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South Africa ‘a case study’ in resolution

A deliberately unnamed group proposing fresh opportunities to settle the island's differences held its first in an anticipated series of gatherings last night in Hamilton.

Conflict management was the theme, using the example of South Africa, as Arlene Brock, the former Bermuda ombudsman, briefed the audience of about 50.

It was a fitting occasion for Ms Brock, who is soon to travel to Durban, South Africa's second largest city, on a five-year contract with the African Ombudsman Research Centre, where she will help with the research and networking for the continent's approximately 40 national ombudsman offices.

Organisers told The Royal Gazette they had called the meeting in an effort to address social rifts laid bare by recent political events, ranging from immigration protests in March that brought out Bermuda's biggest demonstrations in years, to sharp divisions over the question of same-sex marriage.

Introducing Ms Brock, Glenn Fubler of the community group Imagine Bermuda described South Africa as offering “a case study” in resolving issues.

“This is only one way of talking — it is not the only way, but it is a tried-and-true way,” Ms Brock said, introducing the documentary on the co-operative interest-based negotiation process.

The film details South Africa's rocky transition, against many odds, from the bitter legacy of apartheid into democracy.

From the late 1980s and into the 1990s, representatives from the Conflict Management Group made frequent calls on the troubled nation to spread the co-operative interest-based negotiation philosophy. Early in her career, Ms Brock worked with the non-profit Conflict Management team — a division of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a think-tank dedicated to conflict resolution.

Group members Tulani Bulford and Stratton Hatfield presented attendees with a question to ponder: “Considering recent events in our society, how can we create a new kind of dialogue in Bermuda?”

“The power of a group like this is that we have people with honest intentions and no political agenda,” Mr Bulford said. “It's nothing personal. It's people that care about the community.

“If you're in it for the right reasons, race doesn't play a part.”

Lynne Winfield of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda described the group as a collaboration, adding: “We'll see where it goes.”

“We don't necessarily have a name; we call ourselves a group of passionate Bermudians,” Mr Hatfield said.

Calling himself “just a citizen of Bermuda”, group member Gordon Davis characterised the initiative as an effort to “invite people to a safe environment where they can share openly about what works and what does not — it may lie more in the act of listening than transmitting”.

Pamela Barit Nolan, trained in the leadership technique known as the art of hosting, said she had tried to encourage the Bermuda Government to move away from “the town hall model”, saying it tended to thwart open dialogue.

“What tends to happen is you get people that dominate the speaking and people that are afraid to speak,” she said.

“You don't actually get public consultation that way. If you create a safe container, magic can happen, and we'd like to see that magic happen in Bermuda.”

Negotiation process: from left, Pamela Barit Nolan, Arlene Brock, Glenn Fubler, Stratton Hatfield, Tulani Bulford, Lynne Winfield and Gordon Davis (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 11, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated May 11, 2016 at 8:01 am)

South Africa ‘a case study’ in resolution

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