How to solve a water conflict? Why do conflicts occur due to climate change? These are some of the questions discussed during two workshops delivered by researchers from The Hague Institute at the World Forum on 25 June. The workshops, each attended by close to 100 high school students from all over the world, were part of the annual Global Student Leaders Summit hosted by Education First.
The workshop titled “Conflicts in Paradise: Climate Change and Small Island States” was organized and facilitated by researcher Ting Zhang. Connecting the phenomenon of climate change to the idyllic small island states, Zhang showed the students how the vulnerable populations and the economies of these states are impacted by sea level rise, droughts and storms. Using the case study of Zanzibar, from The Hague Institute’s ongoing project, Zhang demonstrated how severe the problem may become and how participatory planning can be used to both make the islands more resilient to climate change and to prevent conflicts.
Students engaged in small-group role play exercises where they took up the roles of a variety of stakeholders affected by climate change, who are also at (potential) conflict with one another. The outputs of the group exercise were the stakeholders’ grievances and the potential win-win solutions they have come up with. The students found this interactive workshop to be an eye-opening experience that has made the “climate change they see in the everyday news” more tangible to them, while being brought closer to a seemingly distant problem through discussions based on real-life situations.
The workshop titled “How to become a water diplomat?” was organized and facilitated by researcher Rens de Man. The workshop consisted of various forms of interaction between the trainer and the students, including case studies on Yemen, the water conflict between Israel and Palestine, movie clips, interactive discussions and a roleplay which all brought to light various aspects of preventing and solving conflicts through negotiation.
De Man opened the session by discussing with the students what conflicts exactly are and what conflicts the students have experienced with their parents, friends and teachers. Next, the students learned through the plenary discussions and movie clips about the complexity of solving water-related conflicts. Then the basics of negotiating were introduced and students learned about the difference between position and interests, about the importance of being aware of cultural differences and about what to accept and what not at the negotiation table. Through exercises the students were made aware of the essential skills needed in negotiations. Finally, the session was concluded with a custom-made role play in which the students skilfully and very enthusiastically applied all the lessons they learned during the day.
The students became more intrigued and enthusiastic in the subjects as the sessions progressed, which was demonstrated through the challenging questions they posed. The researchers enjoyed the interaction with the students as their open minded questions brought the debate into unexpected horizons. The workshops took place in parallel with nine other human rights themed workshops led by international experts.