Jim Marshall, a former Macon mayor and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, jumped quickly into his new role as president and CEO of the United States Institute of Peace.
Days after he was sworn in on Sept. 14, he hosted Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar during her visit to the United States. Suu Kyi, who is known as a Nobel Peace Prize winning freedom fighter, was released in November 2010 after spending 15 of the previous 21 years under house arrest in November 2010. She was was elected to Parliament earlier this year.
She came to the Institute of Peace -- it was the first place she came to speak publicly, Marshall said Friday as the keynote speaker for the annual meeting of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, held at Mercer University from Thursday through Saturday. About 25 people, mostly professors, attended from across the country.
This is a job thats a little bit exceptional, Marshall said.
The Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan conflict management center created by Congress in 1984 to prevent and mitigate international conflict without resorting to violence.
The centers mantra is think, act, teach and train, Marshall said.
The Institute of Peace has a base budget of $37 million this year, and one quarter of that has to be distributed in the form of grants. Several interesting studies are being done with those grants, he said.
The Institute is not just a think tank -- we train people, we teach people -- and it works toward peaceful solutions without a great deal of money, Marshall said.
My base budget of $37 million this year is less than the cost of one platoon in Afghanistan, he said.
We work in a lot of countries around the world, obviously Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan right now. But we are also working in Libya, Indonesia and South Sudan, he said. Our principal focus is fragile states. The mission is to mitigate and avoid conflict.
Because of the Sept. 11 murder of Chris Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, Marshall said he has decided to go and speak to that countrys new parliament.
We have a lot of street credibility with local governments, he said.
After Sudan split in early 2011, creating the new nation of South Sudan, the Institute felt it was important to influence the process (in South Sudan) so that it was inclusive, participatory and transparent, he said. We recognize that not all people in Sudan have the same ideas.
The Institute has worked with the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan and Iraq to build a curriculum and to train teachers in that curriculum to foster respect for differences, foster respect for religious differences and cultural differences, he said. That is a big deal in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Marshall said he was aware of an honor killing that was stopped by someone trained by the Institute of Peace. An honor killing is the murder of a member of a family by a relative who believes the victim has brought dishonor to the family or community. The crime is most often directed against women and girls.
While fielding questions from the audience, Marshall acknowledged that sometimes peace does not work.
There will be times when we must have violence, he said. We will never say the United States should never do that. What we will say is that its always preferred to resolve differences without violence.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.