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Q&A With Matthew Hodes, J.D. Former Director, Carter Center Conflict Resolution Program

How has the nature of conflict changed in the past decade?

Many of the governments and nations sustained by Cold War patronage are now facing internal opposition as they attempt to adapt to the new world order. While several of the current conflicts cross borders and involve multiple state actors, these conflicts also often have ethnic, religious, and/or other identity-based roots. No longer are conflicts simply over natural resources or borders. Present-day conflicts often touch issues of the existence and security of a people.

Have these changes created a greater role for nongovernmental organizations in conflict resolution?

Understood to be free of political or partisan positions, NGOs have been able to gain access and entry, build relationships, and offer conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation services in situations where more formal diplomacy has not been immediately welcomed. NGOs that have been able to provide humanitarian or development assistance to war-torn countries may have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for more in-depth conflict resolution initiatives.

What is the Carter Center's special role as a nongovernmental organization in conflict resolution?

In contrast to governments mediating conflicts, nongovernmental organizations such as The Carter Center can act unofficially and often more quietly and flexibly. The Carter Center stands out from other NGOs because we approach conflicts at the highest levels of leadership, working directly with heads of state. We bridge the gap between governmental high-level mediation and lower-level unofficial mediation by other nongovernmental organizations. Our role as an honest broker of peace agreements falls between countries' official diplomacy and unofficial peace-building supporting agreements.

We say that we "monitor" conflicts around the world.  How does The Carter Center do this?

With the help of volunteers, interns, a busy staff, and a network of other conflict resolution professionals, we follow the development of many conflicts from the earliest signs of trouble to warfare, negotiations, and settlement. Friends of the Carter Center write to raise our awareness of conflict situations. We also appreciate our interns, who gather media reports from around the world and write updates. In addition, we keep abreast of developments in many regions by consulting with colleagues around the world.

What is President Carter's role in the work of the Conflict Resolution Program?

President Carter's involvement in conflict resolution depends on the type of conflict and how we approach the conflict. For many of our initiatives, President Carter plays an active and essential central role, such as mediating between the presidents of Sudan and Uganda to develop the Nairobi Agreement. For other initiatives, President Carter stays informed of our work and is ready to respond if he is called upon.

Refer to International Activities to learn where the Center is waging peace and building hope.

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