Steering conflict toward positive communication and change

Mitigating conflict begins with a willingness to listen, an ability to understand the concerns of others and the desire to work toward a solution. It’s this approach that makes Lynette de Silva a catalyst for how water disputes are negotiated and resolved on a local, national and international level.

As director of Oregon State’s Water Conflict Management and Transformation graduate certificate program, de Silva helps students learn to bridge economic, political and environmental divisions when there are too many demands on too little water. She emphasizes building trust among stakeholders — farmers and city dwellers, conservationists and others — by ensuring all perspectives are heard and valued.

This 18-credit graduate certificate program is offered through Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. It draws students from Oregon, across the U.S. and worldwide. The program provides the flexibility to earn a certificate on campus, online via Ecampus or a combination of the two.

The curriculum integrates the human, policy and scientific dimensions of water resources management. At the same time, de Silva believes one of the best things about the program is how it develops lifelong skills beyond the issues surrounding water.

Learning to help others cooperate and share their points of view effectively is the best way to make a lasting impact, she says. “Rather than thinking of a conflict as something negative, I hope we can look beyond that and see it as an opportunity for constructive dialogue and listening to enhance understanding.”

de Silva’s own experience in water resources management include helping to design a nonpartisan platform for dialog on topics of Columbia River governance. She served on the River Basins Working Group, conducting a comprehensive baseline assessment of transboundary river basins for the United Nations Environmental Program. She has also led water conflict management training to senior water professionals in East Africa for UNESCO.

Lynette DeSilva

Lynette de Silva

Director, Water Conflict Management and Transformation Program
Coordinator, IDES Program
Water Conflict Management and Transformation Program