Reinventing Peace

Comments by Alex de Waal, Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation at the January 17, 2012 reception honoring the  Foundation’s 101st anniversary and marking the official launch of the World Peace Foundation Program at the Fletcher School.

It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of Edwin Ginn and the other illustrious leaders of the World Peace Foundation, and to inherit this mantle of intellectual leadership in the cause of peace, one century on.

It is a particular honor and privilege to serve as the Executive Director of the Foundation as it begins its affiliation with the Fletcher School at Tufts. So I speak both as the director of the Foundation and as a professor at Fletcher – though I realize that the School can never award me tenure, as in the event of world peace being declared, I would be out of a job.

In our few months here at the Fletcher School, we have received a wonderfully warm welcome from the staff and faculty here. There are too many to mention by name, but I, and our administrator Lisa Avery, have benefited from an extraordinary level of support.

Which is evident in this reception tonight. Thank you to all of them.

A century ago, Edwin Ginn had a wonderfully straightforward vision of world peace: an international order in which the states of the world – by which he meant the developed countries of north America, Europe and Japan – settled their differences by peaceful and legal means. Ginn was perhaps fortunate that he died in January 1914 and so didn’t live to witness the Great War, and the inauguration of that exceptionally sanguinary period of modern history in which it seemed that western civilization was self-destructing. For much of the 20th century, Ginn’s project of world peace seemed a curious relic, testament to an earlier and more innocent era.

Today, perhaps Ginn looks less naïve. His view of peace was certainly incomplete, but his vision of inter-state relations governed by rules and ordered by consensual institutions, committed to ever-higher global norms, has – quite remarkably – come to pass.

As it enters its second century, the central theme or leitmotif of the World Peace Foundation, is “reinventing peace”. War is still with us, but in many significant ways, the wars of today are very different to those of fifty or a hundred years ago. Just as Ginn, Carnegie and their contemporaries invented a framework for inter-state peace, today we can re-invent peace for the kinds of armed conflicts that afflict the most difficult places in the world today.

Our research and teaching program at the Fletcher School, is dedicated to providing intellectual leadership in the search for new, and more appropriate, approaches to peace. We have initiated two important research programs already:

–       A program on “how mass atrocities end”, led by our research director, Bridget Conley-Zilkic;

–       A program jointly with the London School of Economics, studying justice, security and governance in conflict affected and fragile countries.

And there will be more, drawing upon the extraordinary expertise among the faculty and students of the Fletcher School and more widely across Tufts.

We have started a seminar series, and will be actively engaged in teaching.

Today, we reviewed proposals from students for an expert seminar, on any topic of their choosing. The winners are Katharine Davis, Leah Greenberg, Jennifer Keene, Mario Patiño, and Anne Wanlund with a proposal titled “Drug Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime: Reframing the Debate.”

We will be actively engaged in real, ongoing conflict resolution efforts. This weekend I will be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,

–       working with the African Union in trying to avert war between north and south Sudan,

–       in trying to rethink approaches to Somalia,

–       and inaugurating a memorial for the victims of human rights abuses at the new African Union headquarters building, which happens to be on the site of the former central prison of Ethiopia, known popularly as Alem Bekagn, “farewell to the world.”

The presence of the Foundation within the School is an opportunity for us to pursue all these avenues, to the benefit of both institutions and, we hope, in the furtherance of world peace.

I hope that Edwin Ginn would have approved.

As the Chair of the Board has said, our arrival here is akin to a homecoming. So it is appropriate that, in the Edwin Ginn Library, we, the World Peace Foundation, should provide to the library, on indefinite loan, our portrait of our common benefactor, Edwin Ginn.

Let me call upon the librarian, Jeff Kosokoff, to receive the portrait, and on the Academic Dean of the Fletcher School, Peter Uvin, to propose a toast.

Peter Uvin proposes a toast with Alex de Waal at the Jan. 17, 2012 celebration of the WPF's 101st anniversary (Kelvin Ma/Tufts University).

One thought on “Reinventing Peace

  • February 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    All the best in your new role with the foundation and for the foundation itself.
    David Lord

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