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Top Kiwi Mediator Heads For World Hotspots

Top Kiwi mediator heads for world hotspots

One of New Zealand's top mediators will take his skills to some of the world's major hotspots with aid agency World Vision.

Waikato man Stephen Hooper, 40, will take up the position of capacity development manager with World Vision's Central Asia office.

He will be responsible for mediating conflicts in communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Iran.

Mr Hooper says working in recent war zones such as Afghanistan pose major challenges for mediators.

"You are dealing with people who are suffering post-traumatic stress who have seen some things that human beings ought not to see."

Mr Hooper recalled working for World Vision in East Timor in 2,000, when a member of the agency's local staff threatened colleagues with a machette.

"If you knew his background it's not surprising he ended up where he was. He had seen each member of his family hacked to death," he said.

Mr Hooper said his new role will be to teach staff how to deal with conflict in highly charged environments and put procedures in place to effect reconciliation.

He says a complicating factor is trying to build teams with people of different cultures religion and races and it is important to learn how each expressed emotion and dealt with traumatic events in order to be able to help.

He says in the past aid agencies have concentrated on rehabilitating infrastructure but they needed to go beyond this.

"It's not just a case of giving people some wells and giving them some food. This can leave people untouched. Our role is to rehabilitate the people."

Mr Hooper previously worked as chief mediator for the Labour Department's dispute resolution service. Before that he lectured in mediation and conflict resolution at Waikato University. He is the co-author of the book Dispute resolution in New Zealand.

He says he is looking forward to his new role with its challenge of reconciling bitterly divided communities, but he concedes the job comes with risks attached.

"I'm not so worried about machetes this time. I'm more worried about Kalashnikov rifles," he said.


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