Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel

Having just returned from the “Basel Peace Forum”, I balance different emotions – from being inspired by the presented projects and workshops to being overwhelmed by the complexity of peacebuilding with its many different dimensions. Additionally, I am in full swing of planning the current year and juggle a long list of urgent activities. I want to approach all the tasks in the best possible way based on our results, as the project here should give new insights into the approaches of peacebuilding.

Despite a richness of data that was unimaginable just a year ago, there is no simple narrative emerging yet and therefore no possible publication in sight (which is the hard currency in the academic sector). Also, eventually you want to communicate all the exciting new stuff you found to your relevant community…

In all these dynamics, I’m reminded of a friend of mine, Research Group Leader in the very competitive field of basic biomedical research who once said to me that “even if there is no publication at all, setting out to do a PhD is a worthwhile endeavour”, which is a very astonishing statement from someone who should know best about the value of good publications (“publish or perish”) and who himself has gotten his tenure due to an excellent publication record in the “big three” – Nature, Science & Cell.

What could he mean? Famous psychologist Victor Frankel once said “Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”
Our dedication to a greater cause is definitely there and we can even see first side effects due to our presence here “on the seam”.

The last weekends have been times of catching up after our absence with dear Israeli, German and Palestinian friends, relationships from all realms of life as well as long lost friends back from our Humanitarian days.
These relationships start to connect individuals that would have never met in “normal” life, bridging gaps between very different groups of people. This is a way of connecting hearts in the daily life here within the community of our friends that impacts the Middle East conflict on a low scale, yet in natural and effective ways.

We don’t know what the future brings and how successful we will be with our approach. So far, the project hasn’t solved the Middle East conflict but seeing all this richness in mutual relationships that only emerged due to us being present where we are, the whole endeavour has already been worthwhile!