On Saturday, October 26, 2013, the Rotarian Action Group for Peace hosted a globally-streamed workshop featuring Dr. Joseph G. Bock, Director of Graduate Studies at the Eck Institute for Global Health at the University of Notre Dame. Video segments from this event can be viewed here. Dr. Bock did not have time to answer every question posed during the event. Following are the written responses to questions he was not able to get to during the event.


What are your thoughts on the notions of “good wars” or “necessary wars”?

We can do a better job with conflict early warning and early response.  By doing so, we can get better and better at preventing escalation to war.  This is easier said than done, however.  Our track record in doing this is unimpressive.  The two main reasons conflict early response has not worked very well at the level of nation-states is that it requires decisive decision-making by political leaders as well as swift implementation by bureaucrats.


What kind of systems can be set within Rotary to prevent clubs from pursuing their own interest in conflicts, business or otherwise?

This is a great question. One way would be to embed external staff members into the “nucleus” of the early response initiative so that there is oversight. Another way would be to create a partnership relationship with a Rotary group from a different country that keeps an eye on the activities of Rotarians in conflict- prone country.


What is the best way for our Rotarian Action Group to use the map trending technology such as Ushahidi?

The main use of this kind of technology is to keep track of events and signals over time, to identify hotspots, and to keep track of trends of either increasing or decreasing tension that can lead to violence.


In addition to violence, how do you address the problems of greed and corruption?

Dealing with greed and corruption requires a focus on the macro-picture in a given country. This is often called structural prevention as compared to operational prevention. Conflict early warning and response is used for operational prevention.  That is, it is designed to prevent violence when it is about to happen rather than addressing the structural causes of violence.


Seems like the secretariat mode is very top-down. Who would determine who sits at the top? Who sets priorities?

You’re concern about it being top-down is well-founded. However, if the secretariat’s main function is technical assistance and training, without authority over the activities of Rotary clubs, then “heavy handedness from on high” should not be a problem.


How do you think Rotary can move into countries where Rotary is not currently allowed?

A number of international nongovernmental organizations will not commence operations within a new country unless there is an invitation extended by someone with authority. But this is a bit of a “chicken and egg” challenge in that oftentimes people are not aware of the advantages Rotary brings to civil society, business, and, potentially, the prevention of violence.  Perhaps Rotary can reach out to places where it has not been welcomed.  Leaders in any given country change, so over time there is a potential that an invitation would be forthcoming if there is appropriate outreach.


How does international arms treaties and gun control fit with early warning?

My sense is that treaties and other regulations should be dealt with in accordance with votes of the Rotary membership, either internationally or within a given country.


How can one engage those in the mass media in the value of peacemaking when it seems that conflict and violence are the topics that sell?

This is not meant to undercut the profession of journalism, but I believe that people working in media circles appreciate positive stories, especially when they are “spoon fed” to them. We might be surprised by the receptivity to positive stories.


How would you compare a Rotary local conflict intervention to a UN Peacekeeping intervention?

Rotarians would be operating on the basis of persuasion and acceptance within the wider community. In contrast, UN peacekeeping forces are typically armed and capable of using deadly force. In the wider field of security circles, the distinction between the two is “acceptance” as compared to “protection.” Rotary can appropriately operate within the context of the former, but not the latter.


Rotary has horizontal connections between Rotary Clubs, between organizations in their localities, etc. And Rotary has vertical connections – access to local, provincial, state or even national leaders – including elected leaders. How do you envision Rotary dealing with the major powers USA, Russia and China whose leaders may be accessible to Rotarians but not always in the circle of influence?

This is an age old problem facing those who are working to influence the course of events for good.  There is a saying that applies to this which is essentially “it is not who you know, but who you get to know that is important.”


Social media in the prevention of violence. Please provide an example and suggestion how Rotary can play a role in the “Technology of Nonviolence”.

Here are three ways:

  1. Rotarians can use a virtual reality platform like Second Life to train Rotarians in conflict early morning and early response.
  2. A secretariat of  Rotary international could collaborate with data mining efforts, such as with the UN’s Global Pulse, to have diligent monitoring of what are often called “weak signals” that a given country is likely to encounter significant violence. The secretariat could then provide technical assistance for  Rotarians in that country if they elect to engage in violence prevention.
  3. Rotarians can use digital mapping platforms like Ushahidi to maintain situational awareness of tensions within their communities, to highlight “hotspots,” and to keep track of trends. Theoretically, mathematical pattern recognition could be used to identify places where tensions are high.  The patterns can be found in events data generated using crowdsourcing. Pattern recognition can be helpful in assessing the extent of danger amidst the fog of events.