Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation 2017


ICCS students join forces with conflict practitioners for annual training programme

In March 2017, the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security hosted its fourth annual training programme on ‘Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation’ at the University of Birmingham. The programme brought together current students with delegates from around the world, including from the Czech Republic, Nepal and the United States, to learn about the different approaches to conflict resolution in International Relations.

Delegates benefited from a range of theoretical insights, practical workshops and in depth discussions from scholars and experts in mediation and peace-building. Conflict transformation practitioner Joan McGregor led two days of dedicated communication skills training, which was identified by many as the highlight of the week.

The keynote address this year was delivered by Alan Charlton, the former UK Ambassador to Brazil, who talked about his experiences of the challenges of contemporary diplomacy. Alan helps with training for diplomats and civil servants on political and negotiating skills at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and offered a number of insights into the diplomatic process.

The week culminated in a Harvard Role Play on ‘The Future of Hebron’, which used an historical case study to explore whether cooperation can be developed and achieved in scenarios of extreme conflict and hostility. The delegates were split into groups to assume the identities of warring factions, each trying to achieve their own objectives. The exercise provided an opportunity to put the week’s theoretical training into practice, with illuminating results.

The ICCS team would like to extend their thanks to the speakers, volunteers, and delegates whose contributions made the event possible. The next training programme will be held from 16-20 April 2018 and registration will open in October 2017. For further information, contact Dr Tereza Capelos:

Special Guest

Keynote: Alan Charlton CMG CVO

Alan Charlton was British Ambassador to Brazil from 2008-2013, a time when the British Government was making a major effort to develop its relationship with Brazil. Before that he was Deputy Ambassador to the United States (2004-2008) and Deputy Ambassador to Germany (1998-2000).  He also served in Berlin before, during and after the Fall of the Wall and dealt throughout his career with issues relating to the Middle East. He was Deputy Chief of the Cabinet Office Assessments Staff during the Iraq-Kuwait war before his most challenging appointment as a Head of Department leading on policy at the FCO on Former Yugoslavia from 1993-1996. He was the Deputy of the UK Delegation at the Dayton Peace conference on Bosnia in 1995. He was made a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1996 and a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 2007.


Tereza Capelos is Senior Lecturer in political psychology at the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security and Programme Director for the Global Cooperation and Security MSc. Her research focuses on the affective, cognitive and motivational determinants of political judgments. She is particularly interested in the role of emotions and values on political radicalization and tolerance, the formation and updating of institutional and individual reputations and the role of trust and confidence on political accountability attributions.

David Hastings Dunn is Professor of International Politics. Between August 2012 and August 2016 he was Head of Department in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is currently on research leave completing projects on various aspects of unmanned aerial systems usage. Since 2000 he has served as Chairman of the West Midlands Military Education Committee. From 1982-85 he was a member of Liverpool University Air Squadron. He is the author and editor of 4 books and over 80 book chapters and academic articles. His article “Assessing the Debate, Assessing the Damage: Transatlantic Relations After Bush” was awarded the UK’s Political Studies Association’s “Best Article in British Journal of Politics and International Relations in 2009 Prize”. He is also a former holder of a NATO Fellowship, and a Fulbright Fellowship, the latter spent as a Guest Scholar at the National Defence University in Washington DC. His main research interests are security studies, US Foreign Policy and Diplomacy. More specifically he is interested in transatlantic relations, UK and NATO Defence Policy, nuclear strategy, the use force, and also small state diplomacy.

Naomi Head is a Lecturer of Politics at the University of Glasgow and an Honorary Research Fellow in Communication and Conflict at ICCS. Her research focuses on the role of communication in conflict and the relationships between legitimacy, dialogue and empathy, and political violence. The empirical focus of her research has previously been the Balkans and the dynamics of the Security Council. She is currently working on a collaborative project (with Professor Nicholas Wheeler) concerning the role of dialogue, trust and empathy in the Iranian nuclear negotiations. She is also working on a project funded by the Adam Smith Research Foundation (Glasgow) and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland on the dynamics of empathy in protracted conflict which focuses on Israel and Palestine.

Joan McGregor’s consultancy history covers participatory approaches to conflict analysis, strategic planning for work in conflict, policy development, leadership and organisational development in conflict contexts, mediation and negotiation, conflict sensitivity tools and methodologies, monitoring and appraisal, lesson learning, training of trainers, and counselling. Joan has evaluated peacebuilding and development projects, and conducted peace and conflict impact assessments. Joan has worked in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Switzerland, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nepal, Israel, Palestine, Syria, North Iraq, Kosovo, Philippines China and the UK.

Nicholas J. Wheeler is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security at the University of Birmingham. He has authored and co-authored a number of ground-breaking books in International Relations, including Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society and (with Ken Booth) The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation and Trust in World Politics. Professor Wheeler is also co-editor of the prestigious Cambridge Series in International Relations and the Academic Lead for the Sixth Birmingham Policy Commission on The Security Impact of Drones. Professor Wheeler has extensive experience of lecturing on senior military training courses in the UK and Australia. He has also organised workshops in Delhi where he trained Indian and Pakistani early career opinion formers (from government, academia, media and business) in trust-building and conflict transformation, including role-plays of India-Pakistan negotiations over Kashmir.

Stefan Wolff is Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham. He is an expert on international crisis management and post-conflict state-building and has been engaged in various stages of conflict settlement negotiations, including in Moldova, Iraq, Sudan and Yemen. Among his 18 books to date are Ethnic Conflict: A Global Perspective (Oxford University Press 2007), Conflict Management in Divided Societies (Routledge 2011, with Christalla Yakinthou), and The European Union as a Global Conflict Manager (Routledge 2012, with Richard Whitman). He has also published over 50 journal articles and book chapters, and regularly writes commissioned policy reports for various governments and international organizations. Wolff is a graduate of the University of Leipzig, and he holds an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. For more information, see or follow @stefwolff.


Programme: Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation programme 2017 (PDF 138KB)

Introduction to trust-building

Professor Nicholas J Wheeler (Director, Institute for Conflict Cooperation and Security)
An overview of the role of trust in International Relations, using a number of key historical and contemporary case studies.

Emotional decision-making in crisis and conflict

Dr Tereza Capelos (University of Birmingham)
Examining how emotions facilitate information searching, promote civic engagement, stimulate fight and fright responses, determine policy preferences, and provoke engagement or disengagement with members of in-groups and outgroups. Participants will engage with the concepts of emotion appraisal and regulation, and apply these insights to understanding the role of emotions in crises and conflicts.         

Dialogue across cultures

Professor David H Dunn (University of Birmingham)
Because most scholarship on diplomacy and negotiation is written by Americans about Americans, there is often an assumption that all international dialogue is the same, and that negotiation in particular follows a universal pattern towards either agreement or stalemate.  By contrast this session explores the influence of culture on diplomacy. Drawing largely on the work of Raymond Cohn, it explores how mis-communication can occur through cultural dissonance, demonstrating the importance of learning foreign cultures as well as foreign languages.      

Communication Skills and Mediation Training

Joan McGregor (Independent Conflict Transformation Consultant)         
Putting theory into practice with two days of dedicated mediation training. Participants will take part in role plays and mediation exercises drawn from real life examples of conflict situations.  Short exercises are based on community conflicts from Nigeria and South Sudan, with a longer simulation based on a situation in Myanmar.

Keynote Lecture: What is diplomacy, and why?

Alan Charlton CMG CVO (Former UK Ambassador to Brazil)
The keynote will address the nature of diplomacy, its development, its variation under pressure of crisis, and its underpinning by political and negotiating skills. Alan Charlton will give examples from his experience as a British diplomat. He will argue that in the world of today and tomorrow with vast possibilities for the computer collection and analysis of information, inter-personal diplomacy will remain key to achieving goals in the conduct of international relations.            

When there is no trust (yet): the role of guarantees in mediation

Professor Stefan Wolff (University of Birmingham)
While it is generally acknowledged that trust is a critical component in sustaining mediation processes and their outcomes, it is not always present at the beginning nor can it always be established quickly. In such cases, mediators need to think creatively about how to build confidence between negotiators as a first step towards trust and how guarantees of the mediation process or its outcomes can bridge gaps in trust. Drawing on his practical mediation support experience, Stefan Wolff will introduce participants to the notion of guarantees in conflict settlements and settlement negotiations and how to operationalise them as part of designing negotiation processes and conflict settlements.       

The role of empathy in mediation

Dr Naomi Head (University of Glasgow)
What are the theoretical and practical challenges to developing empathy in deeply adversarial contexts? Examples drawn from recent work in Israel and Palestine.             

Simulation: The Future of Hebron

A one and a half day simulation game exploring the deteriorating relations in Hebron. Participants will assume different roles across the divide in order to negotiate a complex set of agreements involving land rights, security frameworks, and border controls.

More information