Sierra Leone in November this year will host the 26th biennial conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) which will take place in Freetown. This conference will be the second time Africa to host the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964.
The conference will bring together more than 500 peace researchers and few others interested in peace research from different countries across all the continents with about hundreds of papers to be presented in various sessions. A very colorful Sierra Leonean cultural music and dance performance will kick-started the proceeding of the conference.
In a brief interview, Sierra Leonean-born IPRA co-Secretary General Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw(pictured), Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics at the Northumbria University in the United Kingdom expanded the discussion on the sustainable peace—universal values nexus to Lisa Schirch’s concept of just peace, which is a hybrid of human rights and peace.
He argued that just peace goes beyond efforts to reduce direct violence: “Just peace building efforts priorities the proper transformation of principles and values over a long period of time through an organized system of distributive justice where resources and decision-making are shared”.
Dr Shaw explained the concept of just peace from the perspective of what he called the indivisible First Generation Political and Civil Rights and Second Generation Economic, Social and Cultural Rights thereby emphasizing the importance of the two sets of rights.
He, however, lamented that the reason why we are seeing a vicious circle of violence, especially in the developing world is because most of the time focus has been placed on taking care of the Political and Civil Rights of all parties to the conflict but ignore their Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Drawing on examples in the escalation of conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, and in Syria and Iraq, Dr Shaw said: “In this way it is often easy to dismiss the weak and the poor as monsters trying to create disorder for the strong and rich as victims, without trying to find out the extent to which these so-called ‘monsters’ may have been created by the very unjust structures set up by the so-called ‘victims’ ”,
He argued that in order to avoid a situation of a vicious circle of violence and achieve a kind of sustainable peace, interventions to prevent or resolve conflicts must be based on the principle of just peace for all parties to the conflict be they ‘victims’ or ‘monsters’.
Dr Shaw concluded his remarks by expressing hope that “by the end of this conference participants will return home better equipped with knowledge on how to use their peace research work to address the topical issues of the conference such as those related to post Cold War political ideology, geopolitics, geo-economics’, international and regional cooperation on intra-state and cross-border conflicts, climate change, inequality, poverty, arms race etc.”
Another Sierra Leonean born diplomat, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Women in Conflict, Mrs. Haja Zainab Hawa Bangura has said that one of the causes of armed conflicts is often the marginalization of women, and yet when there is an outbreak of conflicts they are often on the receiving end of the worst human rights violations.
Mrs. Bangura, who formerly served as both Foreign and Health ministers in Sierra Leone, recalled her experience working to empower women victims of the 1991-2002 Civil War in Sierra Leone, and in post-conflict Liberia where some women victims of human rights violations became very successful peace activists.
A Professor of Peace Studies, Johann Galtung said: “We have come of age, at 50; and I am the only surviving founder from 1964 in London, capital of a foggy island in the North Sea. Now we meet in the sunny capital of another empire; bridging three continents. One cloned itself all over; the other was more an Islamic umma, a community of togetherness-and-sharing, with millet islands of tolerance. And now: the superb IPRA program.”
Professor Galtung said what they wanted in 1964 when they founded IPRA was to push for peace research to be recognized as a social science, member of the UNESCO International Social Science Council, and to do this they needed to bypass opposition from Western universities. “We got it. Elise Boulding–role of culture, women–very active at the founding, saving IPRA several times afterward. Her husband Kenneth–the Image, stable peace, economic evolution–was in the background and Bert Röling–the youngest judge at the Tokyo Tribunal, disarmament, and law for peace–became the first IPRA Secretary General. And then Galtung–at the time the health studies parallel and positive/negative peace.” Professor Galtung said he and others who started IPRA were from the Northwestern part of the world; however, he acknowledged that IPRA has, “like the world, moved East and South, with a Turkish Delight and a Sierra Leone Diamond as secretaries, with a Prognosis: we will move on to Islam and China–India still needs time to grow with our Guiding Spirit: Gandhi. Then back to a more modest Northwest, circling on, as we should”.
On the issue of Uniting for peace, part of the theme of the conference, Professor Galtung cautioned: “But we differ, disagree? Incredible how far we can come if we identify and focus on the good and the positive in Kiev, Donetsk and Moscow, or husband and wife in broken marriages rather than what is wrong, and build new relations on that. Peace is a relation, not attributes of the parties. So also for conferences: focus on the best in paper, praise it; not on the dubious and missing.”
It could be recalled that Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who coordinated the 25th IPRA conference in Turkey, at the organization’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th IPRA conference in Istanbul to serve a second term of two years made the announcement following their re-election to host the conference in Sierra Leone.
IPRA celebrated its 50th anniversary and the First World War Centenary in style as part of its 25th biennial General Conference on “Uniting For Peace: Building Sustainable Peace Through Universal Values” hosted by Sakarya University at the prestigious Bomonti Hilton Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, between August 11-15 2014.