Currently viewing the tag: "World Peace Foundation"

You may remember that last August, the World Peace Foundation introduced itself on the blog via three posts by Prof. Bridget Conley-Zilkic, and one of those posts described WPF’s annual student seminar competition.  Well, the competition took place last fall, and the resulting conference will take place this week.

Darfur Village Abandoned after Heavy ClashesUnlearning Violence: Evidence and Policies for Early Childhood Development and Peace” will feature “the best ongoing research in fields related to early childhood development and violence and peace.” It has been organized with the support of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University (interesting collaboration!) and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.  I realize I haven’t given you much advance notice, but you can still register to attend.  Once you read through the agenda, I’m sure you’ll be tempted.

As I mentioned, the conference grew out of the student seminar competition, and two proposals on the same topic were selected.  The two teams of competition winners (with an impressive showing from first-year students!) worked together to create the seminar.  The students are:  Madeeha Ansari (second-year MALD), Jack Berger (first-year MALD), Maria Rita Borba (first-year MALD), Taryn Campbell (second-year MALD), Suh Yonn Kang (second-year MALD), Daniel Orth (second-year MALD), Tina Robiolle-Moul (PhD candidate), and Roberta Sotomaior (first-year MALD).  Congratulations to all of the conference organizers!  It should be a terrific and informative event.

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Our next profile by a Fletcher professor comes from Alex de Waal, who is Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation and a Research Professor at the Fletcher School.  In addition to directing the World Peace Foundation, Prof. de Waal currently teaches Conflict in Africa.

ADWAn occupational hazard of my job as Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation is that, when I introduce myself, people tend to snicker.  In the twenty-first century, apparently, advocates of “world peace” seem to be beauty queens or practitioners of levitation.  It wasn’t always so.  A hundred years ago, when the World Peace Foundation was established, there was a strong movement for world peace, in America and many other countries.  It was perfectly respectable for political leaders to espouse resolving all disputes between nations by negotiation and law, not by force.  Fifty years ago, in his commencement address to the American University, President John F. Kennedy chose the theme of world peace, “a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived — yet it is the most important topic on earth.”  Our goal at the World Peace Foundation is to make world peace once again a regular topic of public discourse, and an accepted goal of public policy.

I came to the World Peace Foundation after twenty-five years of working as a reflective practitioner, mostly in Africa.  I was an advocate for and critic of humanitarian action in famine, an exponent of human rights but a critic of some of the activities pursued in the name of human rights, and most recently an advisor to mediation efforts in Sudan.  I was recurrently troubled by the way in which many international efforts to end suffering and promote human wellbeing ended up having unintended and adverse consequences.  And I was determined that critically analytic social science, grounded in the lived realities of people in these difficult places, could help remedy these shortcomings.

Political leaders and senior officials in governments and international agencies are rarely critical thinkers — they are simply too busy responding to the next problem to be reflective, analytical and creative.  Some years ago, I began to suspect that the key to solving the most intractable public policy problems is not to influence decision makers — who will adjust their actions only at the margin anyway — but to invest in building intellectual capital among young professionals and students, who will go on to change the world.  And in turn, I realized that the best way to attract the best students to the problems that concerned me, such as war and famine, is to make these subjects intellectually challenging — to fasten onto the most fascinating debates and dilemmas, and to have the courage of theorizing a complicated reality.

The World Peace Foundation and I joined The Fletcher School at the same time, in 2011.  In my twin roles as foundation director and professor, I have been trying to put this philosophy into practice.  I teach a class, “Conflict in Africa,” in which I try to make the subject intellectually exciting as well as relevant to the real issues of the day.  (For better or worse, the case studies I select seem to hit the news just as they come up in the class schedule.)  I also continue with my work as a practitioner, especially with the African Union’s peace and security initiatives.  The World Peace Foundation, meanwhile, has a growing array of research and advocacy topics, including the “how mass atrocities end” program (led by WPF Research Director, Prof. Bridget Conley-Zilkic), our “African peace archive” that documents the inner workings of mediation processes, research on the “political marketplace” and “political entrepreneurship,” and a new project on corruption and the global arms business.  I see this all as a contribution to making it possible to talk seriously about peace, not just in specific places, but in the whole world.

In her final post today about the World Peace Foundation, Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the WPF Research Director and Assistant Research Professor at Fletcher, invites Fletcher students to become involved in the work of WPF.  The first post, which described WPF’s history, appeared two weeks ago, and the second post, describing the World Peace Foundation’s current work and mission, appeared last Wednesday.

World Peace Foundation

If you are interested in the work of the World Peace Foundation (WPF), there are a number of ways that you can get involved with us.  You can take our classes — Alex de Waal is teaching a course on African Politics in Fall 2013 and Bridget Conley-Zilkic is teaching on Mass Atrocities in Spring 2014.  Or you can attend our events, “like” us on Facebook, follow us on twitter (@WorldPeaceFoundation), and explore our website.

Access short, insightful essays by WPF staff and other global experts on our areas of thematic concern on our blog, Reinventing Peace.  Among the essays are series on reclaiming activism, ending mass atrocities, conflict mediation, new wars, and more.

The winners of the 2012-2013 Student Seminar Competition were, as pictured at left, Jennifer Ambrose F'14, Casey Hogle F'13, Trisha Taneja F'14, Keren Yohannes F'14.

The winners of the 2012-2013 Student Seminar Competition were, from left to right, Jennifer Ambrose F’14, Casey Hogle F’13, Trisha Taneja F’14, Keren Yohannes F’14.

If you are reading this as an enrolled Fletcher School student (master’s-level or PhD) you can also participate in our annual student seminar competition.  Each year we invite proposals from Fletcher students for a two-day seminar to be held on campus in February 2014.  WPF seminars offer a rare opportunity for leading experts to engage in incisive, collegial, and sustained dialogue on the pressing problems of our day.  The student competition enables Fletcher School students to frame an issue and interact with leading global experts on the topic of their choosing.

Past winning topics include “Western Advocacy in Conflict” (2012-2013) and “Drug Trafficking and Organized International Crime: Re-Framing the Debate.” (2011-2012).

The deadline for submitting a proposal is October 10, 2013.  Full information about the competition is available on our website.

WPF also hires two research assistants to help with our work for each academic year.  While the 2013-2014 positions are filled, look for new opportunities in the coming year.  We also have a number of research projects that you can get involved with.  This Fall 2013, we’ll be continuing our project on mass atrocity endings, which students can work on as an independent study.

Take a closer look at our website for more details, stay in touch with us, and we hope to meet you as the semester begins in September.

In the second of three posts about the World Peace Foundation, today Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the WPF Research Director and Assistant Research Professor at Fletcher, describes the Foundation’s current work and mission.  The first post described WPF’s history, and the final post will appear next Wednesday.

World Peace Foundation

Understanding that the nature of armed conflicts is today different from what originally challenged peace activists over a hundred years ago when the World Peace Foundation was founded, how can a century-old mandate be relevant today?

The first task is to embrace the historical legacy and recognize that the work of peace is precisely that — the hard work of building coalitions, taking chances, and transforming what was accepted as fact into new possibilities.  What was once called “peace activism” may have new professional life as security studies, peacebuilding, conflict mediation, development, or peacemaking; but at heart, this work shares a common belief that a collective effort can make the world less violent.  And there is evidence that it is working.

Secondly we must ask, how is the work of peace different in our time?  Rarely is war today composed of two national armies facing each other across a well-defined battlefield; and peace is rarely understood as achieved with the ink on paper of a signed agreement.  In fact, defining when a conflict is ended, or ended enough, is a struggle of enormous political import today.  Recognizing that the challenges are different because war itself is different, we must ask, how should we redefine peace for the next hundred years?  Do we have the right concepts and tools?  Are we asking the right questions?

To rise to this challenge, the WPF seeks to provide intellectual leadership for peace in line with its exceptional characteristics:

  • The combination of a century-old history and a commitment to visionary thinking;
  • Intellectual independence and flexibility, not constrained by external funding;
  • Educational mission as manifest in our presence in The Fletcher School, Tufts University;
  • Connectedness to policymakers.

The WPF program rests on three pillars: research, policy and education.  Our research program aims to be innovative and provocative, marrying commitment to rigorous, interdisciplinary research with creative questioning in order to spark new conversations about we might understand and respond to the challenges of armed conflict today.  Methodologically inductive, all of our programs are founded on analysis into the questions of the nature and causes of violent conflicts and mass atrocities, and how they are ended.  We move from evidence and analysis to engagement with policy and theory.  Among our projects are: New Wars, New Peace; How Mass Atrocities End; and How Conflicts End.

The WPF’s policy engagement is integrated with its research, in two senses.  First, our policy engagement provides materials for innovative research.  Second, our policy engagement in turn derives from the research directions of the WPF program.  Leveraging the WPF’s unique access to political leaders and institutions, the programs aim to bring the qualities of innovation and creativity to its support of political processes for peace.  Our focus is on the world’s most difficult places, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Pictured above are, from left to right, WPF executive director Alex de Waal, Suleiman Zakaria, Thabo Mbeki, Ali Haroun in Ain Siro, North Darfur, Sudan (July 2009).

Pictured above are, from left to right, WPF executive director Alex de Waal, Suleiman Zakaria, Thabo Mbeki, Ali Haroun in Ain Siro, North Darfur, Sudan (July 2009).

Given Executive Director Alex de Waal’s extensive ties to the African Union and African leaders, working with these key actors will be a strong focus for the WPF.  We aim to widen our engagement with African peace processes.  Further, the WPF will engage with policies to end mass atrocities, and to increase public advocacy for peace.

An international public intellectual conversation is needed to respond to the challenges of new threats to peace and the requisite new vision of world peace.  The WPF education programs are designed to catalyze such a conversation.  We aim to influence emerging international leaders through the student body of The Fletcher School, engage other institutions across the world working with graduate students in international affairs and peace studies, and disseminate key ideas to the broader public.  The WPF’s educational programs are a long-term investment in the next generation’s leadership.  Our educational efforts combine teaching courses within The Fletcher School and supervising students conducting research, expanding to engage with the wider Tufts community, alongside an externally-focused program of public education using lectures, events, the media and publications, and our blog and social media.

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Sitting in the Admissions Office, it can be difficult to gain real knowledge of all that’s going on at the School.  And whatever I don’t know much about, I usually don’t write about.  So I was lucky that the World Peace Foundation agreed to write a series of blog posts to describe their very interesting work.  Here is the first post, written by Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the WPF Research Director and Assistant Research Professor at Fletcher.  Two more posts will appear on the coming two Wednesdays.

World Peace Foundation

One of the most fragile books on the shelves at Tufts University’s Tisch Library must surely be Jonathon Dymond’s excessively titled piece An Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of Christianity and an Examination of the Philosophical Reasoning by Which It is Defended with Observations on the Causes of War and Some of Its Effects (1834), donated to Tufts Library in 1861.  Its cover is a time-worn blue and gold; its pages have already faded from yellow to light brown.  Is it possible that the founder of the World Peace Foundation (WPF), Edwin Ginn, pulled this same book off the shelves when he was a student at Tufts in 1858-1862?  And would Ginn be proud to know that the foundation he created in support of world peace in 1910 came “home” in a manner of speaking to Tufts University’s The Fletcher School in 2011?  For Ginn was not only a Tufts almnus and trustee, his name also graces the library at The Fletcher School, founded by his donation.

A self-made man and publisher of educational textbooks, Ginn was part of an emerging international movement at the turn of the last century that traced its conceptual roots to Immanuel Kant’s notion of “perpetual peace” based upon a “league of nations.”  While not all were pacifists, many participants in the movement believed that advancing international commerce, democracy, law, and diplomacy would provide the building blocks for a definitive era of global peace.

The WPF was established in lines with this approach for the purpose of:

“…educating the people of all nations to the full knowledge of the waste and destructiveness of war and of preparation for war, its evil effects on present social conditions and on the well-being of future generations, and to promote international justice and the brotherhood of man, and generally by every practical means to promote peace and good will among all mankind.”

A poster from The World Peace Foundation archives.

A poster from The World Peace Foundation archives.

Edwin Ginn died on January 21, 1914.  He did not live to witness the horrors of World War I, let alone those of World War II.  But since his time, two of the three pillars of world peace that he identified have been constructed: inter-state cooperation through the United Nations and other bodies, and mechanisms for the lawful and nonviolent resolution of international disputes.  By contrast, his third goal of disarmament has not been achieved.

Meanwhile, especially in the last half century, the number and intensity of violent conflicts has fallen, and their nature has changed.  Today, war is often pursued by non-state actors, including informal globalized networks, and most violence takes place within countries, with blurred boundaries between armed conflict, crime and the enforcement of government will.  These shifts in the trends of warfare deeply challenge the conceptualization and work of peace; a fact that animates the program of the World Peace Foundation today.

Beginning in 2011, with the move to The Fletcher School, Alex de Waal was brought on board as the executive director, and soon thereafter he hired Bridget Conley-Zilkic as research director and Lisa Avery as administrative assistant.  The WPF today aims to provide intellectual leadership on issues of peace, justice and security.  We believe that innovative research and teaching are critical to the challenges of making peace around the world, and should go hand in hand with advocacy and practical engagement with the toughest issues. As the Foundation enters its second century, our underlying theme is reinventing peace for the globalizing world.

In our next blog essay, learn about our on-going projects.

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