Research Poster Prize

In the 2016 Postgraduate Research Poster Competition, Joe Llewellyn (a PhD candidate at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies) was recognised as one of the best in the Division of Humanities. Well done Joe!

You can see the posters selected by different divisions at the LINK.

IMG_2016-08-08 11:11:42

Maodun and Ceasefires

 

By Liesel Mitchell and Nick Tobia

Nick: In one of those forays into lateral thinking, I had chanced upon the concept of maodun in Chinese philosophy. It literally means spear-shield, and references the symbols of an invincible spear and an impenetrable shield. In Western-oriented binary logic, a spear that penetrates anything cannot exist where there is a shield that is impenetrable to anything as well, and vice versa. In orientalism, however, there is such a thing as four-cornered logic which allows us to transcend binary logic. These corners of logic accommodate four possibilities: the proposition of the spear alone is true; the proposition of the shield alone is true; both are false; and both are true. Particularly on the last corner, wherein the spear and shield exist simultaneously, maodun is most clearly understood as contradictory unity. The most familiar illustration of maodun is the simultaneously Communist and Capitalist character of modern-day China. A frequent extension of this is the One Country, Two Systems policy of Deng Xiaoping, most visible in the unificationof Hong Kong with mainland China. A peek around similar fields of philosophy and logic yielded scholarship on dialetheism and paraconsistent logic, both of which also contemplate the simultaneous possibility of contradictory propositions.

The concepts of maodun, dialetheism and paraconsistency are essential to my project that challenges the binaries that are embedded in liberal peace logic. The primary target of the challenge is consensus, understood both as a modality of decision-making in peace negotiation and as a decision that terminates the negotiation. In both instances, consensus grapples with a participation conundrum of inclusion and exclusion, both in its negotiations and its applicability in post-conflict society. Is it at all possible to imagine peace processes that are both inclusive and exclusive at the same time? Is it possible to imagine peace agreements that are both final in the sense of decisiveness, yet at the same time contingent? Is it possible to imagine resolutory decisions that embody both agreement and disagreement? How do these imaginings generate new possibilities for consensus-seeking and decision-making in peace processes?

Years ahead of finding the answers to these questions, I ran into Liesel Mitchell, in the kitchen and we found ourselves talking about maodun while setting the time in the new microwave. Her brief ruminations on the idea of maodun and paraconsistent logic yielded a staggering insight.

Ceasefires are considered mere intermediate stages, or navigation points on the way to a final negotiation destination – peace agreements. Ceasefires by themselves, curiously, also represent a paraconsistent event that embodies both the agreement and disagreement of conflict parties. A ceasefire, as in the case of the Koreas, is both an official state of war and an enduring though precarious peace. Understood in these terms, I ask if is there something in ceasefires that can inform us on the manner by which we conduct our peace processes, both in negotiations, in the nature and form of agreements, and the post-conflict peacebuilding? If ceasefires are maodun, can peace negotiations and agreements also be maodun? Indeed, there are still many questions to ask and answer.

Liesel: While peace agreements exclude groups in order to reach consensus, ceasefires only work by inclusion. By acknowledging there is agreement between warring parties (to cease the armed conflict), it allows disagreement to remain on the table. Can a ceasefire offer a far broader scope of possibilities for all parties within the space that is ‘disagreement’, than the narrow door of peace agreements?

As Nick puts so eloquently, peace agreements are seen as the “final destination” yet we are overly concerned with a destination that doesn’t exist. The process of disagreement is the destination, and it is through the push-pull contradictory space of maodun that ceasefire can uncomfortably offer a point in the ongoing process where agreeing to disagree may be allowed to exist.

Some may consider ceasefires to be a deadlock, which implies there is no movement. However to use the case of the two Koreas again, since the ceasefire in 1953 there have been varying levels of engagement across the DMZ that separates the two. At times this has grown peaceful initiatives between the two countries, and at other times communication and negotiation has broken down. But nothing is static in this space of maodun, and maybe it’s more helpful for terms of agreement in peace negotiations to be seen as ‘constructive conflict’ rather than ‘peace agreement’. Therefore, does the perceived ‘deadlock’ of a ceasefire actually offer something quite different from the ‘lockdown’ of a peace agreement by allowing for exploration of ‘constructive conflict’?

Nick is a new NCPACS PhD researcher on the subject of Agonistic peace. Liesel belongs to the founding cohort of NCPACS postgraduate students, and is at the cusp of earning her doctorate degree in nonviolent discipline.

Editor encouragement:  A philosophical discussion that encourages, perhaps even begs, for participation.  Please feel free to comment below.

Chilcot Panel at Moot Court

NCPACS is hosting a panel discussion entitled ‘After Chilcot: The Social, Political and Legal Consequences of the Chilcot Report for Armed Intervention and War’.  The event will be held on Monday 1 August at 12 noon, in the Moot Court (10th floor, Richardson), with Professor Robert Patman (Political Studies), Associate Professor Lisa Ellis (Philosophy) and Mr Stephen Smith (Faculty of Law). The discussion will be chaired by Professor Kevin Clements (NCPACS). 

This Forum is an opportunity to reflect on some of the global lessons to be learned from the Chilcot report. The report systematically and comprehensively demolishes Tony Blair and George Bush’s justifications for embroiling the UK in the most disastrous war of the modern era. It also raises some fundamental questions about international criminal accountability for acts of aggression and wider questions about where the responsibility for war should lie in Westminster-style democracies. This forum will explore some of the social, political and legal consequences of Chilcot for nation states and the multilateral political and legal system.

See the poster below for further details.

Chilcot poster

What’s Wrong with Conflict Theory: It’s our liberal blind spot

What’s Wrong with Conflict Theory: It’s our liberal blind spot

Nick Tobia

In a brief presentation (delivered on 19 July 2016), NCPACS Director Kevin Clements posed the question on why peace and conflict researchers did not predict the global drift towards the Right. He decried the perplexing, meteoric rise of right wing hardliners such as Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte, the victorious Brexit discourse of “taking back control” from Brussels, and the grave consequences on a number of peace-related issues around the world. He lamented that rapid departure from an overarching discourse of inclusive cosmopolitanism, and the current slide into racism, xenophobia, prejudice and discrimination. Within these dramatic changes, peace scholarship in a nutshell finds itself flat-footed.

I offer that the “global drift” towards right-wing populism occurs within what critics of inclusive cosmopolitanism have long ago identified as the blindspot of liberalism and its various iterations. Back in 1993, a radical democratic theorist named Chantal Mouffe argued that the main shortcoming of liberalism, is that it is fundamentally not designed to decide in an undecidable terrain of modern politics. This terrain is that wherein we find a political arena of extreme plurality of identities and discourses that are not all entirely rational or reasonable. While liberalism by design always foresees a discoverable “harmonious and non-conflictual” intersection between all discourses that is obtainable through dialogue or communicative action, it is ill-prepared and shocked when confronted with irreducibly conflictual discourses. At the moment when diametrically opposed discourses leave a polity with no choice but to decide, liberalism according to Mouffe is rendered inutile because it is “blind to the specificity of the political in its dimension of conflict/decision.” By 2005, Mouffe already noted the right wing trends in European parliaments, and predicted the rise of the populist as a response to the inability of neutered and ambiguous coalition governments to definitively decide matters of importance to the polity.

Prof. Clements laments further the failings of peace scholarship in understanding emotions, the affective dimension, the mob mentality, and their consequences to peace. Mouffe and other sympathetic theorists long ago warned that the affective dimension of politics is beyond the purview of liberalism’s foundations of rationalism and individualism. The continued denial of the validity of emotions and group identifications in the political arena, does not destroy them; they simply sublimate into other forms and domains. This current era is that sublimation. That scholars like ourselves, from outside of radical democratic thought, know so little about emotions and mobs, is explained by how long we have belittled such things. Just as the liberal content of our liberal peace paradigm denies these, we too are complicit in this denials.
Now we, who identify more with the center and Left, are confronted with an emerging Right, and our first instinct is to associate these baser qualities of emotions and mobs to them. Absent-mindedly, we find ourselves belatedly doing what the Right had been doing all along on its way to generating popular support – now we are rallying around identities associated with our liberal principles, and now we are the ones drawing lines in the sand,. Except, of course, the Right is resoundingly much better at rallying around identities, and it is much better at drawing lines in the sand.

  • Nick Tobia is a research student at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago.

Oh No, Not More Bombing in Syria?

Oh No, Not More Bombing in Syria?

Kevin P Clements

 

David Cameron the British Prime Minister has just made his appeal to the House of Commons for cross party support for British bombing in Syria. He claimed to have learned from the mistakes of Iraq but his statement was eerily reminiscent of all the old arguments for the Bush/Blair military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

His primary rationale is that ISIS is a threat   to the UK because the seven disrupted plots to the UK last year were all linked to ISIS or inspired by them. He then made the argument for being there because the US and France want the UK’s help and the RAF is able to carry out “dynamic targeting” with its Brimstone Missiles and RAPTOR pod.

All of this was meant to create a “moral case for action”. “If we cannot act now when France has been attacked, when would we act?”. Mmmm who needs a Brimstone missile? I thought that fire and brimstone were the preserve of the devil!!

He then went on to argue that even though there is a political process underway “we cannot wait for that to finish before degrading Isis”… and then somewhat tendentiously argued that “ every day we wait ISIS could grow stronger”.

He then argued that the UN security council resolution authorises military action-when a close reading of the text indicates that it does not.

To try and assuage critics who worry about the aftermath of more bombing he argued that “the government has a full strategy for tackling Isis, involving military and diplomatic action. Humanitarian support is a factor too” As he put it “ Aid to Syrians in refugee camps is helping to ensure they do not need to travel to Europe.”

Once again he is extremely vague about the specifics and is using the humanitarian argument to ensure that very few Syrians end up on Europe’s doors or worse the doors of the United Kingdom.

He keeps on saying that a diplomatic solution is the right one but then says   “We cannot wait for that to happen” .

There is no acknowledgement that escalating the military action will make diplomacy more problematic.

Jeremy Corbyn posed 7 questions.

1) Will British action make a difference on the ground? Will it contribute to a war-winning strategy.

2) Can the conflict be won without troops on the ground? Would the Kurds take over, or other extremists?

3) Would there be mission creep? Can Cameron rule out troops on the ground?

4) Does the UN resolution give clear legal authorisation for action? And what is being done to cut off arms supplies to Isis? And would there be a greater risk of incidents like the shooting down of the Russian warplane this week?

5) How would this contribute to an end to the Syrian civil war?

6) What assessment has Cameron been given of the impact of air strikes on the chances of terrorist attacks in the UK? And what are the chance of civilian casualties from air strikes?7) Does Cameron accept air strikes could risk more unintended consequences?

None of these are knock out questions and Corbyn is clearly uncomfortable asking them.

Cameron answered these questions by stating that there were 70,000 moderate Syrian forces able to help and they will transform the politics on the ground! He claimed that Syria has no future as long as the caliphate exists and he was willing to accept the positive and negative consequences of his decision.

The Scottish National Party was more forthright than Corbyn , and , Angus Robertson,   stated that unless there are clear answers to the SNP’s questions about political transition and who will secure the peace the SNP will not vote for air strikes.

Interestingly Julian Lewis, the Conservative chair of the Commons defence committee, says “Isis must be beaten militarily. But air strikes need to be launched alongside ground forces. In addition he said “the claim that there are 70,000 moderate Syrian opposition fighters is a revelation to him. (He’s implying it is not true.) The West has to choose between backing Assad and backing Isis, he says.

In response Cameron said that the 70,000 figure comes from the joint intelligence committee (JIC). It is an independent figure. and that his document was cleared by the JIC. This makes me wonder who is in control here!!

Another Conservative MP Peter Lilley Peter Lilley, said he needs Cameron to convince him that the Free Syrian Army exists, and that it is not just a “rag-bag group of tribal forces with no coherent force”. There are no moderates,”

So the debate continues. Here are my thoughts.

The reality is that bombing Syria will not prevent disgruntled political actors living in Europe from engaging in lone wolf or even coordinated violent politics as acts of revenge for what they perceive as unjustifiable attacks on their homeland by foreign forces. In other words it does not make Britain and British citizens more secure it might in fact make them more insecure. If this is true   Cameron’s principle argument for deeper British military engagement fails.

The Prime Minister rests his strategic arguments on resistance from the Kurds and an assumed 70,000 moderate troops just waiting to join the fight. Turkey, the UK’s Nato ally in the region is more worried about the Kurds than they are about ISIS and have been bombing them whenever they can. All external powers claim to rely heavily on Kurdish resistance to both ISIS and Basher Assad but all are unwilling to give the Kurds a separate homeland which has to be a factor in any political outcome to this brutal conflict. In fact the Turkish government has been giving support to ISIS as long as they attack the Kurds. This is the weakest part of the Cameron argument. Apart from some vague intelligence assessment, we do not know that there are 70,000 combat capable troops in Syria that are able to seize territory and replace ISIS and Assad with a more congenial political regime . On the contrary if Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are examples to go by the successor regimes might be worse than the ones that are being replaced. If the West chooses to rely on Kurdish resistance it has to be much more critical of Turkey than is currently the case.

The Guardian has published a devastating critique of Cameron’s position from former US General John Allen . Cameron argues that there is a credible military strategy to defeat Isil in Syria as well as Iraq. As Ewan MacAskill points out, however,

“If there is, no one has told the US. In private briefings and in public testimony to Congress, a long line of senior American officers have acknowledged frustration with the battle against Islamic State. General John Allen, who was in overall charge of the US campaign in Syria and Iraq, has quit after a year.A marine commander, Lieutenant General Robert Neller, offering his best assessment of how the war is going, described it as a “a stalemate”.The US-led coalition engaged in air attacks in Syria and Iraq had by the middle of last month conducted 7,600 attacks (4,900 in Iraq and 2,700 in Syria). Their main problem is finding targets to hit. Isis has long learned the danger of deploying in mass in the open.The pilots frequently return to base without firing missiles or dropping bombs, partly they say because of fear of hitting civilians but mainly because after a year there is little left to hit. So what can the UK add? Nothing much that is not already being done by the US, France and other allies.The bombing raids do serve a useful purpose in that Isis fighters cannot move around as easily as they once did. It makes them more cautious, having to watch the sky for a drone or fighter aircraft” .

But they are not incapacitated or defeated only more cautious.

Since the UN Resolution does not specifically authorise the use of military force against ISIS Cameron   resorted to the argument of national self defence as the legitimation for the venture. This is a bit hard to argue when – apart from the two attacks on France – most European states have not been subject to direct or indirect attack from ISIS over the past 4 years.

The fact is bombing will not solve anything. It will complicate the diplomatic solution. There is nothing much left to bomb, air attacks will generate more direct and indirect suffering and more refugees, and, more importantly, it will generate more insecurity than security, which is the prime justification for British engagement in bombing. It is perpetuating a self defeating cycle of viciousness, violence and revenge.

This whole debate has little to do with resolving the Syrian crisis and everything to do with British desires to be seen as politically influential when its diplomatic influence has been diminishing since the shameful Blair years.

If the British parliament and people support UK bombing in Syria it will only serve to reinforce Britain’s diplomatic decline. It will also make it impossible for Britain to exert moral non violent leadership against all those , ISIS, the Saudis, the Gulf States, Russia , the US and France whose first option seems to be violence .

The world is desperate for some non violent and   creative problem solving rather than the application of brute force. I hope the Commons will once again vote no to more bombing in Syria.

International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth & Building Zones of Peace

International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth & Building Zones of Peace

Sylvia C. Frain

14-20 November is the 2nd International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth where youth groups and activists from different countries will be taking actions against the many ways militaries engage with the young and militarise our public spaces. Launched last year by War Resisters’ International, the event works to create a global action to demilitarize spaces of learning.

Join us this November and stand against the militarisation of youth with many others all around the world. Your voice, your nonviolent actions and events will contribute to our growing international movement!

See Inspiration for Resistance to learn more!

 

 

Create a “Zone of Peace” at your school!

During the International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of

Youth, peace researchers, scholars and students would like to encourage others across the world to think about their sites of learning and what they would like to experience there. While changing nation-states foreign policies and military budgets may seem beyond our control, creating nonviolent spaces for learning is not!

Zone of Peace/ Taunga o Rongo

In April 2014, Professor Ed Garcia, from Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, visited the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, located on the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand in Dunedin. With his inspiration and vision, students and faculty beganthe process in creating a Zone of Peace/ Taunga o Rongo around the Peace Centre’s offices. This zone includes the entire block of Castle Street, the main street leading to the campus of the University of Otago.

After much discussion, organisation and planning from staff andstudents, the Zone of Peace/ Taunga o Rongo was launch 1 August2014. Friends, partners and others joined in for the festivities,including speeches, food and live music by The Castle Blues Symposium.

Three goals we agree to pursue:

  1. Promoting a sustainable environment.
  2. Developing and maintaining non-violent interactions.
  3. Developing and giving support to this neighbourhood.

The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the Universityof Otago encourages other places of learning, higher education institutions and youth centres around the world to create their own Zones of Peace that are culturally relevant, have purpose and meaning to the students and represents the type of environment that we want for our youth and our communities.

Please feel free to contact Sylvia Frain (sylviacfrain@gmail.com) for further information or ideas in launching your own Zone of Peace!

#ZoneofPeace#YouthAgainstWar

Beyond just voice

Beyond just voice:

A stronger civil society could provide constructive solutions to the country’s political problems

Prakash Bhattarai

Oct 27, 2015- For the past 20 years, Nepal has been encountering political problems one after another and it struggles to find solutions to them. The failure of the political leadership, unnecessary foreign intervention, proliferation of identity-based movements, negative empowerment of people through rights-based movements and the lack of good governance are responsible for the deteriorating political situation in the country. The absence of a strong and vibrant civil society, particularly after the election to the first Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008, is another key factor responsible for complicating Nepali politics.

Failures of civil society

There are five particular reasons behind the inability of civil society to influence the dynamics and direction of Nepali politics. First, the current civil society has not been able to perform its role effectively. It has been led by the same people,  agendas, political baggage and actions and strategies of intervention over the past 25 years. The country has just completed a complex constitution-making process, but Nepal’s civil society was only ritualistically involved in it and it failed to pressure the political parties into incorporating the people’s voices in the statute. Multilayered conflicts and violence have made the country weak and fragile, but civil society has has not played a proactive and grounded role besides issuing press statements and calling for dialogue. The older generation of civil society do not seem to understand that press statements are ineffective in resolving the current political crisis. The civil society should instead play a proactive facilitative role to initiate sincere and result-oriented talks between the government and agitating forces. Second, the older generation of civil society members behave as a ‘group’ based on ideological orientation and party affiliation. Instead of coming together to discuss the political crisis and providing solutions, it is issuing public statements sympathising with a certain political force. An independent and impartial civil society of a democratic state cannot do so. Third, because the civil society leaders are deeply polarised and biased, their opinions are often supportive of the communities and political groups they belong to. As a result, they have gained the trust of their group but have lost credibility among other communities. Four, a sluggish and withered civil society movement was the main reason behind its loss of influence in resolving conflicts and tensions over issues in the constitution-making process. Over the past few years, civil society groups representing women, youths, Dalits and the human rights community have launched a number of symbolic and street-based campaigns to pressure the political parties to write an inclusive and widely accepted constitution but without expressing their own clear position on the matter. Moreover, these civil society movements were only conducted when the political parties were close to reaching an agreement on the constitution. Fifth, a new generation of civil society groups and leaders have been emerging at a slow pace, and they are yet to receive a wider recognition for their work, make their presence felt as effective watchdogs, and get established as an influential force. Their limitations are that they are small in number, do not yet have a genuine pro-public agenda, have limited exposure at the grassroots, and are more focused on achieving quick popularity.

The possible role

Given the high level of confrontation and lack of trust between the political parties, a stronger civil society could provide an authoritative voice to provide constructive solutions to political problems. The efforts of the parties and their leaders to solve political problems on their own may not be fruitful as they have a tendency to prioritise their personal and party interests. In such a situation, civil society could play an influential role in resolving the political crisis if it is attentive, creative, vibrant and influential. A strong civil society could come up with its own positions or alternative proposals as the political parties are dragging the country towards instability and violence because of their decisions. Many movements are taking place in the country in the name of federalism, religion, citizenship and Dalit rights. In such an environment, a strong and credible civil society could act as a mediator between the government and the agitating groups, helping them to find the middle-ground. The current members of civil society are divided as they are either for or against the multiple movements in the country instead of being an impartial actor. A strong civil society could also create enough pressure on the disputing parties through lobbying, advocacy and other countrywide campaigns. Civil society leaders could even join party politics if they are strong, popular, and credible enough among the people. However, the older generation of civil society leaders do not have enough confidence to enter party politics, and the young generation have not gained enough public trust to be able to do so.

United pressure

Citizen movements and civil society interventions that are directly targeted at key political leaders are vital to create pressure for a negotiated solution. The role of civil society organisations (CSOs) during the conflict and People’s Movement 2006 was highly appreciated by the political parties, Nepali people and the international community. Over the past eight years, CSOs have been actively involved in implementing donor-funded projects to raise people’s awareness, to guarantee their rights in the new constitution. But the CSOs have rarely collaborated to exert collective pressure on the political parties to write a people-centric constitution. So they need to work hard to regain the trust of the political parties, improve their public image and plan targeted interventions to persuade the parties to resolve the highly contested issues of the new constitution. Finally, there is need for a fresh start and new thinking to resolve disputes in the constitution. Such thinking should begin with the launching of a nationwide community-based campaign to provide answers to various questions such as how a federal governance system can bring changes in the lives of the people; why a federal governance system is inevitable as opposed to the existing local governance system; and how the construction of federal states can ensure social inclusion and equal participation of all caste and ethnic groups.

TAWANG – INDIA, VOLUNTEERING AND ART FOR CAUSE

TAWANG – INDIA, VOLUNTEERING AND ART FOR CAUSE

I have recently returned from a month in India, where I spent just 20 days in the most spectacular looking place I have ever been to. Despite the remoteness of this small town, the people are humble, friendly, spiritual, and energetic. The beauty of this place definitely makes up for the long cramped train ride, and the bumpy, unbearably long and squishy car ride. Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh state of India, is spectacular. I would go back there in a heart beat. But only if I am not paying for the journey, so i can fly to Guwahati and then take the relaxing helicopter into the town. Even though the journey was also beautiful, it was very long and arduous, If I did the trip on my own, it would be broken up by a lot of stops to explore the small towns along the way, I would have to stop to talk to people about how long they had lived in these places, because they are the type of towns where generations of families would live and would have such a rich history that I would love to learn about.

The purpose of my trip here was to volunteer with an organisation called Art For Cause, a not-for-profit based in Delhi. Art For Cause organise and run camps in remote northern India, they have previously held a camp in Tawang in 2014, and have also held a camp in Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir district for the last 2 years. During these camps, the core members and volunteers teach and mentor art and craft, music, photography, film making, and creative writing. They also planned to have a doctor come and give the kids free health check ups, but due to a dengue outbreak in Delhi, the doctor was not allowed to take leave to come out and visit the kids of Tawang.

My role for this camp was as an analyst to monitor and evaluate how they run their camps, how they are received and how they look after their volunteers. Art For Cause are a young organisation, reaching their second birthday whilst in Tawang, which we celebrated at the Mahabodhi home for young girls and elderly, where they put on an amazing dinner for us, which was a great surprise from the girls who cooked beautiful food for us. I wanted to join in with the volunteers on an Art For Cause camp to see how they ran things, and to see how I could help them go further with the work they were doing for the kids in Northern India. If this camp was successful I was hoping that we could start sending volunteers from New Zealand to help out on the camps in Tawang and Ladakh.

This trip to India was very educational and inspiring. Being able to meet the guys from Art For Cause face to face, and being able to hear their goals and aspirations, as well as from the other volunteers who worked very hard throughout the camp. It was great to hear other people talking so passionately about the rights and opportunities of children and how they should be encouraged to pursue any dream and passion they have, including art. In particular, seeing kids in schools that do not have art as part of their curriculum thriving using their imagination, and some of them really surprised us with their level of skill and talent. It was also great seeing their teachers interested in the materials being used, and what the volunteers were teaching them, and I really hope that they would took note of some of the stuff we were doing and will continue to teach them art once we left.

Seeing the struggles that Art For Cause face throughout the process of setting up camps, and meeting all the criteria the local government offices require to be able to go into government schools and teach the children outside of the curriculum was very informative. They came across many roadblocks along the way, with the most trying occurring on the second day of the camp. When the authorities told us that we no longer had permission to conduct the camp and that we had to stop hat we were doing, only half an hour into a class. However the principle of the school that we were teaching was very supportive of the camp and Art For Cause, and fought for the camp to continue. It was very interesting and encouraging to see the schools standing up for Art For Cause and for the camp to continue, it gave us a little bit of inspiration that what we were doing there was appreciated and wanted, despite politics coming into the fray and disrupting things.

My overall experience from the camp was a great one. I learnt a lot about running volunteer trips, coordinating volunteers, and dealing with the challenges that will come with working in India as a not-for-profit in a remote region. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Mahabodhi home for girls and elderly, I could not stop crying when we were saying goodbye to the girls. They were the most humble, positive kids I have met, and I really hope they can reach their goals and continue to work hard for what they want out of life, and continue with their singing and dancing, because they are so talented! Meeting the people throughout the town and community was magical, the smiles that welcomed us everywhere we went made it feel so much more homely than it already was. I cannot wait to return to Tawang one day, to see the breath taking views, and see the progress of the kids at the schools.

  • Stacey Hitchcock is a research student of NCPACS, the University of Otago. The original blog post can be found from: https://staceyhitchcock86.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/tawang-india-volunteering-and-art-for-cause/