The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution is intended as a resource for students, teachers and practitioners in fields relating to the reduction and elimination of conflict. It desires to be a free, yet valuable, source of information to aid anyone trying to work toward a less violent and more cooperative world.

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An OJPCR interview with Erin McCandless and Eric Abitbol, Co-Editors of Cantilevers

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OJPCR: The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution

An interview with Erin McCandless and Eric Abitbol, Co-Editors of Cantilevers

For a printer-friendly version, click here.

OJPCR: What is Cantilevers?

Erin & Eric: We are a conflict transformation global publication forum, published bi-annually and circulated in over 100 countries of the North and Global South. We aim to raise awareness of issues, tools, strategies and good practice cases about the transformation of conflict and building of peace. Entering our third year of publication, we operate as a consortium based in Canada, the United States, and South Africa, while our authors and local partners are found in regions of conflict around the world.

Cantilevers is a youth initiative, co-ordinated and designed by two editors from Montreal and Washington, DC. The authors involved in the publication are youths (18-35) sharing their strategies, fresh ideas and local experience in an effort to broaden debates around critical themes of conflict transformation.

We are currently producing our forthcoming volume 6, The Identity Dimension: Policy and Process in Northern Ireland and Quebec. It is an opportunity for young people from these regions of conflict to inform the policy-making process while sharing their peacemaking experience with a wider global audience. Cantilevers reaches a culturally and geographically diverse audience of peacemakers, policymakers, educators and students, journalists as well as a wider international public. Ensuring democratic access to peace-related tools and information, Cantilevers maintains a selected complimentary distribution scheme in the Global South.

Our previous issues are:

  • Vol.1 What is Peace? (Israelis and Palestinians)
  • Vol.2 Peace Paths in a Multicultural World (India/Bangladesh/Tibet/Burma)
  • Vol.3 Transforming Relationships, Building Peace…Reconciliation in South Africa
  • Vol.4 Community Development in Southern Africa: Sustaining Peace and Preventing Conflict
  • Vol.5 Interacting with Faith in Africa: Religion and Spirituality, Conflict and Peace

Subsequent to our current volume 6, our intentions are to produce volume 7, Confronting Challenges: Israelis and Palestinians Building Peace. Most international media sources provide only general information about peace processes and death tolls following bombing in the region. Our aim is to make it possible for people in the region who are stepping outside the stereotypes and overcoming the recent legacy of demonisation to publish reflections on their experience of working together. Their challenge is certainly greater than ours, so our intentions are to make it a little easier for them to let the world know that not all Palestinians and Israelis hate each other and that there are alternative paths to peacemaking than the struggling First Track processes.

What led you to start Cantilevers?

Both of us have worked for numerous non-profit organisations and research centres internationally, which gave us experience in designing and participating in various conflict resolution and human and minority rights related activities. From our experiences we felt that a lot of experience and strategy-sharing is not sufficiently built upon, with many critical peacemaking approaches remaining no more than forgotten ideas. When peacemakers come together and spend quality time in weekend workshops, they often return to hectic lifestyles and all the great ideas are shuffled under stacks of other ideas. We felt there was a need for an archival resource which could document peacemaking experiences, strategies, and theories - a place for practice and theory to meet, for strategies, knowledge, and networking to develop.

What are your goals with the publication?

Working from the assumption that meaningfully interacting theory and practice will most effectively contribute to the project of peace and human development, Cantilevers generates awareness and dialogue about how peacebuilding and conflict transformation are conceptualised, operationalised, and evaluated. Cantilevers works from the assumption that local and indigenous knowledge and strategies offer effective directions for transformation and that this knowledge can be shared towards the development of more appropriate theories and responses to conflict and the denial of the right to development. Cantilevers also provides an ongoing exploration of the transferability of skills and knowledge between regions and sectors.

Cantilevers works from the assumption that efforts must be made to facilitate the extensive participation of civil society in the design and implementation of peace and development processes to assure their success. Authors are primarily peacemakers from less well represented groups and sectors of civil society who are parties to conflict dynamics and/or stakeholders in peace. Cantilevers is then strategically distributed within the conflict-issue region and internationally to policy-makers who have the power to affect change on thematic and regional peace issues.

Given the relative poverty of accessible media and educational materials on the subject of conflict transformation and its relationship to sustainable development, Cantilevers highlights what peacemakers are actually doing, thereby providing an opportunity for a wider public audience to learn about conflict, its transformation and prevention from sources that are directly involved. In so doing, it aims to overcome the detrimental effects of demonization, enemy images and other sources of psychological distance that sustain the cleavages which define divided societies and protracted social conflicts, and where the injustices of continued under-development are reproduced.

Building on the theoretical and practical assumption that experience and information sharing is a consciousness-raising and peace-promoting tool, Cantilevers brings together agents of conflict transformation and sustainable development, namely ideas, people and resources towards the effective co-ordination of responses.

To advance these aims, we pursue strategies that include:

  • fostering dialogue - building bridges
  • promoting new voices, concepts and tools
  • building networks
  • targeting distribution
  • training peacemakers in editing and publishing

What elements of your education and experience have been helpful?

Erin's academic work (BA, M.Sc., and ongoing Ph.D. work) has been in the area of peace and conflict resolution, which has been a critical foundation for my work as an editor. In addition to creating a space where I could study the theories and practices of peacebuilding and conflict transformation, development, human rights, and other critical subjects, it ensures that I have access to the most current academic and policy thinking in key areas that Cantilevers addresses. Working from the philosophy that theory and practice critically inform each other and provide the needed dynamism to keep both honest, I am in my element and privileged to be doing both simultaneously.

In order to facilitate the evolution of Cantilevers, Eric chose to defer further academic pursuits. Having already successfully completed a BA in Political Science (McGill) and an MSc in International Relations (London School of Economics), my intentions were to root the theoretical experience that I had acquired in a project that served as a catalyst to conflict transformation. We needed a full-time Cantilevers presence in order to develop the publication process and I chose to take the opportunity to engage communities around the world using electronic communication. The publication process was immensely facilitated by experience I had acquired both at university, as the news editor of an alternative weekly, as a researcher for an international NGO based in the UK, as well as the consultancy work I continue to provide as a way to finance some of my activities.

Both of us have extensive experiences travelling and working internationally - Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. This has been, along with the motivating peace and justice values that we both maintain, perhaps the greatest influence in our work. Traveling has allowed us to develop invaluable contacts and friends, memorable experiences, and rich understandings about peoples, places, conflict causes and ways in which people from different countries, working at all levels seek to develop positive peace within their societies.

Cantilevers started as a laptop adventure over the course of a year's traveling in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. What started as a somewhat crazy adventure (producing a newsletter out of a backpack!) soon gained incredible momentum. People all over really respected our verve, and invited us into their lives and work. This provided incredible opportunities for us to capture important stories in the regions of conflict that we were in. These very personal experiences embedded the project with meaning, value and personal truth that could not have been developed from a desk in DC or Montreal.

Subscription information for Cantilevers

Individual: US$25 / C$30 / UK£20

Institutional US$50 / C$60 / UK£40

Contact Erin or Eric for more information

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