Notes from former director Tone Bleie:
CPS goes global with UN workshops in New York
In late November, the Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) organized a series of workshops in cooperation with the Inter-Agency Working Group for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (IAWG-DDR) at the UN Headquarters in New York. IAWG - is the umbrella mechanism for the 21 UN agencies involved in the policy development and implementation of DDR in peacekeeping contexts. The workshops focused on draft reports on reintegration of ex-combatants in Somalia, Nepal and Afghanistan authored by the recently established International Research Group on Reintegration (IRGR) at CPS.
The workshops were attended by UN officials, practitioners in the study countries and leading experts on integration of ex-combatants. The draft 3-country reports generated insightful debates, validating the analytical approaches and affirming the need for innovative DDR research. Every country study was undertaken by an international team, including senior and junior researchers. For example, the Somalia report was co-written by Ingvild M. Gjeldsvik, a former MPCT student (Class 2008-2010), and Professor Tore Bjorgo, a leading expert on terrorism. All these developments are contributing towards the transformation of CPS from an educational unit only to a recognized center for applied reintegration research, a field of increasing importance for international peacekeeping. This recognition ought to be a welcoming news for all at CPS, including the Executive Board, staff and students. The same applies to all those who see CPS as a locomotive for UiT’s vision on peace and international solidarity.
The fall semester has been remarkable in many ways. It registered the largest MPCT class, which hopefully is taking full advantage of CPS as a cross-cultural arena for learning and life experiences. Active and focused students, who also cherish voluntary work, have always been the bedrock of CPS in its multiple efforts to strengthen the linkages between education, research and outreach.
On staff recruitment too, Eirik Hjulstad Iversen brought additional vigour to MPCT administration and the emerging center functions. Randolph Rhea, the former MPCT graduate and beneficiary of the new PhD fellowship on reintegration, will equally energize the center. The first Arctic Mini-Symposium, guest lectures, successful examinations and diverse students’ engagements have enriched the semester and already set the tone for next semester.
I wish you all a great semester’s end and look forward to a lively spring semester, as well as an inspirational New Year!
CPS meets the Arctic autumn with a big bang – becomes a home to 55 engaged students!
The Centre is proud to have 23 new students, further increasing and diversifying the student population. A total of 55 students from almost 17 countries are thus pursuing the MPCT program. This is a positive development that reinforces CPS as a hectic hub for lectures, seminars, film shows, research residency and cross-cultural experiences. In short, these are the people and activities that give meaning to the Mahatma Gandhi statue adorning our lawns.
Last week, many MPCT students joined the annual excursion to the Norwegian Army’s Regional HQ in Bardufoss. The bus trip involved a drive through a spectacular forested mountain and fjord landscape in shining orange and yellow, and returned home to a most spectacular sunset. At the Army’s training and study centre, an officer, who clearly relishes military terminology, briefed us about Norwegian operations in Afghanistan and other conflict hotspots (see attached group photo).
CPS is committed to innovative and exciting interfaces between the MPCT programme and the world of practice, sustaining peace and making critical transitions from war to peace. Thus, recently, we have awarded grants to three high-performing students to enable internship at UNDP-Somalia. While one awardee is an MPCT graduate, the other two are from the University of Bradford. The MPCT graduate, Ingvild Magnæs Gjelsvik, has written an exciting piece (see the Students Speak Column) about her hands-on experiences in project planning and implementation in a war ravaged and patriarchal society in the Horn of Africa.
Our newly established Visiting Scholarship Programme appears attractive. Currently, Prem Basnyat (PhD), an authority on Nepal’s military history and on global security and peace-keeping is in residence. In late October, Lama (PhD) from the University of Tribhuvan, a scholar on ethnic movements and indigenous rights, will also be with us for a week. His visit will be in connection with the intentional conference on “Indigenous Participation in decision-making: ideals, realities and possibilities”. I am honoured to be the Chair of the Forum for Collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, which organises these annual events (link). The Forum’s secretariat is located here at UiT – an indigenous focused university. In mid-November Desmond Molly, one of the international members on our recently established DDR-resource group will equally be visiting.
Emboldened by the positive responses from the UN-community to the findings from the joint NUPI-CPS project on “The Political Economy of DDR”, we are now designing a new research programme. This new effort will focus on Reintegration - the most understudied and neglected side of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR). We will soon avail you information about the undertakings of this exciting team of scholars and peace-building practitioners.
Welcome again to our new students, and a successful semester to all!
CPS expansion gains momentum
CPS is becoming a more livelily place as our Research and outreach programmes have gained momentum at CPS, leading to a more lively environment. The Executive Board approved the centre's seminal Research Strategy (2010-2013) last autumn and thereby creating potentials for synergies between research, outreach activities and the MPCT programme. Post-war processes are the overarching research theme. Societies emerging from protracted conflicts face many challenges, including weak state institutions, proliferation of small arms, physical destruction, displaced persons, mass poverty, trust deficits and the presence of intentional peacekeeping forces. As a result, we have opted to focus on re-integration of ex-combatants to deepen the insights the generated in the just completed CPS-NUPI project - "The Political Economy of Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR)". Stina Torjesen, the newly appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at CPS, was the project coordinator.
Until recently, the centre's educational activities revolved around the master's degree programme in Peace and Conflict Transformation. This has however changed with the doctoral training package designed for Lodve Svare since January 2010. His PhD project focuses on dialogue-based mediation in the intra-state conflicts in Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Perhaps, many of you have recently observed a couple of new faces at the CPS. If so, then they are people who have sought brief affiliation with the centre as a Resident Peace Scholar (RPS) and a Visiting Scholar (VS). While Vidar Vambheim is the RPS, Gunnar Rekvig (PhD candidate at Tokyo University for Foreign Studies) and Kit Christensen (Beimidji State University, USA) are the VS. All the affiliations are limited to this semester. So we are open for applications throughout the 2010 academic year.
CPS is now emerging as a visible actor in research and outreach efforts in post-war settings in Asia. And with time, we hope to expand our reach to other post-war countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. This brings to mind the recent natural disaster in Haiti and its challenges to simple "feel-good" humanitarianism. As a Centre for Peace Studies we need to remind ourselves and others that this disaster is largely human made, and implicates France and the US as colonial powers, the UN through its (at the best) partly failed stabilization mission and those in the international community who have actively promoted, or at least accepted that corporations has taken a stronghold over the economy. This policy has had negative environmental, economic and social repercussions, leading to a massive migration to the sprawling city of Port-de-Prince. The Haitian state did not collapse due to the collapse of the grand presidential palace and other governmental buildings. The state has not been allowed to evolve in a proper sense by lenders like IMF and the US. We do need to realise that without justice, there might be no real hope for Haiti. With its distinct DDR-focus, CPS needs to consider contributing to policy formulation on how Haitians' long-term future can be ensured through the massive reconstruction, recovery and state-building efforts that lie ahead.