Interpeace Director-General talks peacebuilding in one of the least privileged areas of Stockholm

23 mars, 2010

The Director-General of Interpeace, Scott M. Weber, attended an event at the Ross-Tensta Gymnasium in the SpÄnga-Tensta city district of Stockholm to talk about peacebuilding in conflict-affected societies.

The event gathered students, teachers and the management of the school, together with representatives of the Swedish business community. It was organized by Mr. Tord Magnuson, member of the international board of the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO).

The city district of SpÄnga-Tensta is one of the least privileged areas of Stockholm
According to 2008 official figures, 85.9% of the population of Tensta is of non-Swedish origin – a rate three times higher than the capital’s average. Tensta has unfortunately been challenged by high levels of unemployment and crime as well as an alarming drop-out rate in the local schools. An impressive effort by the community and the city government was undertaken to turn around these trends. This city district has developed a long-term model for helping children and young people at risk.

Tensta Gymnasium partnered with the Ross Institute in New York
In addition, the city’s main school, the Tensta Gymnasium, developed a strategic partnership with the Ross Institute in New York to develop and implement a comprehensive re-development of the school and its curriculum.

The re-named Ross-Tensta Gymnasium opened its doors in 2003. “Its curriculum represents an innovative way of integrating students from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds and aims at giving the students a holistic learning experience. The curriculum at the Ross-Tensta Gymnasium is based on cultural history, and integrates the arts, writing, literature, health and well-being, as well as computer technology through this historical lens. The objective of the curriculum is to create culturally sensitive, technology-oriented and creative leaders for tomorrow.”

Once the target of graffiti and vandalism, the school is now a source of pride for the students.

This cooperation also extended to a comprehensive architectural re-design of the school environment and the provision of state of the art equipment for the students, the library and the teaching staff.

Student body committed to respect for diversity and importance of dialogue in conflict resolution
Scott M. Weber was very impressed by both the school and the student body’s commitment to the respect for diversity and the importance of dialogue in conflict resolution. He met with a young group of current and former students, all of Somali origin, that have formed a successful community crime reduction effort in cooperation with the city administration and the police.

“The Ross-Tensta Gymnasium partnership is a great example of how the participation of the local community in the decision-making process is so important to achieving success – especially when it is on issues that concern the community most. The same is true in Interpeace’s peacebuilding efforts around the world. This approach can create the ownership, pride and dignity that are crucial. In the Tensta case the area of focus is the education of their children.”
Scott M. Weber, Director-General, Interpeace

Addressing the challenges in peacebuilding
Scott M. Weber gave a talk to an assembled group of students, many originally from the Somali Region, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, as well as Swedish business leaders, on the challenges of building peace in conflict-prone societies. In his speech, he underlined the importance of building trust and tolerance between social groups that have been warring for decades. He spoke about the importance of involving all sides of a conflict in helping to find a common solution and how solutions cannot be imposed from outside. Rather, to be sustainable, such solutions must be truly owned by the society itself. He noted the close partnership that Interpeace has enjoyed with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in carrying out this approach to peacebuilding around the world.

An atmosphere of creative thinking
Tord Magnuson, the organizer of the event said: “I was thrilled to have Scott talk at the Ross-Tensta Gymnasium community. I believe Interpeace’s impressive work can inspire the students and the teachers in their efforts to create a more cohesive community and to prepare the leaders of tomorrow.” He went on to say, “Scott also impressed the WPO members and their families, and the whole event developed an atmosphere of creative thinking which is likely to create ongoing exchanges between the groups attending the evening”.

Interpeace and Ross-Tensta Gymnasium to explore ways to work together
Interpeace and the Ross-Tensta Gymnasium will now explore ways to further develop an institutional relationship, an effort that would include periodic seminars on peacebuilding processes around the world and, potentially, the mentoring of a student-led peacebuilding team at the school. Interpeace recently donated to the Ross-Tensta Gymnasium library a full collection of material on the Somali Region and its long-term work to build peace in the area.