Remarkably Experienced Peacebuilder, Devoted Teacher and Community Mediator
How does one create a culture of peace? How does one create social change? Many peace practitioners across the world grappled with these questions on a daily basis. For Rick Wallace, these questions have been a lifelong preoccupation. The search for the answers to these questions has shaped his life and led him on a decades long quest across geographies and disciplines.
Rick was humanitarian and development worker who worked for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees from 1993 to 1995. He was a field officer and coordinated humanitarian assistance for Burundian refugees and Rwandan IDPs. In Rwanda, he also monitored the human rights situation and assessed post-conflict reconstruction and development needs.
After his stint in Rwanda, he went to pursue studies in international law at the University of Lund in Sweden. As a student of international law and international relations, Rick understood their role as well as their limitations. He believes that international human rights instruments however functional, do not always go to the heart of resolving conflicts. International Relations however useful, is not grassroots.
Rick found that conflict is resolved most effectively from the ground up, through a community-based approach. He found that the community based approach to resolving conflict, which values inclusiveness, mutual respect and participatory processes, had transformative results. Community based peacebuilding, he believes is one of the best ways to create a culture of peace and enact social change.
Rick has written extensively on community based peacebuilding including a book called Community Based Peacebuilding: Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Alliances in Canada. He now has over 20 years of national and international experience as an adult educator and a trainer and mediator in conflict resolution, negotiation, strategic planning and leadership skills. He continues to design and provide training on conflict resolution, mediation, negotiation, restorative justice and facilitation. He is also a principal at Consortium for Conversational Conflict Resolution.
What are some of the websites that you visit after you get up and why?
I usually visit new sites (Guardian, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post) to get a sense of what is happening. I also secretly check my daily astrology.
Tell me about a book that has had an impact on your life and why?
That’s a hard one. Maybe Plato’s Republic as it introduced me to a philosophical discussion on governance, Socratic methods of learning, and the need to define what we mean.
Who are your favourite authors?
That would be a long list.
What historical figure do you identify with?
Those anonymous cave dwellers who painted fresco on walls 30,000 yrs ago. There is something timeless, sacred and intimate about those pictures (especially in caves in France)
Who are your heroes in real life?
A Burundi guy I met in a refugee camp in Rwanda in 1994. He was so eloquent, wise, thoughtful and committed to helping.
What is your favourite occupation?
What influenced your career path?
I still don’t have a career but the direction it has taken is a combination of education, social justice and social change activism. Essentially, social transformation. I was influenced by my grandmother who was a faith-based community activist and modeled a strong sense of love, integrity and ethics. I was influenced by the reverberations of the 1970s anti-war movement and later, in the 1980s, activism around nuclear disarmament and anti-poverty movements. I was also influenced by films such as Apocalypse Now that so fundamentally exhibited the brutality of violence and its meaninglessness.
What do you like about what you do?
I have freedom to express myself, be part of facilitating learning, and influence the future. Both in terms of values and processes, I like building community, understanding and sharing.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
That’s a tough question. Is it a thing I did? Or is it something I “succeeded” in? Is it something about personal transformation? Is it how I love? Probably taking care of my 95 yr old grandmother for the last two months of her life.