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VOA Snapshot: The Conflict Resolution Project - 2002-05-22

A VOA Snapshot - Part of the continuing coverage in this, VOA's 60th Anniversary Year

VOA covers conflicts all over the world. In the mid-1990s we got involved in a project designed to give people the tools to help settle their conflicts.

It was called the Conflict Resolution Project, and it was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Project sent more than 30 reporters to twenty countries that were in the grip of deadly or emerging conflicts. They reported on the conflicts, and also on creative techniques being used to try to solve them.

"And one of the wonderful things is when you hear people in one part of the world overcome what seem like impossible problems," said Geoffrey Cowan, VOA director at the time. "For example, in South Africa, you think 'maybe it could happen in my part of the world too.' And it's a lesson you have to constantly be teaching and re-examining," Mr. Cowan said.

Journalists who covered conflicts and conflict resolution efforts for the Project had a double challenge. They were to report on the particulars of disputes between, for example, ethnic groups in places like Bosnia or rival street gangs in Los Angeles. But they were also charged with finding the universal dimensions of those conflicts and speaking to experts who were trying to resolve them.

Mr. Cowan said the idea was to help people in conflicts find methods of solving the conflicts, other than violence. "I mean either its that or its fighting to the death. In the end we try to find ways to find common ground and to deal with differences which are irreconcilable or we go to war. I think we'd always prefer to find common ground and to find a peaceful ways to resolve things if we can," he said.

More than 800 stories were filed under the Conflict Resolution Project, which ended in 1997. Since then, there have been several similar but smaller efforts at VOA, including one aimed at Angola and another at Central Africa.

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