By Bro. Peter Atta Agboso
My first contact with conflict and peace studies was at the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR). Even though it was a good program, I still felt there was something lacking; it just did not seem I achieved the more practical and fulfilling engagement in peace building that I wanted to commit myself to. Then, through the Internet, I came across SIT Graduate Institute’s CONTACT program. This program created an opportunity for me to share in others’ hopes and aspirations. Here, my dreams became real through the diversity of people I met with, the shared experiences of professionals, and the layout of the course, which enabled me to envision myself as a link within a chain of individuals helping create a better world.
While at SIT in 2009, I decided to continue my studies through the conflict transformation master’s degree program. Through CONTACT, I had met professors Tatsushi Arai and John Ungerleider, who were unique in themselves and just inspiring. Through them, I learned of the master’s degree program as a useful step in enhancing my ability to develop effective strategies in becoming more explicit about the underlying assumptions of peacebuilding. After the graduate program at SIT, I was convinced I had taken a leap out beyond where I was, and to a future I had long imagined. From SIT, I first worked with an NGO (The Development Institute) as the programs director for Human and Environmental Security, a very demanding position. SIT made my vision grow as I did, a dynamic process that has motivated me.
Through an advert in the national dailies, I applied to the Public Services Commission for the post of district executive secretary of the National Peace Council. After two weeks, I was called by the secretary to the commission to ask if I wanted to be promoted to the post of regional executive secretary. The offer was based, I was told, on my performance at the interview and my commitment to peace. Apart from the knowledge, experience, and skills I have developed over the years, the interviewing skills I learned from Career Services staff has been one of the greatest factors in this promotion.
In September 2013, I was appointed regional executive secretary for the Eastern Region of Ghana by the president. In this position, I am to provide strategic leadership, professional advice, and administrative support to the Regional Coordinating Council in preventing, reducing, and managing conflict and to act as secretary to the Regional Security Council. SIT has enhanced my capacity to analyze conflict, develop strategies for intervention, and develop the skills for dialogue, negotiation, and embracing and instilling in conflicting parties non-violent approaches to conflict.
SIT has oriented me into a particular direction that focuses on transformative change. Stories of creative breakthroughs shared during the CONTACT phase have enhanced the kind of thinking that is helpful and being called for. In my professional work, SIT has helped me create a non-threatening space that enhances group ideas, which will be better than any of our ideas alone put together in providing strategic leadership, professional advice, and administrative support in my deliberations and dialogue for conflict-handling methodologies and transformative change.