People’s identities are multi-layered—giving us various possible points of connection with another person. Stereotypes obscure those possibilities, as Afghan Taliban negotiators found when they talked with an Indian-American Muslim diplomat named Tamanna Salikuddin. Tamanna tells how she seeks individuals’ identities to build the trust for negotiations.
Cuban-American-European mediator Juan Diaz-Prinz says cultural competence means understanding not simply cultures but people and their values—honoring both a community and an individual. It means creating a space with another person in which they can safely talk about problems and seek ways with you to address them.
We accept our need to show cultural respect. But Brazilian psychotherapist Kerley Most says West Africa taught her the difference between learning a culture and absorbing it. She notes the extraordinary value of correcting our mistakes. While as guests we’re often given a pass on cultural norms, that’s a privilege we should try to decline.
Tom Price has built a career helping marginalized communities—from Native American tribes to hurricane-ravaged towns to locales facing the Ebola virus in Liberia. He warns himself, and us, against the temptation of the outside benefactor to imagine that, because we have resources and privileges, we also have the solution to a community’s problem.
How do we build trust across cultural divides? USIP’s Leanne Erdberg Steadman has spent years seeking trust across the most painful of chasms—with former violent extremists in the Middle East and Africa. She shares a story of what she’s learned.
Any relationship is shaped by a first meeting. To prepare those encounters, USIP trainer and cross-cultural expert Stephen Moles suggests we go beyond what’s in the rule books. Stephen suggests an approach for this work that he’s built from experience in more than 65 countries.
Burning Man Project’s Kim Cook has—literally—danced on the cross-cultural divide. She recalls lessons in cultural competence from her work in creative enterprises like theater and hip-hop. (And one day … there was that chocolate cupcake.) For Kim, humble persistence is the way to overcome our inevitable gaps in cultural understanding.
Laurette Bennhold Samaan was born with roots in three distinct cultures. But even as a multicultural native, she says, her missteps have taught her how cross-cultural competency is never fully natural, and cannot be reduced to formulas. Identity, context and humility are critical, she says.
This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the uprising that overthrew the four-decade dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi. In the intervening decade, Libya has been mired in conflict and political gridlock, exacerbated by competing power centers and longstanding tribal hostilities. What’s more, a host of foreign powers have entered the fray, looking to pursue their own interests rather than build a peaceful Libya. While there is momentum toward peace in recent months, Libyans will have to decide for themselves how to arrive at reconciliation and build a roadmap to get to a sustainable peace. But what does that look like?
When American politicians want to temper voter’s concerns over U.S. military commitments overseas, many employ perhaps the most worn-out foreign policy cliché: “The United States cannot police the world.” After all, the United States has neither the capacity nor a compelling national interest in putting boots on the ground to resolve every global crisis. But, this begs the question: Who will step forward when boots on the ground are needed?