Seminar Briefings

The WPF regularly hosts closed-door research seminars that bring together leading experts from around the world to share their research and engage in focused discussion with a small group of colleagues. The WPF seminar structure is intentionally different from academic conferences. Whereas most conferences are designed to communicate established research through presentation and some questions and answers, we aim to enable extended conversations amongst experts with the goal of generating new avenues of insight and query. We therefore structure the seminars over two days, invite a small number of expert participants, and allow for shorter formal presentations and longer periods of discussion. Additionally, presentations and proceedings of WPF seminars adhere to the Chatham House rule of non-attribution.

To help bring the core discussions, debates and themes to a wider audience, we encourage all participants to consider allowing us to publish their presentation memos or seminar reflections which can be found on our blog, Reinventing Peace. We also make available summaries of the key insights provoked by the seminar discussions in short briefing notes for most of our seminars, listed below.

Theorizing (Dis)Order: Governing in an Uncertain World
March 2 – 3, 2017

Today’s globalized and securitized world is defined by instability,uncertainty, and turbulence. As the international community grapples with new threats, emanating from the transnational to the very local, scholars and policymakers continue to promote democratic institution building – guided by ideas of accountability, transparency, and institutional stability as solutions. And yet, the liberal state building project cannot explain why, nonetheless, disorder remains pervasive. To understand current trends in international and domestic relations, it is necessary to account for order and disorder.

Staying Safe in Armed Conflict
September 22 – 23, 2016

For international humanitarian actors, the protection of civilians is too often seen as something done to passive recipients, rather than activities undertaken to reinforce the priorities of and engage with these populations as key actors in their own futures. Furthermore, there is very little scholarship that pays serious attention to the priorities and goals of people in crisis situations. Overlooked are the questions of how those at risk identify the most acute threats; how they seek to protect themselves from these risks; and the balance of which strategies and coping mechanisms produce outcomes that are beneficial, detrimental or a combination thereof. This in effect often means that there is little appreciation of affected people’s priorities and goals in situations of crises. Thus, a critical issue is whether humanitarian action, including protection practices in particular, addresses the reality of people’s primary concerns and experiences and, by extension, strengthens rather than undermines effective civilian self-protection initiatives.

Transforming Violent Masculinities
February 17-19, 2016

From Rio de Janeiro to New Delhi, men perpetrate the majority of violent acts around the world. Yet the overwhelming majority of men are not violent, and even among those in high risk contexts, many actively resist violent mobilization. Masculinity represents a critical and under-examined factor for understanding pathways to participation and non-participation in violent activity. How do norms related to masculinities shape men’s involvement in violence? How do we build on drivers of non-­violence and inclusion that already exist in individual men and broader communities? And what are the implications for policy and program development?

Corruption, Protest and Militancy
June 25 – 27 , 2015

The seminar, ‘corruption, protest and militancy’ brought together twenty specialists academics and practitioners—all of whom had been concerned with issues of corruption, especially as it relates to conflict, popular protest and the emergence of militant political movements, for two days of discussion on a series of case studies and related cross-­‐cutting issues. The seminar was an opportunity for a confidential and in­‐depth reflection on these issues, in the wake of Sarah Chayes’s seminal book Thieves of State, published earlier this year, and the ongoing work of the Justice and Security Research Programme into the contending logics of the ‘political marketplace’ and ‘moral populism’ in Africa.

Water and Security in the 21st Century
4-6 March, 2015

Recent analyses of water and security have focused on the question of how water stresses could lead to conflicts between and within states. Water is a finite, scarce resource, essential to human life and well-­being. With population growth, expanding economies, groundwater depletion and climate change, and the need to protect water ecologies, water is under stress—and it is feared, conflict may follow. The solution to this threat is envisaged as sub-­national, national and international cooperation in the form of treaties and agreements for more equitable and efficient water management. An international group of experts on water and security assembled for a seminar at the World Peace Foundation—and found that what they held in common was a perspective that went beyond the binary of conflict versus cooperation.

Researching Sudan Peace Processes
October 17, 2014

This seminar arose from the World Peace Foundation project of compiling an archive of documents relating to the peace processes in Sudan and South Sudan. The main objective of the seminar was to introduce the archive to scholars working on Sudan and South Sudan and on African peace processes. A second objective was to examine the challenges of researching Sudan, South Sudan, with particular reference to their peace processes, and to extend the analysis to research into African peace processes more generally.

The Militarized Political Marketplace: Challenges to Security Sector Governance
August 19-20, 2014

The seminar aimed to bring together academics and practitioners working on the politics and policy of security sector governance (SSG) and reform (SSR). The use of the “governance” was intended to take the security sector conversation beyond “reform”, which has become a field principally focused on how western donors apply policy tools to countries that they identify as in a post-conflict transition. Instead, we shift our focus to the politics of the security sector.

“The Political Marketplace”: Developing a Framework for Addressing the Real Politics of Coercion and Corruption
June 12 – 13, 2014

Existing models for peace-­making, state-building and stabilization, which assume that “fragile states” can move, under international tutelage and sponsorship, towards capable and legitimate states, are wrong. Peace agreements that consist primarily in allocating rents to belligerents only reinforce the logic of a rent-­based political marketplace. Indeed, international efforts to achieve stabilization and state-­building by channeling effort and resources through governments are more often counterproductive than not.

Patterns of Violence in Somalia
September 27 – 28, 2013

This seminar approached the crisis in Somalia not through the lens of immediate problems and policy prescriptions, but from a starting point concerned with political economy and historic patterns of violence, the societal impacts and accounts of violence, and comparative analysis of changing frameworks of governance and conflict associated with the end of the Cold War and the growth of global governance. By taking history, literature and political theory seriously, and seeing Somalia as an exemplar of wider patterns in the contestation over governmental power and resources, the seminar generated important insights into the country’s current predicament.
How Mass Atrocities End Iraq
May 14 – 15, 2013

This seminar on mass atrocities in Iraq was a significant departure from the recent series of programs and reports marking ten years of direct U.S. military engagement in Iraq. Placing violence within the country’s longer modern history, it explored the level, patterns, origins and endings of episodes of mass violence, especially mass atrocity against civilians.

Advocacy In Conflict
February 28 & March 1, 2013

International (principally American) campaigns that advocate policies and actions in conflicts around the world have gained profile and impact in the last decade, most notably through new models that value mass mobilization of the American public, celebrity involvement, and marketing campaigns. The “advocacy in conflict”seminar addressed a discernible divergence between the goals, methods and impacts of these campaigns, and the requirements for resolving the political conflicts in the countries concerned and empowering the affected people. The recent case that has drawn most controversy is the KONY2012 video by the group Invisible Children, which sparked deep disquiet among Ugandans and specialists in the region. The KONY2012 case crystallized the
deepening concern among humanitarians, human rights organizations and conflict resolution specialists over a series of campaigns in Africa and elsewhere.
October 29-30, 2012
Over recent decades, the intensity and incidence of war—and indeed the very nature of organized violence—have been changing. On the basis that Mary Kaldor’s New and Old War (first published in 1999) provided a seminal explication of these transformations, this seminar used the opportunity of the third edition of her book (2012) to explore important aspects of contemporary conflicts from a security perspective.

Libya in the African Context
November 16 & 17, 2012

In the flurry of assessments and debates about the 2011 war in Libya that overthrew the country’s longtime ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, there has been little scholarly or policy attention to Libya’s
relationship with sub-­Saharan Africa during and after the conflict. Convening area experts for a combination of public and closed-­door discussions over two days, the World Peace Foundation aimed to reverse this neglect.

Seminar briefing not available:

  • How Mass Atrocities End: November 17 & 18, 2011
  • New Wars, New Peace: January 12 & 13, 201
  • How Mass Atrocities End: March 22 & 23, 2012
  • Western & Non-Western Views on Conflict Resolution: April 20 & 21, 2012
  • Drug Trafficking and Organized International Crime: Re-framing the Debate: May 7 & 8, 2012