erik cleven '87
In two to three sentences, please describe what your current position entails.
I facilitate interethnic dialogue with groups from the former Yugoslavia. I also teach conflict resolution and mediation to organizations and at certain colleges in Norway, responsibility for the Nansen Dialogue Network's monitoring and evaluation team. Additional duties of mine include project management.
What has been your career path to date?
St. Olaf College, 1983-1987. University of Oslo 1989-1992 (MSc in Biology) Outdoor Education training 1992-1994 Director of Norwegian Peace Center 1994-2000 Centre for Peacebuilding and Conflict Management 2000-2004 Nansen Dialogue Network 2004- I have also taught three interims at St. Olaf College in 2004, 2005, and 2006 on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management
Which country(ies) has your work taken you to?
Norway, Russia, Chechnya, Former Yugoslavia, Great Lakes Region in Africa - including Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, D.R. Congo
How did your interest in working internationally develop?
I was active in the peace movement in the '80s while at St. Olaf and also in anti-apartheid work. I chose to study biology because I thought it would be more relevant to the kind of political work I wanted to do. In 1994 a position at the Norwegian Peace Center opened up and I realized that this was a way that I could work full time with my interest in peacebuilding.
Which parts of your St. Olaf education best prepared you to work internationally?
My involvement in student organizations and political movements. Also an off campus interim I went on in 1986 to East and West Germany called "Encounter with the two Germanies". In general, though, getting a solid general liberal arts education has proven to be very useful.
What is the most difficult or challenging aspect about working internationally?
Getting funding for the work. I have spent probably 60-70% of my time prior to joining the Nansen Dialogue Network on fundraising. Right now I do not have responsibility for that , but it is a constant concern for non-governmental organizations that work internationally. Dialogue and peace work costs money, and though governments and agencies say they support it, it is often a challenge to secure the funding it takes.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working internationally?
To broaden ones horizons and identity in a way that connects you to other parts of the world. When I read the newspapers about conflicts in certain regions of the world it is not just abstract news but news about friends. Also the people that I have had the privilege to know and work with are the best thing.
What does being a “global citizen” mean to you?
I suppose understanding that what happens in other parts of the world affects us and that we can't just sit in our own corner of the world and not get involved in what is happening in other places. Also that many of today's problems demand international solutions if we are to survive, like climate change.
What advice would you offer current students interested in working internationally?
As far as your St. Olaf education is concerned: learn a world language like French, Spanish, Arabic or Chinese (I didn't...), learn everything you can about history and politics, get involved now in student organizations and be adventurous. If you want to work internationally in peace or development issues be prepared to be on board for a long time. You will accomplish nothing in less than a ten year perspective. Also learn to listen. People locally have the answers to their own problems. It is not your job to bring solutions, only to facilitate the opportunity to find them.
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