Doors to Diplomacy Project ID: 5492

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: The War on Peace - Learning from International Conflict
Category: 2. Promotion of Peace and Democracy: Social Issues

School: International School of Kuala Lumpur
    Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

3 students, ages 15, 14, 14 worked together to complete this Doors to Diplomacy project on March 31, 2008. They have participated in Doors to Diplomacy in the following year(s): 2007, 2008

Classes and Teachers: Richard Martin, Michael, Nate, Pria

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Team

Our Doors to Diplomacy team is made up of three students – Michael (16), Nate (14), and Pria (14). We came off to a late start – we only decided to enter the contest in January, leaving us precious time remaining to complete all our work. However, by working together we were able to finish our project with time to spare. Michael spearheaded the project, but finding two other students who were interested proved to be challenging. Finally, Michael sent an e-mail to two of the Honor Roll students in the grade below him and luckily, they were interested too. Michael, vice president of ISKL’s International Club, led the section on the conflict in Israel and Palestine and served as website editor. Pria, a member of the Freshmen student council, led the section on Myanmar’s political and humanitarian crisis. Nate, talented tenor singer and Freshmen president, worked on the section detailing the humanitarian disaster in Darfur and organized a survey distributed to all English class students in our High School.

All three members of our team looked to address the causes and solutions to international conflict in our world today. We looked towards our community in order to get the help we needed. Richard Martin, our school’s resident History expert, served as a fact checker and proof reader for our work, ensuring that novices at history did justice to the facts.

2. Summary of Our Project

For many of us, international conflict is something that happens on the other side of the world. But for the 25 million refugees of such crisis around the world, international conflicts – and their resolution – are as important as daily bread. For the 25 million asylum-seekers, internally displaced people, and stateless people and for the countless more that are killed everyday, solving international conflict is of paramount importance. There are a myriad of reasons as to why these conflicts occur: ideology, the political process, ethnicity, the economy. But all these causes have one thing in common: they portray the suffering that is waged by war every day.

Every single day, to millions of innocent people, born with the same two legs, and the same two arms, and the same ten fingers as everyone else. They were created as equals, but die as inferiors. In Israel and Palestine, in Darfur, in Myanmar, and in countless other regions worldwide, these are the people that suffer from the greatest war of all. It is a war that has lasted forever. It is a war that involves every single nation. It is a war that is waged for harmony. But it is a war that no one can win, and a war that everyone pursues. It is the war on peace.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:2-3

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

We encountered several problems while creating our project, but the largest one we faced was a lack of time. With school commitments piling up on our backs, with exams around the corner, it became vital for us to budget our time wisely and distribute the work effectively. By setting up a series of deadline for ourselves – working backwards from the actual deadline – we were able to keep ourselves to a schedule that allowed us to complete all our work in time.

Organizing the interviews we conducted proved to be difficult. School trips made it hard to find time where all of us where free to interview. Luckily, before the deadline came too close for comfort, we found a day when all of us were able to travel to the interview sites – with Nate’s mom serving as chauffeur – and when the interviewees themselves were free. When we actually conducted the interviews, however, we faced another obstacle; we wouldn’t be allowed to videotape it because of the political sensitivity of the topic. Adapting quickly, we took verbatim notes as a team while deciding to simply type up a description of our visit.

Designing the website itself proved to be a challenge. Presentation is almost as important as information, and with limited experience in web designing, creating an original layout was difficult. By spending time constructively we were able to design a website layout that was visually pleasing and that presented our work effectively.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

The vast majority of students in our community said that the United Nations does not solve international conflicts effectively. With this project, we hope to help change that no into a yes. We hope to show how individuals like ourselves and entire countries can work together to solve world issues.

6. How did your activities and research for this Doors to Diplomacy Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

Having chosen such complex issues – a century old conflict between Jews and Arabs, a secretive and authoritarian military government, and complicated ethnic troubles in Africa – it became important for us to ensure that our project was both understandable and informative. We wanted to insure that the average Middle or High School student could learn from our project. Nate, Pria, and Michael are veterans of our school’s Model United Nations program – where students, acting as ambassadors of countries to the United Nations, work together to solve international conflicts. This project served as an extension of the belief in the ability to solve conflict through compromise and negotiation. With M.U.N., we learned about how the United Nations serves as an international mediator and how the United Nations works to establish peace, themes we included in our project. Pria and Nate, in their World Studies class, extensively studied international conflict and its causes, allowing them to apply knowledge they learned in their classes to the outside world around them. Working with our community has shown us just how truly connected we all are – by talking with our friends, we were able to contact the ambassadors of embassies, the United Nations, and even refugees seeking political refuge. The internet also allowed us to extend our reach beyond our physical presence, by allowing us to spread word of our project to others, via forums, instant messaging and e-mail. Ultimately, completing this project allowed us to truly understand world issues. With the media throwing around words such “Gaza Strip”, “military junta”, “Janjaweed”, and “Hamas”, it becomes difficult to step back and truly understand the big picture. By researching these issues in depth, and by then presenting them in an easy to understand manner, we came to realize just how important it is that they are resolved.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your Doors to Diplomacy project?

We accessed information from many different sources by highlighting Economist and TIME articles by the handful, accessing Internet websites, or using our school’s library. Technology played a crucial role in creating our project, because all three of us had computers and internet access at home. The internet proved to be our greatest friend because of the ability to compare and contrast information from different sources. One drawback of this was the necessity of insuring that the information we found was accurate, which we did by checking important facts and figures with other reputable sources. With the internet, we were able to create an online discussion folder through which we could discuss our latest findings and post rough drafts for peer review. With MSN Messenger, we could talk in real time while working. Our website itself was created using Notepad (for HTML coding), and Adobe Photoshop.

We also conducted a survey of all students talking English classes in our High school, allowing us to analyze the opinions of teenagers on international conflict. We were able to supplement our research by talking with primary sources about the conflicts we were researching, including representatives from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, and refugees who had fled the conflict in Myanmar. Although in the end we could not upload our videos (because of security concerns to the UN and to refugees), our film studies teacher graciously lent us a video camera even though none of us are film students. A friend stepped in and provided us with MiniDV recoding tape and a tripod to use during our interviews. During our visits to the United Nations and to refugee camps, we used a digital camera to take snapshots for use on our website.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your Doors to Diplomacy project both on-line and in person.

Each member of our team has acted as an ambassador for the cause of solving international conflicts. In an article printed in our school’s Magazine – the Panorama, distributed to the entire student body – we explained the process we went through and the background of the conflicts we researched. We also raised awareness for our cause by placing an advertisement in our school’s Friday Flash, which is distributed to the families of the 1,000+ students who make up our school. Our student community was involved in our project through the distribution of a survey addressing international conflict. Michael posted information about our project on another website he maintains, which has a membership of 3,000 teenagers just like us from all over the world. We’ve established contact with Amnesty International, the United Nations, and even political refugees themselves, raising awareness for the cause we believe in. An official of the United Nations, noting the difficulty of the topics we’d chosen, encouraged us to persevere and complemented our work, commenting on the importance of resolving such conflict and raising awareness for the issues. One of the greatest compliments we received was from a 16 year old Burmese girl, a political refugee who had fled suppression and humanitarian crisis in her native country, traveling by boat, by car, and through the jungle to reach safety. When we told her what we were raising awareness for, she said “thank you.”

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

Our project, involving many different members of our community, strengthened the relationship between us and the people around us. We’ve established links to refugees who seek monetary and humanitarian assistance, something our community will be able to provide. By connecting with the United Nations and Amnesty International, we’ve created relationships that will allow us work even further to solve pressing international and local conflict.

Perhaps the most tangible conflict for people here in Malaysia is the Myanmar conflict. This provided us with the opportunity to see international conflict in a different light, and would provide insight that could not be obtained by reading any number of news articles or conflict summaries. We took advantage of this by interviewing UN officers, officials running programs for refugees, and the refugees themselves. The information we obtained first hand from these highly knowledgeable people revealed a world of hardship we were absolutely unaware of, Addressing the refugee issue here in Malaysia is like balancing on the tight rope, where refugees, organizations, and the government are struggling to find their footing.

Interestingly, assessing conflict on a local level exposes the impact that conflicts have internationally. Nowadays, globalization has irrevocably connected countries, for better or for worse. Conflict anywhere leaves repercussions everywhere. So the question is this: is there such a thing as international peace? If so, how can it be attained?

It is not an easy question to answer. And without awareness, no path to peace will ever be found. But by raising awareness within our community for these conflicts and possible solutions, our project will make a difference, in that it will allow visitors to our website to realize what needs to be done – by themselves, and by their government.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

Our project wouldn't have been successful without the people who have helped us along the way.

Our English teachers distributed surveys to their students, allowing us to see what teenagers like us thought about these issues.

Ashley, editor of our school magazine, published an article about our project in March. The managers of the Friday Flash also agreed to waive fees for an advertisement in the weekly newsletter.

We met Toshi Niwa, former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, after he spoke to members of Model United Nations about the United Nations. Mr. Niwa took time from his busy schedule to answer our questions about International Conflict. Having spent so many years in the United Nations, his responses provided us with a valuable insight.

One of Pria’s friends happened to be the daughter of the Head of Field Services at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She set aside time for us to give us a tour of the UNHCR’s facilities in Malaysia. Hearing her first hand account of the plight of refugees within Malaysia and the complex situation in Myanmar helped us understand the issues.

We established contact with Amnesty International after seeing a fair booth about Darfur. Yohen, a member of Amnesty International, also answered several questions for us about Myanmar, Darfur, and Israel, allowing us to see the humanitarian viewpoint of these three conflicts.

Stella, Esther, and Suu-Syi, three Burmese refugees living in Malaysia, described the situation in Myanmar and their lives as refugees to us in great detail, overcoming a language barrier in the process. Their first hand account of life under the military junta gave us true insight into the situation in Myanmar. The coordinators behind these refugee programs have also been instrumental to our project.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

Every member of our team made discovered while creating our website. With such complex issues, one can never expect to glean full understanding from a single news report. The three issues we chose to research are often mentioned in the media; “More bombings in the West Bank”, “Monks protest against government”, and “Humanitarian disaster in Darfur” have become headlines that we often see. While researching the these conflicts, however, what we didn’t know became more and more apparent.

What we didn’t know was the inherent causes of these conflicts – be they ethnic, economic, or political – and, perhaps most importantly, the potential solutions to these conflicts. We only need to open these doors to diplomacy. This project has not only opened doors to the issues that plague our modern world, but the competition has opened the door for us to observe and interpret the situation that our world is in. Unfortunately, as we have discovered during this project, this door remains locked shut for many of the people in our world. The position that we are in lies in so few hands, and not to take full advantage of our standpoint and our ability to change the state of our world is to forsake the greatest gift of all. This project has opened the door, but that is just the beginning. With global integration, our world has taken an enormous and irrevocable turn. We have entered an uncharted era of possibility. For equality, or for persecution. For cooperation, or for conflict. For war, or for peace. These doors through which we can seize peace are looked for many caught in conflict – but for a vital few they are wide open and point the way to peace. All we have to do is enter.


View our Doors to Diplomacy Project (Project ID: 5492)

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