By Dr. E. Ryan Scott
This is the story of someone who, seeing a human need, undertook a project they would never have undertaken had they known the sheer effort required – in other words it is the story of a modern day Alchemist.
It was the middle of the night, late fall, 1997, and the only offerings on television were sumo wrestling or news. The cancer post-op pain killers were definitely not working. Badly needing any distraction the architect-financier noticed that the post-war reconstruction in Bosnia seemed out of sequence, and the rest is history. Calls to her Harvard planning law professor and others followed. To Ellis Kirkland’s amazement- the process of rebuilding a country after a conflict or disaster is operating on models so outdated that they interfere with the ultimate success of the rebuilding effort.
The highly touted Marshall Plan, was a one size fits all plan that worked well with governments in post-conflict situations, but never envisioned situations where there is no government, as in Afghanistan in the new “Failed State” phenomenon of this millennium.
Within Kirkland Global’s private high level Advisory Group think tank, Ellis lead a team including John McKenna, Brian MacDonald, Julie Lindhout, Betty Disero, Ray Vafa, M. Shay, N. Dan, and A. Hart, working round the clock to develop the new prototype for post conflict and disaster reconstruction. They predicted that without strong co-operative efforts between Civil Society, NGO’s and the Military, disasters would result in the inability to properly plan the necessary rebuilding of infrastructure. Only after the first influx of international donor monies and when the headlines disappear does the long term work of repairing the infrastructure begin.
The world never envisioned the idea of a failed state where there is simply no government structure in place to handle the process of rebuilding. Without the ability to rebuild, living in physical devastation creates overwhelming inertia. Living among destruction leaves a vacuum for the unthinkable actions of predatory groups re-igniting further civil strife.
Originally facing resistance in promoting the idea with attitudes including; “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and confronted with territorial spats among the groups that opposed a highly integrated Civil-Military-NGO structure, Kirkland and the team persisted despite the naysayers.
One of the few bright lights was finding support from the NGO, the Genocide Research Institute, an American non-profit Organization dedicated to the eradication of Genocide with programmes planned including the Genocide Prevention Network and the Genocide Documentaries. With their first hand experience that the genocide reality eternally haunts the hearts of witnesses, their earnest Stop Genocide mandate, mirrors the vision of the GRI chairman, Shaun Stewart, who has worked in the field in Rwanda alongside Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity, assisting in the aid relief. In one of the many Rwandan crisis situations, he helped to evacuate Americares Doctors to safety
GRI’s support is predicated on the knowledge that genocide and the destruction of a society is integrally linked.
Then the Peace Educators Network came to the fore, with PEN’s mandate to support the evolving structures dedicated to finding models to promote peace for the complexities of societies now in real time. Kirkland remains grateful to the NGO’s that supported their work at a crucial time.
The turning point occurred following the tragic events of 9-11, as reception to the project changed dramatically, with world leaders beginning to tout the teams message- “The world needs a new Marshall Plan for the Millennium” and the need for a new international co-operation. Last fall, Kirkland, quietly, and without ceremony, unveiled the prototype: PAXBUILD. The momentum is growing.
Publically presented in a series of private forums, Paxbuild demonstrates the crucial link between the destruction of infrastructure and the destabilization of a country. Who could have known that Kirkland’s idea of integration and co-operation would develop into the infrastructure model that is now cited as being at the leading edge of the Peacebuilding Movement, a Landmark piece of work that is seen as a critical foundation, a cornerstone for post disaster- post conflict Peace and the Peacebuilding Platform. Kudos to Kirkland and her team for PAXBUILD and kudos to this Architect of Peace.