Cross cultural communication concerns diversity, but diversity is more than the diversity of cultures. The lack of cultural literacy is a serious problem.
On 19 September 2019, IPSS organized a public lecture on ‘The Role of Culture in Peacebuilding and Peacemaking’ delivered by Professor Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Grotewohl from the Private University of Lugano, Switzerland. The lecture began with opening remarks by Dr. Mesfin Gebremichael, Assistant Professor and Head of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence at IPSS.
Prof. Grotewohl’s lecture, based on the model of Gerard Hendrik (Geert) Hofstede, a well-known Dutch scholar, focused on four main topics: masculine vs. feminine, power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance. He noted that cross cultural communication is of paramount importance for peacekeeping missions deployed by the UN, AU and RECs.
Cross cultural communication concerns diversity, but diversity is more than the diversity of cultures. The lack of cultural literacy is a serious problem. Existing research noted that expatriates often do not complete their projects or assignments due to lack of integration. This imposes a large cost on the employer and in the case of peacekeeping missions, it can negatively impact human lives on the ground.
For cross cultural training to be effective, there are several important factors to keep in mind. Training for peacekeepers prior to departure cannot replace training on the job. Training on the job is mandatory, and must be conducted repetitively by qualified and carefully chosen trainers. The trainings should also be tailored and designed to the mission, and can include experience sharing, role playing, and peer learning. Local expertise can also benefit the communication process, by bridging knowledge gaps between stakeholders from different backgrounds.
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