Shifting the Status Quo Thinking


ICHD strives to promote environment in the region conducive for effective conflict transformations and peace building.

The conflict over Nagorno Karabakh (NK) recharged on the last years of the former Soviet Union and soon escalated into a large scale armed conflict that took lives of thousands on both sides. The “hurting stalemate” brought a Russia mediated cease fire in May 1994. Since than the political leaders of conflicting parties heavily negotiate to resolve the Conflict over Nagorno Karabakh (NK) under the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Cochairmen. Meanwhile, even on the eighth year after the cease-fire agreement, the societies and elites of the countries affected by the conflict lack confidence in each other and feel distrust to any proposal that would suggest compromises for peace. The thinking prevails that the peace agreement would not bring a lasting peace but would rather transform the ephemeral stability of the status quo settled after the cease-fire into a fragile peace simply to be followed by a new cycle of more bloody warfare. Such “status quo” thinking hinders any effective peace building forcing the peace-builder to route after a while. ICHD considered that prior to engaging civil society in the region into an effective dialogue on the conflict and peace; the “status quo” thinking shall be really challenged to open the room for dynamic thinking of opportunities.


With this vision, ICHD focused firstly on shaping favourable public opinion environment in 2002, building skills of journalists from three countries in the region, which would enable the media to challenge the “status quo” through social communication. Supported by the Council of Europe, ICHD conducted two regional trainings for 14 Armenian, Azeri and Georgian journalists in mid-2002.

The training curricula aimed at raising the knowledge of the journalists on the stereotypes and myths over the conflict. ICHD transferred skills of dealing with problems, conflicts, process management, framing, peace building, relationship building, difficult conversations, effective communication, leadership, and persuasion to the journalists from three countries.

The training provided a hands-on experience as well. After the interactive sessions the journalists chose a relevant topic, practiced or discussed a real case representing this topic and suggested possible solutions. The journalists have been exposed to a tool called Currently Perceived Choice (CPC) enabling them to think and practice reframing of conflicting issues into possible gains for the others side/decision maker.

After enhancing media partners, ICHD focused on policy makers and political elites in the conflicting societies. ICH joined the consortium of several think tanks and NGOs with the London Information Network on Conflicts and State-Building (LINKS) as a lead partner in the Consortium Initiative, supported by the British Government’s Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) in 2003-2004. LINKS is a British non-governmental organization working for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and in support of democracy and sustainable development in societies in transition, through dialogue and innovative initiatives.

ICHD and its partner in Azerbaijan, the National Centre for Strategic Initiatives (NCSI), engaged the policy makers and political leaders into a process aiming at changing the “status quo” thinking among the elites. Both ICHD and NCSI organized ten discussions over various issues of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. ICHD consolidated the results of each off-the-record discussion into its Policy Briefs and disseminated among its partners in the government, civil society and businesses. The teams of experts of the partners met in London, Kiev and Brussels to convey a comprehensive analysis of the peace process.

ICHD considered that the allegory of arts and performance would be the best instruments to challenge the “status quo” thinking of the large audience of citizens in 2005. Supported by the LINKS, ICHD sponsored the staging of a play by A.Grigoryan and M.Marinosyan, a story of two prisoners - an Armenian and Azeri - who had escaped from jail somewhere in Syberia. Human morality, tolerance and compromising are the preconditions for the moral victory which is achieved over the complicated political and social environment - this was the key message of the play. The play has been included in the repertoire of Stanislavski State Theatre and performed year after year.

Following its vision of challenging the “status quo” thinking, ICHD next focused on the least confident audience, who bears the suffer of both the conflict and its consequences till now. With physical security as the ultimate priority and concern, the thinking and attitudes of the people of Nagorno Karabakh Republic on the conflict and the patterns of its transformation are perhaps the most controversial in the entire region. On one hand, the people of NKR are deprived from many fundamental rights due to the unresolved conflict including the freedom of free movement and right for fully fledged internationally guaranteed security. On the other hand, the people of NKR compensate the lack of access to these fundamental rights through ephemeral mechanism. Any change of the status quo puts at risk the ephemeral mechanisms and status ensuring at least certain level of protection of their human rights, particularly their security. Thus, the people in NKR are the most sensitive to any change, , even the most dynamic and promising  change, challenging these mechanisms ephemeral.

ICHD, supported by UK based Conciliation Recourses, engaged local leaders of Karabakh civil society into a dialogue on trust, negotiations, identity and conflict transformation in early 2006. ICHD experts trained 12 civil society leaders at the Stepanakert Resource Center, NKR, transferring them skills required to engage in the conflict transformation process.

In four years ICHD has implemented various projects challenging the “status quo” thinking of the societies in the region of conflict. The Center accumulated an extensive experience through this process, targeting different beneficiaries, working with various partners, creating tools and practices, and the most important – learning lessons. Through its work ICHD realized that achieving leadership change on conflict transformation can achieved only through a collective endeavor of a broader network of local partners in the region. The experience and best practices of ICHD and other institutions working on the peace process would be catalytic in this process if consolidated and exposed to a broader audience of civil society institutions and individuals.

With this understanding, ICHD and its UK based partner Conciliation Resources prepared and presented the review of peace initiatives in the successive 17th issue of ACCORD magazine: “The limits of leadership: elites and societies in the Nagorny Karabakh peace process” in late January 2006. The publication featured contributors from various constituencies. It presents perspectives on the peace process and analyses of the impacts of the conflict.



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