Liliana Pimentel works as a civil servant and college professor in architecture and urban planning in Brasília, Brazil. Though she does not describe herself as a formal mediator, she uses mediation and conflict resolution in her daily work, especially when it comes to resolving issues pertaining to the use of environmental resources, especially water. She is passionate about mediation and the skills it requires, and sees the value in developing these skills, if just for use in daily life.
Mediation and the Environment
Liliana Pimentel has always been interested in mediation and conflict resolution in a small-group setting and uses this form of mediation – as she says we all do – in her everyday life. On a larger scale, Liliana uses mediation in her work as an urban planner. As she explains, urban settings come with a variety of conflicts that planners are tasked with overcoming, including conflict between nature and human life. As an Environmental Analyst for the federal government of Brazil, Liliana was responsible for providing environmental licenses for projects related to infrastructures such as new roads or dams. She learned that the management of natural resources can create differing opinions and ultimately lead to conflict. Thus, she began to research conflict resolution to use in the context of her work. In addition to working as a federal officer, Liliana teaches at the university level, where she hopes to make her students aware of the importance of developing skills for mediation regardless of what their future careers may be. She wants “the new professionals in all fields, not just law, or not just international relations, but engineering, architecture, everyone needs to have those skills. It’s what I believe in.”
Liliana has long been interested in peacebuilding and has conducted research on the topic since she was young. However, she found that there was not a strong network of peacebuilding organizations in Latin America, and she struggled to find ways to get involved. Her research exposed her to organizations like Rotary International, to whose International Peace Scholarship she applied when the program first began. Since then, she has followed the peacebuilding activity of Rotary International, which has a strong partnership with MBBI. After some training and experience at other organizations, Liliana began volunteering for Rotary last year, helping to organize their annual World Peace Conference. In doing so, she met MBBI representatives, to whom she expressed a desire to work with the organization. She began with several trainings, virtual facilitation, and volunteering at events, and eventually got involved with the Climate Change Policy Project. She is sure to follow the work of a number of different groups within MBBI, and maintains a connection to Rotary International in Brazil. In addition, she hopes to set up a branch of MBBI in Latin America to create a more robust peacebuilding community in the region.
Liliana loves everything about her work, explaining that “if there was something I don’t like I wouldn’t be doing it. I think this is the most important thing in life, you do things you believe in and you feel right and you feel comfortable. If you don’t feel right or comfortable and you don’t believe in the cause, just don’t do it.” Though she is passionate about what she does, she finds certain aspects of her work more challenging than others. The biggest challenge, she says is “changing hats,” or knowing what lens to employ and when. Because her work involves conflicts over environmental resources, she often has to suspend her opinions and feelings about certain issues when approaching them from the context of her role as a government official. This means that she is not always able to speak for herself, and must act as a neutral party on issues she may have opinions about. Knowing what hat to wear and when is a crucial piece of her job, but one that she says can present the most difficulty.
Mediation has been especially important to Liliana in her work in environmental policy, where issues related to the use and ownership of natural resources can be contentious. She explains that public servants and government officials are often the people who are tasked with resolving conflicts such as the ones she faced working for the Brazilian federal government, where issues related to the use and ownership of natural resources can be contentious, despite a lack of formal mediation training for government workers. This was what drove her to peacebuilding in an effort to prepare herself for negotiation. “When you talk about environmental resources,” she says, “you have different interests that have to come to the table. You have to be prepared to be neutral, not bringing passions to the table and building trust.” As a former Fulbright Humphrey Fellow, Liliana wants government officials around the world to have access to mediation training so that they are better equipped to handle the conflicts that can arise in their line of work. In this vein, Liliana is currently pursuing her Ph.D. with a project about how to use geography and territorial knowledge to map areas that might be vulnerable to conflict over water with the hopes of preventing these potential conflicts. Liliana believes that conflict prevention is key to peacebuilding, and hopes to contribute to this in her teaching and work.
Article by Tess Hargarten, MBBI Writer