Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution, 2008
Daniel Weggeland doesn’t speak Pashto or Arabic, but after only a short time in Afghanistan, he learned the word for problems. A 2008 graduate of the Georgetown Conflict Resolution program, Weggeland moved to Afghanistan in late June to begin work as the Conflict Mitigation Manager for north and northwest for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In the few months that he’s been there, Weggeland has been working hard to get a lay of the land and determine how his team can intervene in a constructive way. Though he is a 27-year-old recent graduate working with people with 15-20 years of experience in the area, Weggeland’s previous field work experience in Liberia and his
So far, Weggeland’s main project has been the planning and implementation of conferences that involve problem-solving mediation and engage local leaders, religious leaders and local government in discovering the principal causes of instability. “The goal is to mobilize people on a district level,” Weggeland says. Because the project is so new, the format of the conferences is always changing, but for his first conference, he involved 43 prominent people in the community for four days. On the first day of the conference, he focused on conflict analysis training and active listening. He wanted to encourage people to use a common vocabulary when discussing conflicts.
The second day of the conference examined traditional means of dispute resolution. As Weggeland described it, “It was less theoretical, more practically focused. For instance, how can religion be used in dispute resolution?” In this phase, the goal was to figure out how various local groups traditionally work together, and pinpoint the strengths of the current strategies.
On the third day of the conference, the participants split into small groups and analyzed the factors that led to instability. On the fourth and final day, the groups came back together to draw on each other’s strengths and evaluate their progress: “Do we need to involve more people? Is there a better way to talk to donors?”
At press time, the first conference had been completed, and though “there was some confusion on the objectives,” Weggeland was glad that “everyone was there and talking.”
Weggeland wasn’t your typical conflict resolution student. Though he focused on peace and security issues for his undergraduate degree in international relations – what he calls the conflict resolution of international relations – Weggeland was initially interested in studying security law. He was accepted into some security studies programs, but decided to study conflict resolution to challenge his traditional ways of thinking. During his two years at Georgetown, he worked as a research assistant at the National War College and as a defense contractor doing military cultural analysis at the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), two positions which he feels provided a good balance for the things he was learning in his classes.
Though his work in Afghanistan will not be easy, Weggeland’s well-rounded education has prepared him well. He’s holding his own among veritable experts in the field, and it will be fascinating to see where his work takes him next. Here’s hoping the next time we catch up with Weggeland, he’ll have a few more Pashto words – like success – under his belt.
- May 21, All day: PLEN Women and International Policy Seminar
- May 22, All day: PLEN Women and International Policy Seminar
- May 23, All day: PLEN Women and International Policy Seminar