitics is the answer. The situation in Moldova and Transnistria is a mere derivate of the worldwide arm-wrestling between Russia and the United States, closely accompanied by the European Union. This is reflected not only by the active presence of Russian troops in Moldovan sovereign territory, or in the massive amount of aid and funds sent by the US and the EU in Moldova, but also in the day-to-day political life of the nation. Moldovan parties do not align themselves with right or left wing ideologies, nor do they run campaigns based on actual policies; they merely choose whether to be pro-European or pro-Russian.
This prolonged façade of conflict and the impossibility of resolving the issue have tired the citizens of Moldova, who became disillusioned and apathetic towards their government and absolutely uncaring about the Transnistrian state. It is easy and sad to predict that progress on this issue will be close to null in the following years (if not decades), and that most probably it will slowly but relentlessly disappear from people’s memories.
About the author:
Ferdinando Cinotto is a first year undergraduate student studying Development Economics at SOAS, University of London. Ferdinando was one of 18 delegates on Delegations for Dialogue's "Development Under a Frozen Conflict" programme in November 2017.
Delegations for Dialogue in cooperation with The Global Shapers, Erbil Hub in cooperation with hosted a roundtable event to explore the outlooks of an independent Kurdish state in light of the upcoming referendum. The Global Shapers representatives moderated three discussion groups which later came together for a concluding round table discussion.
The three issues that were discussed were:
- The social, political and economical challenges facing Kurdistan in light of the independence
- The implications for independence upon the overall regional stability and on the Kurdish populations in neighboring countries.
- The impacts of an independent Kurdistan on the different ethnic minorities in the region.
Delegations For Dialogue has established a partnership with BIG TALK, a US based initiative focused on facilitating more meaningful conversations through a range of methods.
The initiative grew out of an online video series, the first episode of which is shared at the bottom
This partnership will take form in 2018 through a project called The East-West Stories Project which will be an immersive cultural exchange programme seeking to maximise engagement and cross-cultural understanding between young citizens of the USA and China. Selected US and Chinese delegates will be partnered together and collectively conduct a storytelling project which documents their experiences in both Los Angeles and Beijing.
On the 19th of August 2016 Delegations for Dialogue's delegates participated in a guest lecture titled 'Korean Peninsula in Crisis: What Went Wrong?' hosted by Prof. Chung-in Moon at The East Asia Foundation in Seoul, South Korea.
*** SPEAKERS ***
Professor Chung-in Moon is Ambassador-at-Large for International Security Affairs at the South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a co-Convenor of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. He is also the editor-in-chief of Global Asia. Moon served as adviser to Kim Dae-jung, South Korea’s president from 1998 until 2003, and to Roh Moo-hyun, who held the presidency from 2003 until 2008. Moon was one of the architects of the Sunshine Policy.
'The East Asia Foundation' is a public service foundation based in Seoul, established upon the philosophy that economic prosperity and trust will promote peace not on the Korean Peninsula and East Asia but throughout the world.
On the 23rd of February 2016 Delegations For Dialogue hosted a conference at Sciences Po, Paris. The conference was organised in partnership with the Asialyst and had the title "Is China's urban society ready to change the world?"
Four decades of domestic and international conflicts have left Afghanistan's infrastructure, education and culture in tatters. The destruction of these three national pillars has resulted in a generation of effectively stateless people, and the future of this traumatised country remains bleak.
The focus of this 'Dialogue Now' talk was on how performing arts could effectively spread critical thinking and challenge social oppression for those who otherwise lack a platform on which to do so. Women in Afghanistan face near total social segregation, something reflected in the country's harsh marital laws and religious extremism, and empowerment through the performing arts may be key to bringing about wider social reform.
These issues were addressed by Mahmood Sharifi and Taher Beg, two Afghan actors who migrated to Iran, and then to France. They shared their personal perspectives on Europe and the Middle-East, and how they initiated a performing arts movement in Afghanistan ten years ago.
*** Our speakers ***
During their performing arts studies at Kabul University, Mahmood Sharifi and Taher Beg both took part in Théâtre du Soleil's workshop led by famous French stage director Arianne Mnouchkine. In 2005, with the workshop's other participants, they co-founded the Aftaab Theatre, a theatre company supported by Théâtre du Soleil. Working with directors like Hélène Cinque or Matthias Langhof, this company played some theatre classics in the Persian language, such as "Romeo & Juliet", "Le Tartuffe", "L'Avare", at the French cultural center in Kabul and at Duchambé, in Tadjikistan. Based on their own stories and experiences regarding wars, education, migrations and identities' quest, they produced some French-Afghan original collective creations, such as "On That Day" (2009) and "The Round Night" (2012). In a decade, Aftaab played dozens of representations at Théâtre du Soleil and all around France, including Calais and the Avignon theatre Festival, but also Milan or Barcelona.
More information : http://www.aftaab-theatre.com/aftaab-theatre-home.html