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Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in General News

Report from Ann Jordan, University of Bradford Peace Studies 40th Anniversary Conference

3-5 May, 2014

Report from Ann Jordan, IPB Council Member, UK

 

To mark the occasion of its 40th anniversary, University of Bradford Peace Studies hosted a 3-day international conference with a range of papers on the future of peace studies in the 21st Century. Key papers were:

Josh Brem-Wilson Univ. Bradford,Recovering the Primacy of peace norms:Towards a methodology of academic peace research.  Kevin Kester,Peace Studies, the united nations universities and pedagogic discourse. Valentina Bartolucci, The Role of Peace Studies in an increasingly violent world : Looking for an alternative approach to terrorism.

 

The conference was organised around eight themes: Disarmament; Participation; Conflict Resolution; Peacekeeping and Peace-building;War and Peace in Africa; Peace Education; Philosophy; and the Security-Development Nexus.

 

I only attended one day of this three-day event but two peace colleagues, Peter van den Dungen, former Peace Studies Lecturer, and Peter Nias, Honorary Visiting Research Fellow, Peace Studies, have contributed to this report.

 

Peter van den Dungen, who chaired the opening round-table, said that it went well with the Lord Mayor speaking beautifully and from the heart. Peter was impressed with the fact that the hall was full to the very end of the conference Also, that the organisation was excellent overall, and altogether he found it an enjoyable and meaningful conference.

 

My own experience of this event was also very enjoyable, stimulating and inspiring.

The three plenaries were:

 

• Dr Saeb Erekat, Chief Negotiator for Palestine, focussed on the need for a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine, saying e.g. “Stand tall with those who are pro-peace” and “Worship God but don’t use him as a pretext for bloodshed”.

 

• Dr Shirin Ebadi, Former Iranian Judge and Nobel Peace Laureate spoke too on issues of war and peace emphasising preventative measures. She concluded by raising many issues about on-going human rights violations in Iran and the need for the West to address these rather than the disproportionate focus on nuclear power.

 

• Dr Helen Frowe, Centre for the  Ethics of War and  Peace, University of Stockholm, addressed  ‘What Justifies Humanitarian Intervention?’

A key point was the central factor of permissibility, i.e. we have to accept that interveners have the intention to aid; motivation is crucial to this. However, according to Jus ad bellum, intentions can be the wrong place to look. Intentions are not the same as justifications…and ‘on the grounds of good intentions’ isn’t necessarily a justification.

 

My first panel session, ‘Peacekeeping and Peace-building’ had 3 speakers, notably Dr. David Curran on ‘The Unintended Consequences of Protection of Civilians’…that is protection of civilians by UN ‘Blue Helmet’ peacekeeping forces. The ‘core principles’ mechanism, based on 3 main guidelines, is relatively new and though morally good, can produce many problems….

 

Re Definition: the UN’s own definition of peacekeeping makes no mention of Protection of Civilians,(PoC) describing peacekeeping as a ‘technique designed to preserve the peace …where fighting has been halted, and to assist in implementing agreements achieved by the peacemakers.’ Following the failure of its own safe area policy in Bosnia and the genocide in Rwanda, the UN has developed strategies to direct peacekeepers to protect civilians within the areas of deployment.

 

This effective rise of PoC is to be welcomed. However. it is also worth being aware of the problematic side of this, particularly in how it engages with the present UN peacekeeping system.

 

At the Operational level: PoC has had an effect on the core principles of peacekeeping. Operations deployed with PoC mandates are usually carried out via 3 complementary areas, which helps to ensure that the UN maintains consent for an operation. However, in certain deployments, operational demands have taken over planning and led to having to protect civilians purely through offering direct protection – guarding bases where civilians are sheltering from low level civil war fighting. Also the use of force in certain deployments, e.g. Congo – becomes ‘force intervention’. Therefore, the core principles are being eroded, and has had an impact on the approaches at a more strategic level towards peacekeeping.

 

Financially:  consequences are also being felt on other areas of policy such as levels of troop reimbursement for peacekeepers. Also, if operations are to be deployed in areas where use of force may be used, possibly without state consent, this will have a financial effect on the peacekeeping system, which is more pronounced when major financial contributors are trying to keep costs low within UN operations.

 

In conclusion, there is need to question the conceptual difficulties with protecting civilians.

UN Security Council actions towards PoC often give an impression of recklessness, which is possibly the most destabilising of the unintended consequences of PoC activities.

It is essential that those involved in the deployment of PoC policy in peacekeeping critically engage with the impact of PoC policy, reflect on successes and failures of using peacekeepers and peacekeeping to undertake a considerable share of tasks and seek innovative strategies to prevent escalation.

 

Second panel: ‘War and Philosophy’ notably Kelly Denton Borhaug, Moravian College, with her paper, ‘Moral Injury: New Evidence for Abolishing War’.

The concept of ‘Moral Injury’ as a wound of war is seen as having parallels with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) but stemming from a different source; for example, torturers who cannot deal with the stain that blights their lives. Moral Injury occurs owing to a conflict between a violation of beliefs about the world and the self as worthy; a strong ethical core is damaged.

 

Moral Injury is very prevalent among US military service members who are suffering from a legacy of ethical and moral violations during involvement in war. The Pentagon does not recognise Moral Injury; however, use of the term ‘inner conflict’ is allowed. It will be essential for us to examine the effects of militarism on citizens’ identity, together with the complex concept of resilience and the need to challenge our so-called ‘civic duty’ regarding war.

Martin Luther King said, “Moral degradation in war is the cause of Moral Injury.”

 

John Gittings, School of Oriental and African Studies, discussed, ‘Peace Theory and Just War in the 21st Century’ maintaining that there is a philosophy of war but not of peace and moreover that ‘philosophy of peace’ is outside of ‘peace studies’. He stated that Just War theory is a myth; a fig leaf for justifying war, and concluded with, “Philosophers also should think more about peace!”

 

Flavio Sanza, University of Swansea, discussed ‘A Philosopher against the Idea of War’

Two thinkers re Just Peace but with contradictory visions were selected by this speaker: Kant and Tolstoy. Kant said that the conditions necessary were democratic peace and liberal principles plus the rule of law, which still applies today. He envisaged a world federation of states with multi-lateral institutions. However, the dilemma here is the employment of armies and security forces maintaining perpetual peace via organised violence. Tolstoy as a pacifist believing in the abolition of war, suggests a contradictory vision to Kant; it removes reliance on violence for social order. However, this position contains a negative element in that it can be seen as conflict indecision i.e. not taking action,  whereas ‘positive peace’ looks for alternatives.  Therefore, there are unresolved tensions in these 2 visions re the best ways to resolve conflict. NB International law with its ‘humanitarian’ acceptance of Just War enhances reasons for justifying war. And linked with this is the increasing influence of transnational organisations, e.g. unregulated arms trade and financing of militias etc. Thus, pacifism is seen as a highly utopian vision in respect of all forms of collective violence. However, there are equal challenges for the Kantian vision in the construction of organisations that depend on collective violence.

 

My final panel, ‘Conflict Resolution’, had three speakers.

Maria Del Pilar Ramirez Grobli, University of St Gallen, spoke on ‘Conflict  Transformation  in  Rural  Colombia: Shifting  to  New  Negotiation  Mechanisms’.

In specific communities, collective endeavours are being used to transform conflict peacefully For example, jointly growing crops in local areas through negotiated agreements, and  significant use of community singing, e.g. strong, resilient farmers singing their narratives with positive messages. This has enabled the setting up of a communication system between armed groups and civilians. They acknowledge people’s victim-hood and suffering. Song is powerful as collective resistance.

 

Sherrill Hayes, Kennesaw State  University, spoke on ‘The  Power  of  Participatory  Action  Research: Photovoice  as  a  Bridge  between  Conflict  Resolution  Theory  and  Practice’.

‘Photovoice’ an image and dialogue-based participatory action research has enabled people to come together regularly using images to create responses. The researcher drew upon theories including social conflict e.g. Galtung’s ‘structural violence’.

 

Isabel  Philips,  University  of  Bradford, presented, ‘Heuristics  in  Mediation:  Loss  Aversion  and  the  Role  of  the  Mediator’. Key question for mediators is, how to switch between instant instinctive decision making (System 1: fast thinking, gut reactions) and ‘head’ responses or reactions (System 2: slow thinking, intellectual). The speaker drew upon Daniel Kahneman’s research on human behaviour notably his ‘Thinking Fast & Slow’ (2010).

 

Peter Nias’s feedback provides a good overview of the conference:

 

“There have been times that the world-renowned Bradford Peace Studies experienced some rocky patches. The 40th anniversary celebration and conference in 2014 put that well in the past. With around 200 delegates from 27 countries it was an event which helped us all to reflect. There were debates on the tension between activists and academics. Around 80 papers were received on the conference themes. Current cutting-edge research was presented and critically reviewed. There were non-academics wanting to inform themselves of the theory and practice of peace. There were academics testing the concepts. There were some military people too. There were also three exhibitions -on how Bradford Peace Studies started under the leadership of Adam Curle, on peace philanthropy, and a peace time-line.”

 

“Where do we go from here; can peace studies cope with future challenges? was the subject of the final debate. Led by Prof Paul Rogers, Prof Jenny Pearce & Prof Caroline Hughes.

The main points were: We need to rebuild an horizontal ontology/knowledge from and between the grass-roots;the vertical aspects which have been/are being used are only one dimension.

That Peace Studies has become more involved locally to Bradford in the last 15 years.

There is need to continue and develop the media/broadcasting work to put across the research that is being done. ‘Where to now in the study of peace?’ is and will continue to be very much an ongoing debate.”