Nancy Erbe: Fulbright Senior Specialist in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution
Nancy Erbe’s expertise in peace studies and conflict resolution took her to the University of Nicosia and Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Famagusta, Cyprus in May as a Fulbright Senior Specialist. The associate professor of negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding (NCRP) at California State University, Dominguez Hills was asked to provide bicommunal education for the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities that are in conflict over the reunification of the island.
Erbe’s colleague A. Marco Turk helped to lay the academic groundwork for bicommunal movement, structure of government, security, human rights, social issues, and economic issues in the late 1990s.
“I was warmly welcomed by [former] mediation students—many successful professionals, including a prominent human rights lawyer, who speak eloquently and enthusiastically about Dr. Turk’s contribution to Cyprus,” says Erbe. “Dr. Turk focused on teaching mediation to bicommunal groups of lawyers and other professionals. As a result, two mediation associations formed. One started a highly active mediation center, going so far as to hold an international conference on conflict in schools.”
During her visit to Cyprus, Erbe sought to further discuss the concepts of peacebuilding to students of international relations at both universities. She delivered a lecture titled, “Introduction to Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding for Future Diplomats and Leaders in Government” and led a research seminar on “Conflict Resolution and Peace Building at the California State University.”
“Many [EMU students] are from war-torn societies in the Middle East, Africa and the former Soviet Union,” says Erbe. “They were wholeheartedly engaged in discussing negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.”
Erbe shared approaches for transforming intergroup conflict with a diverse audience of faculty and professionals including United Nations and European Union staff. She attended a reception at the United States Embassy in Cyprus and participated in a Socrates Café session where community members including youth from both the Greek and Turkish sides of decades-old conflict discussed common concerns for the people of the region such as requisite qualities of leadership. Erbe also visited with Dilek Latif, assistant professor of international relations at Near East University in Nicosia. The Fulbright Scholar and native Cypriot visited CSU Dominguez Hills in 2007 as a guest lecturer in the NCRP program. Her landmark work is a shared history project with Greek Cypriot faculty to write a balanced and complete history for high school texts.
While at EMU, Erbe gave lectures at graduate seminars on research methods, theories and models of decision making in crisis, a case study in transforming climate through reflective practice, troubleshooting, and conflict analysis by parties in conflict. She says that she was deeply impressed by the ongoing efforts on both sides toward a peaceful future. Although she looks forward to writing about her experiences, she says that the most significant remembrance of her work in Cyprus is “an intimate awareness of the tragedies that can quickly result from national politics.”
“One should never underestimate the damage that the worst of destructive intergroup dynamics can create, and work to do whatever one can... to eradicate superiority-inferiority posturing and hatred,” she says.
Erbe says that she was also struck by the contrast of Cyprus’s natural beauty and popularity as a vacation spot against a landscape left in ruins by the country’s violent past.
“When I went through Heathrow [Airport], I would meet person after person from Britain who owned property in Cyprus; it was their favorite vacation spot,” she recalls. “I [stayed] in Famagusta, next to the ghost town where the  bombing happened and Greek Cypriots fled in order to save their lives. You read about the conflict and the war and all, and it’s hard to put together sometimes. How can you swim with these bombed-out buildings behind you?”
On her last night in Cyprus, Erbe was asked to hold a conflict resolution workshop. She hopes it will be the beginning of more workshops facilitated by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots who assisted her.
“Many of those who attended had not been involved in prior meetings so it appeared to be a fresh audience eager for dialogue and relationship building,” she says. “Around 65 participants, [who were] equally divided between the Greek and Turkish communities, spoke strongly about the importance of this work in Cyprus [and] the pain felt by those going through military checkpoints to visit former homes, the need for healing, and their shared commitment to creating a future for their children.”
For more information on the Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.
- Joanie Harmon