PREP kicks off its 2019-20 seminar series focusing on locally-led peacebuilding by welcoming EcoPeace Middle East to the Center for Global Affairs. EcoPeace works in Israel, Palestine and Jordan at the nexus of environmental and peacebuilding issues, through a combination of a bottom-up and top-down approaches. EcoPeace teams from Palestine, Jordan and Israel will present examples of locally-led peacebuilding through highlighting their peace education programs. These environmental programs are multi year and multi level, held with high school students, undergraduates at universities and with young professionals, as a means to empower a new generation of activists and young professionals in peacebuilding.
Co-sponsored by the Peace Research and Education Program (PREP), the Peace and Conflict Transformation (PACT) student group and NYU Steinhardt’s Peace and Conflict Studies minor
The event consisted of two panel discussions exploring the meaning, the effectiveness and the challenges of locally-led peacebuilding.
First, a panel of MSGA students who had recently completed summer graduate student consultancies with international peacebuilding organizations through the Workshop in Applied Peacebuilding reflected on the importance of peacebuilding as a locally-led enterprise. The students -- some of whom were coming off their very first field experiences -- wrestled with their own roles as outsiders after seeing the complex ways in which peacebuilding unfolds on the ground.
Next came a panel of more senior scholar-practitioners: Zahid Ahmed (Deakin University, Australia); Jasmine Linabary (Emporia State University;); Brad Heckman (NYU SPS Center for Global Affairs); Ali Altiok (Independent Researcher) and; Katerina Siira (NYU SPS Peace Research and Education Program). Moderated by Elisabeth King (NYU Steinhardt), the second panel discussed how the gradual shift toward locally-led peacebuilding is transforming practice at multiple levels and raising awareness of the power and potential of local actors to build and sustain more peaceful societies. This engaging conversation examined what it means for peacebuilding to be locally-led, what it means for peacebuilding to be effective and how international and local actors can best work together in pursuit of peace.
MSGA students had an afternoon conversation with Aya Chebbi, award-winning Pan-African feminist during PREP’s final seminar on Youth and Peace. Aya shared insights from her work as a young activist during Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and from her current role as the the African Union’s first Youth Envoy. She illustrated how she has consistently used her platform to create wider access to hierarchical and patriarchal institutions that so often exclude youth and women. She has does so by, for example, facilitating participatory review processes of Tunisia’s most recent constitution or by extending the invitations to meetings with high government officials as the Youth Envoy to local youth activists. Aya also highlighted the importance of technology in raising youth political consciousness and mobilizing youth to change exclusionary political systems. She stressed the importance of twenty-first century solutions to today’s problems which include means for transnational organizing for youth to support one another in Africa and throughout the world. In that spirit -- and in the true spirit of the sustaining peace agenda -- Aya is open to sharing what she and her colleagues organizing revolutions in Africa have learned, “If you [liberal democracies] need help, just tell the global south.”
Saskia Bory Keely, a Swiss humanitarian photojournalist and documentarian, joined the Peace Research and Education and Program (PREP) and the Peace and Conflict Transformation (PACT) student group to share images, methods and inspiring stories from the photography workshops she has conducted each of the past three summers with Israeli women settlers and Palestinian women living in the West Bank.
By sharing the bold and intimate photos taken of and by participants -- many of whom were spending time with the other for the first time -- Keely illustrated the arc of transformation of attitudes, perceptions and relationships that occurs as a result of participation in the four-day workshops. The camera serves as an equalizing tool in the workshops, creating the circumstances for women to occupy shared spaces, make connections, and build trust across deeply ingrained cultural, political, and physical barriers. The photos and the shared experience of taking them are organic catalysts for difficult and painful conversations, bold questions, and necesitate listening to one another and recognition of the complicated roles both groups play in each other’s lives. The beautifully composed photos serve to humanize the participants to one another and highlight the mutuality of their lives while recognizing unequal power dynamics.
Keely’s workshops are a powerful example of how creativity -- and the vulnerability and empowerment that comes from the process of creation -- can plant the seeds for reconciliation in a conflict so often portrayed as intractable.
PREP celebrated its first anniversary with friends from the NYU community and affiliate organizations. Director Thomas Hill and project director Katerina Siira shared highlights from a busy year of action research with university partners in Iraq, Colombia and Kuwait. The projects -- built on the fundamental notion that universities can play a central role in making communities more peaceful -- strengthened the ability of young people, professors and academic institutions to prevent and address violent conflict through transformative education. PREP graduate assistants Marta Bautista Forcada and Hussein Ibrahim shared reflections on the ways in which PREP serves as a bridge between the classroom and the peacebuilding field -- offering students opportunities to put what they have learned in the MSGA program into practice. Looking ahead, PREP will focus on deepening its relationships with its new partners and expanding its network of peacebuilding academics and practitioners.
Harald Thoerud of the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) at the Peacebuilding Support Office joined NYU Center for Global Affairs students for an afternoon discussion on PBF’s efforts to support youth peacebuilding more significantly and described the ways in which the Fund is working on youth engagement in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Thoerud highlighted the Fund’s growing investment in young peacebuilders; this year marked the highest approval rate for youth projects with a total of 19 youth projects approved for almost 22 million dollars. Thoerud further described how the Sustaining Peace and Youth Peace and Security resolutions have brought significant changes at the UN by more effectively integrating UN peacebuilding, security, political, development, and humanitarian work with greater emphasis on youth. Pointing to the first annual call for proposal for The Gender Youth Promotion Initiative Fund, — which will fund local organizations focused on youth and gender — Thoerud illustrated how PBF is operationalizing the these resolutions as well as UN Resolution 2419 on youth in conflict prevention and resolution -- which has a particular focus on young women and the most marginalized.
Scholars at Risk (SAR), the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law, NYU Steinhardt’s Program in International Education, and NYU’s School of Professional Studies' Peace Research and Education Program invite you to join us for: Free to Think 2018: A Year in Attacks on Higher Education. A panel discussion and reception with remarks by: Julio Martinez Ellsberg – Member of the Nicaraguan Platform for Social Movements and Civil Society Organizations, Hadi Ghaemi – Executive Director, Center for Human Rights in Iran, Omer Kanat – Director, Uyghur Human Rights Project, Simten Cosar – Visiting Scholar, Cornell University, Tom Keenan – SAR Board Member, Executive Director, Human Rights Project, and Professor of Comparative Literature, Bard College, and Robert Quinn – Executive Director, Scholars at Risk.
A panel of MSGA students who have recently completed summer graduate student consultancies through the Workshop in Applied Peacebuilding will address the importance of Sustaining Peace from the perspective of youth -- both young practitioners and young stakeholders. Following their discussion, join a panel of senior practitioners for a critical discussion about how youth-focused peacebuilding is becoming recognized as an increasingly crucial element of programs and processes that seek to contribute to the construction of peaceful societies globally.
The practitioner panel, moderated by PREP Director Thomas Hill, will include Graeme Simpson, lead author of the UN Security Council-mandated Progress Report on Youth, Peace and Security; Cécile Mazzacurati, co-chair of the UN Inter-agency Working Group on Youth & Peacebuilding; and Ilwad Elman, Director of Programs and Development for the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia.
In an event co-sponsored by Al-Fanar Media and Scholars at Risk, PREP hosted Dr. Talal Al Shihabi, a professor at Damascus University who has worked extensively on higher education reform in Syria for a discussion on the past, present and future of higher education in Syria. Having lived through the Syrian crisis in Damascus, Dr. Al Shihabi described his observations on its impact on public and private universities throughout Syria. In particular, Dr. Al Shihabi highlighted opportunities for collaboration between international higher education institutions with those in Syria on topics including further capacity building in fields of study that will be needed to respond to the physical and social reconstruction of Syrian society.
PREP project director Katerina Siira spoke at the NYU Conflict, Development and Security series at the Wagner school. She described the work of PREP and offered frank reflections on its work in strengthening youth peacebuilding capacity in Iraq in light of the international community’s overemphasis on livelihoods and education programming that have proven to be ineffective. That work has included 200 Community Peace Education workshops and the the participatory and contextualized process of co-developing and co-facilitating a conflict transformation simulation exercise with CGA alumna Love Odih Kumuyi and Dr. Mamoun Mohammed, a trainer at the University of Duhok Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies in three communities in Iraq. She shared her initial findings that participating youth indicated that the non-proscriptive three-day role playing exercise in a semi-fictionalized world, allowed them to develop confidence, enhance problem solving skills, and address vertical inequalities between youth and traditional power holders, and horizontal inequalities among youth.
A discussion with Jared Kotler from the United Nation Department of Political Affairs at CGA. Jared presented a background and context of Colombia Peace Process between the Colombian government and FARC. After five decades of war, both parties signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in November 2016. Jared noted some potentials of this peace process such as a stable national government, the regional and international consensus that would make it successful. It is also a comprehensive agreement in that it emphasizes on political participation ”So, inclusion is very important, and the lack of it sometimes is the main reason for peace talks to fall apart.”
Jared reiterated that in Colombia there is a real opportunity for peace through a sustained effort to consolidate the peace process. And demonstrate that the peaceful settlement of conflict through negotiation can work.
Professor Coleman presented about the science of sustaining peace and type of peace. He talked about challenges that the world is facing but not adequately dealing with. So, in the Science of Sustaining Peace model, they focus on pillars and indicators that can be measured and study its correlations with each and everything else in a community. These indicators have an impact of peacefulness. But they have different kinds of impacts, some of them mitigate peace and others drive. They have different weights; some of them really matter like gender inequality and others less so. And it’s different from a state to state or a community to another. And the level of peacefulness interaction with these things and to affect their relevance, and they all affect each other.
So, the Science of Sustaining Peace model is a multidisciplinary approach that takes into account the complexity of systems and seeks to include the local voices. It looks into the science and the interrelationships of different indicators. Then, the astrophysicist takes this understanding and translates it into a mathematical equation. Ultimately, it will give some sense of probability. There is a probability in this particular system for things being not right and negative peace or if things are moving into more sustainable, peaceful relationships. It will give a little bit more of sophisticated understanding of how these things may interact generally. If this system evolves, it might show what will a certain investment in an area do over time and identify its consequences.
Ambassador Ihab Moustafa, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations, described the evolution of the UN from peacekeeping to development to peacebuilding. He shed light on how the term “peacebuilding” has been misunderstood and co-opted to encourage competition for limited funding. However, he emphasized that Sustaining Peace is not a new concept to the UN, and that it actually has been the raison d’etre of the organization since the end of the Cold War.
Sarah Douglas, Gender Advisor for the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, explained how women’s security acts as an early warning system and gender equality acts as an accelerator for social good. She shared examples of women movements that form the base of the civil society that the Sustaining Peace Agenda endeavors to strengthen. She ended by recommending that in the spirit of the Sustaining Peace Agenda, we listen and respond to what civil society say are their needs.
Students joined a brown bag discussion with Simon van Melick, programme manager at SPARK, a Netherlands-based NGO that develops higher education and entrepreneurship programs to empower young, ambitious people to lead their conflict-affected societies into prosperity. He explained how a youth initiative started by his classmates expanded into a worldwide effort to bring education and job training into societies that were struggling with violent conflict. IPE had previously worked with SPARK to teach 30 youth computer coding skills in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
NYUSPS Center for Global Affairs (CGA) students, faculty, and guests from the peacebuilding community joined together for the academic year kickoff of CGA’s Initiative for Peacebuilding Through Education and an engaging discussion on how the concept of Sustaining Peace is changing the paradigm of how we build peace. A panel of MSGA students who have recently completed summer graduate student consultancies through the Workshop in Applied Peacebuilding addressed the importance of Sustaining Peace from the perspective of young practitioners. Following their discussion, Paige Arthur, Deputy Director at NYU’s Center on International Cooperation, Marc Jacquand from the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General and Youssef Mahmoud, Senior Advisor at the International Peace Institute discussed why some actors have begun to distance themselves from the concept of Peacebuilding while the idea of Sustaining Peace has begun to gain traction at the United Nations and elsewhere.
This workshop provided an introduction to the successful digital conflict resolution facilitation approach designed by Soliya. Students were able to continue into the Advanced Facilitation Training Certification with graduates and professionals from all over the world, where many of them acquired hands-on experience facilitating cross-cultural dialogue.
A brown bag lunch discussion with Imam Khalid Latif (Chaplain & Executive Director at Islamic Center at NYU) and Reverend Mary Catherine Young (NYU Episcopalian Chaplain). The NYU Chaplains explained how they have used religion and interfaith action to build peace. They called on students to define peace personally and realize that love is a seed that requires cultivation and attention. Poignant to the discussion about working with different people was the reminder that our perception of ‘the other’ tells us more about ourselves than them requiring us to be mindful of how our perceptions can affect our work as peacebuilders.
A brown bag lunch discussion with Youssef Mahmoud, Senior Adviser, International Peace Institute. Students were given the opportunity to explore the transition from traditionally understood peacebuilding to the sustaining peace agenda and the emergence of prevention as a central concept to conflict management. Mahmoud encouraged students to shift the paradigm so that the focus is on “identifying context-specific capacities as the starting point” in order to strengthen the factors already in communities which have led to them being peaceful and just societies.
Professor Severine Autesserre of Barnard College at Columbia University spoke with students and faculty members about the need to concentrate peacebuilding work in local communities and to resist its securitization. “Everyday practices, habits and narratives on the ground strongly impact the effectiveness of international intervention efforts,” Autesserre said. “... Most research emphasizes differences between peacebuilding approaches. My research emphasizes the commonalities between them.” Autesserre is the author of Peaceland.
Approximately 400 young people came together for the first-ever Youth Peacebuilding Summit at the University of Duhok (UoD). PREP worked in partnership with UoD Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies to organize the summit.
Youth who had participated in the Community Peace Education program in 2015 and 2016 came from 18 high schools and 16 displacement camps in and around Duhok to participate in the summit. UoD facilitator Adnan Mzori led the group in an Open Space process that enabled participants to organize and conduct discussions around peacebuilding topics of their choosing. Participants ran 13 individual sessions that included subjects such as Spreading Peace Education Through Books, Bridge Building to Build Community, and Spreading Peace Through Social Media.
PREP director Thomas Hill offered encouragement to participants at the start of the summit, which occured three days after military operations began to remove the Islamic State from Mosul (located just 45 miles south of Duhok). He drew a parallel between 2016 and 2003, when the US conducted military operations in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein's government from power. "There is one difference between 2003 and now, however, and that difference is you," Hill said. "In 2003, there was no group of young people prepared to work for change rather than to wait for change ... But now, here you are."
This event marked the launch of PREP’s predecessor, the Initiative for Peacebuilding Through Education (IPE), with a public discussion by peacebuilding students and practitioners. Students from the Applied Workshop in Peacebuilding class that had spent the summer doing consultancies in Jordan with UNDP and World Vision, Liberia with Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation, Timor Leste with Ba Futuru, South Korea and Japan with International Peace Parks, and Myanmar with the World Education Foundation, shared their reflections on the peacebuilding field. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdytrcescTg&t=47s
Gidon Bromberg, cofounder of EcoPeace Middle East, shared how the organization uses water as a tool for building peace between Palestinians, Israelis, and Jordanians. The discussion over breakfast with students and guests of the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding (OBCP) emphasized that peacebuilding's impact is maximized when it is framed in interdisciplinary ways. With its bottom-up and top-down approaches, Bromberg explained how EcoPeace's environmental peacebuilding work draws on the language and tools of the security, human rights, and economic development sectors to address structural roots of conflict in the region. Students and guests gained insight into how long-term and locally led peacebuilding initiatives, which create new shared identities and a healthy interdependence, can contribute to the conditions for sustainable peace.