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									                                                                                                                                                                columnists | communication
J.J. Messner


The Importance of Understanding
in a Multi-Stakeholder
Reconstruction Effort
                                                          Everyone wants to find a solution, whatever that solution may be. Photo: Fred W. Baker III/U.S.A.F.

         ESPITE the marvels of modern             companies. (Note “allegation,” as the                   of due diligence and perhaps discover the
         technology making communica-             veracity or context of the claims was                   point of view of the other side. Much
         tion better than ever, it is             apparently immaterial to the letter’s                   easier, apparently, clearly to simply recycle

                                                                                                                                                                journal of international peace operations | volume 5 | number 6 | may-june 2010
remarkable how little communication               authors.)                                               what someone had read on an obscure
actually occurs when it should. As a                                                                      blog. (An interesting side note was that
society, we manage to Twitter the world           Now, like nearly any organization with an               after discovering the letter, IPOA reached
that we are off to the corner shop to get a       ounce of publicity, IPOA is used to                     out to all the organizations listed; the only
loaf of bread. But many of us are                 criticism. After all, IPOA has been                     response received was a helpful sugges-
apparently incapable of interlocution             lambasted in the press, grilled in front of             tion that it was a free country and IPOA
regarding such highfalutin things as              Congressional committees and has even                   could write its own letter to Secretary
policy.                                           had its front doors barricaded by Code                  Clinton.)
                                                  Pink on occasion. But here’s the differ-
On March 30, a group of 16 organizations          ence. In almost every instance, members                 But why is this important? Why is so
and two individuals, sent a letter to             of the mainstream press, Congressional                  much energy being expended on a letter
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton                staff and even protesters have at the very              by a collection of organizations that we’ve
complaining about IPOA. The letter was            least entered a dialogue.                               never heard of?
essentially a reaction to two things: first,
IPOA’s much-publicized Haiti web page,            A dialogue between those who disagree is                One can only imagine that the authors
which was established immediately after           not about one side having to necessarily                and signatories of the letter have only the
the earthquake to provide a listing of            agree with the other’s viewpoint. On a                  best of intentions for Haiti and its people
essential products and services that its          meta-level, a dialogue can at least allow               as the reconstruction effort proceeds.
members could offer at short notice to            one side to understand the point of view                With some simple communication, we
governments and aid organizations                 of the other side. On a more basic level, it            could all have discovered plenty of shared
seeking to participate in the relief effort;      can allow one side to realize that what                 middle ground and positive intentions. As
and second, IPOA’s even more publicized           they’re saying about the other side is just             it is, the letter’s intent was based signifi-
conference (organized in conjunction with         plain i
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