Montag, 24. November 2008

4 years after the tsunami. a circle of learning in South India

On december 26, 2004 an unprecedented natural disaster had devastated the livelihoods of countless coastal communities in South Asia. People all over the world responded to the tsunami with a wave of solidarity. In Switzerland, the media through its NGO "Swiss Solidarity" (Glückskette, Chaîne du Bonheur) collected more than 200 million CHF for relief and reconstruction projects. 4 years later, time has come to evaluate how the solidarity funds were used and how the people in need have been supported in building a new livelihood.

In South India, the funds of Swiss Solidarity were channeled through Swiss NGOs and their Indian partner NGOs. Together they had supported and implemented projects in several coastal villages in favour of more than 3200 families. This year, Swiss Solidarity mandated a team of Indian experts to evaluate the entire program and to present the findings to the involved NGOs. The major emphasis of the evaluation was on mutual learning. What can the partners learn from each other by sharing their experience and reflection? What can be highlighted as good practice? What are the gaps that would deserve special attention in the future?

The findings were presented in a workshop near Trivandrum early November 2008. I had the chance to be there as the workshop facilitator. It was a beautiful experience, reconnecting with my Indian past after so many years and being part of a learning circle where all the participants engaged in genuine exchange of knowledge, values and aspirations. Together we considered the different quality of the achievements, in terms of their physical and social sustainability. We reached a high level of agreement that the social aspects of reconstruction such as participation, community involvement, empowerment and accountability should always be at the center of our concern.

Before leaving we gathered again in a circle, symbolising the basic form of the learning community. Participants responded to my question "what do you take with you" and I concluded with the words "I take with me the power of this circle - a strong potential for partnership that can take us beyond the narrow framework of a reconstruction project".

geri baobab

A short version of the evaluation report will be made available by Swiss Solidarity.


Mittwoch, 16. Juli 2008

Alpsegen comes to town

(This post is in German. It's about the revival of an alpine tradition in an urban context. See the video by on the side bar, or go to . Contact me for further explanations in English)

Bern erlebt in diesen Tagen ein Kulturereignis der besonderen Art: die Aktion LOBA TOWN. Ich bin daran beteiligt, als Laiensänger.

"Inspiriert vom Beispiel der Schweizer Sennen, die in alter Tradition mit dem Alpsegen allabendlich ihren Wünschen und Aengsten lautstark Ausdruck verleihen, hat LOBA TOWN die unausgesprochenen Freuden, Aergernisse und Visionen der Städter und Städterinnen (...) aufgespürt. LOBA TOWN gibt ihnen mit Hilfe von zwei Entlebucher Sennen, einem Freiburger Vacher und vier erfolgreichen Schweizer Vertretern der Rap-Kultur eine zeitgenössische Form des "spoken word" und lässt diese LOBArhymes in einer spektakulär unspektakulären Live-Aktion im Abendrot von Dachterrassen klingen".

Ich bin der Faszination gefolgt, ohne zu verstehen. Vielleicht wollte ich einfach noch andere Saiten in mir zum Schwingen bringen. Nun stehe ich an sieben Abenden allein auf der Zinne der Felsenburg am Klösterlistutz und singe den Rhyme von Rapper GREIS über die Dächer der Berner Alstadt. " O füu di gross Bärn, füu di gross/so früsch und chräftig fliesst dr Strom/ dür dini Loube/ so öffne d'Ouge..." Ich erlebe die Magie der Stimme.

"Seit jeher wird dem Alpsegen die Kraft zur Vertreibung der bösen Mächte, die auf den entlegenen Bergweiden ihr Unwesen trieben, nachgesagt. Die Tradition besagt des Weiteren, dass soweit der Schall des Alpsegens reicht, das Böse keine Gewalt hat. "

Katharina hat mich gefragt, worin denn der Zusammenhang bestehe zwischen der Faszination des Alpsegens und meiner Tätigkeit als Mediator. Jetzt weiss ich es. Auch die Mediation braucht einen geschützten Raum, aus dem die destruktiven Kräfte verbannt sind, damit die Streitenden einander neu zuhören und gemeinsam nach Lösungen suchen können. Damit sie sich finden.

In der Mitte. Im Bannkreis der Mediation.

geri baobab

Freitag, 6. Juni 2008

Transparency! We need it, worldwide.

Greetings from Berne!

We are one of the host cities of Euro 08, the European Football Tournament that will begin tomorrow June 7. A lot of facelifting and refurbishing has been going on in the city throughout the last year. Just in time for the big event the works have now been completed. A new landmark has been added to the inner city. The square at the main railway station is now covered by a huge glass roof in the shape of a wave. It's called "The Baldachin". The project had raised some controversies. It had to be adjusted several times in a lengthy, cumbersome process. But now that it is finished the new architecture receives praise from all sides, even from former critics. Some have referred to it as "a symbol of transparency".

The Baldachin is not my only reason why I want to write about transparency today. The major reason is Transparency International and the fact that I attended the annual general meeting of its Swiss branch this week. I had become a member of this international NGO last year on my return from a short mission to Africa where I had stepped in as interim coordinator of a Swiss development NGO. My task was to accompany a local audit bureau in a case of misappropriation of funds. The auditors did an admirable job in building accountability all along the aid pipeline from the international corridors out to the rural villages and to the nomadic people. I became a witness of both the devastating effects of lost credibility as well as of the truly empowering impact of a new partnership founded on the principle of mutual accountability. So I decided to take the theme "transparency" higher up on my list of concerns.

And then, back home, I received the sad news of the passing away of my first teacher in development cooperation, Henri-Philippe Cart. I new that Henri-Philippe had been a strong supporter of Transparency International. So could there be a better way of commemorating my teacher than by joing his organization, adding my support? I took a quick, spontaneous decision. And I don't regret it. The meeting this week confirmed my impression that Transparency is doing an excellent job. If you would like to read more about their activities, her is the link:

Last but not least:

as mediators, we also must build on transparency. Without it there can be no lasting trust. And thus no win-win.

Transparently yours

geri baobab

Dienstag, 13. Mai 2008

Croatia.Serbia.The river between.

Dear friends,

I am back from a very special journey.

Biking along the Danube is well known among eco-tourists and nature lovers. You can do it all the way from Southern Germany down to the Black Sea. But there is one little part out of this gently widening mainstream that will attract all your senses in a different, unforgettable way.

It's been named the Pannonian Peace Trail. Pannonia is the ancient roman name for this border area at the east of the empire that has become the battleground for so many wars throughout the centuries until our time, when militant nationalism divided Croatia and Serbia.

The Panonski put mira has been marked out after the latest war with the intention to weave a new social fabric between the two sides and to contribute to their mutual development. The distance between the towns of Osijek in Croatia and Sombor in Serbia is just about 75 km. You could do it in a single day, but that's not the idea. There are so many beautiful things to be discovered along the way, such good people to meet, so many stories to be told, so much hospitality to be enjoyed. Make it a full week, chose your own rhythm, rolling softly through the endless plains.

Starting from Osijek the trail will first take you to the wetlands of the Kopacki Nature Reserve where the Drava river joins the Danube. You can enter the waters on official tourist boats but you are reminded by big signs not to go off track as the area has not yet been cleared from mines. It's a reminder that the beauty is endangered, that we need to be alert and caring. This theme of a fragile, precarious beauty has accompanied us all the way. It was present in our meetings with local partners. We listened to their stories of loss and pain, we felt their desire for new bonds of friendship and cooperation.

We were a group of 17 bikers from Switzerland, all members of Gemeinden Gemeinsam (Municipalities Together), engaged in building partnerships across borders. Our journey was a social discovery both among ourselves and through the encounters with our local hosts.

Let me mention just two examples of partnerships that we have enjoyed during this week. The weblinks will offer further reading and contact details if you are interested

On the Croatian side, our journey was organized by Bilje Plus, a very dynamic young cooperative for the development of eco-tourism and organic agriculture: They offered the full package including the bike rental, the logistic support along the route, the bed and breakfast, project visits and cultural events, and first of all a fantastic tour guidance by Ankica and Mary. You did an excellent job. Thank you so much!

On the Serbian side we were hosted by a group of friends in Backi Monostor. They cared for the Bed and Breakfast in family houses, they presented their projects and took us out on excursions. A big thank you to Mario and his team for your warm hospitality. One evening we were the guests of the Sombor branch of the Serbian Red Cross in their Youth Camp at the Danube. It was a very cordial and moving event, celebrating the partnership of many years, including the presentation of Sombor Alternative Map, a youth project that involves students in mapping the treasures of their municipalities with electronic means. The project also provides international links, it encourages to see both the local neighbourhood and the wider picture with new eyes. A truly empowering experience.(

A special encounter with the kids of Backi Monostor...

At the end of our journey we were received by the Mayor of Sombor in the historic setting of the City Hall. The Mayor, a key partner of Gemeinden Gemeinsam during the last 15 years, told us about the history of the town and its aspirations for a democratic future in the context of european integration.

The Mayor of Sombor addressing the bikers, Ankica serving as our translator.

Out in the park surrounding the City Hall we took a last picture in front of the friendship tree that was planted in 2003 to comemorate the partnership with Gemeinden Gemeinsam.

There would be many more pictures and stories to share, but space is limited and time moves on. What I take with me from this special journey is a renewed conviction that we find the same human desires and longings on both sides of the river. The desire to be reckognized and acknowledged, the desire to belong. If this desire is taken care of through responsive relationships people will not take refuge in militant nationalism.

Back home, I hear the news that the parties that stand for a democratic opening have been strengthened in Serbias parliamentary elections. My joy is more intense now that I have become acquainted with friends on both sides.

Best greetings

geri baobab

Dienstag, 29. April 2008

biking for peace

I'm on my way. with tomorrow's nighttrain to zagreb and on to osijek.

for the route see the event box on the baobab webpage:

have a good time

geri baobab

noa has a dream

noa has a dream. let's share it. go to

geri baobab

Montag, 21. April 2008

taste it!

Dear friends and colleagues,

the opening of this blog
marks the beginning of a new year
in the life of baobab mediation.

We will use this fascinating tool
to stay connected with you
and to keep you informed
about new developments
in the field of mediation.

Ten days from now a bicycle tour will take us to Croatia and Serbia, connecting border communities along the Danube from Osijek to Sombor. We are visiting a project sponsored by Gemeinden Gemeinsam Schweiz ( Geri is a board member of ggs.

We shall keep you posted.

Any ideas to share in this blossoming spring time?

Taste it! And stay connected.

geri baobab

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