Beyond Conflict founder Tim Phillips on peace, tribalism, and conflict around the world
He will speak as part of the SNF Agora Institute’s “Talking (and Listening) Across Divides” conference that takes place in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday
“During the Enlightenment, scholars believed that humans are rational beings who happen to have emotions,” Phillips says. “In fact, the opposite is true—science is showing that we are highly emotional beings who happen to have moments of clarity.”
It’s a lesson that’s been reinforced throughout the 27 years Phillips has spent leading the nonprofit Beyond Conflict, which he founded in 1992 to support governments and organizations as they broker peace and reconciliation in areas ravaged by war, oppression, trauma, and discord. Phillips helped pave the way for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which aimed to bring restorative justice to victims and perpetrators of human rights abuses under Apartheid, the nation’s strict system of racial segregation that came to an end in the early 1990s.
Since then, Phillips has worked to resolve conflicts in more than 75 countries, including Northern Ireland, Cuba, and countries in Central America and Eastern Europe. During each mission, he’s seen the burden that emotions have on human behavior.
“A friend working to bring peace to Guatemala and El Salvador in 1992 told me that exclusion is a main driver of conflict,” he says. “At the time, I understood what he meant intellectually, but as I started working around the world, I saw that some form of cultural, social, or economic exclusion was consistent in every place.”