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26th IPRA Conference in Sierra Leone Ends on a High Note PDF Print E-mail
Written by Expotimes   
Thursday, 28 September 2017 01:17

The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) successfully held its 26th General Conference on ‘Agenda for Peace and Development: Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Transformation, and the Conflict, Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate’ in collaboration with the 10TH Dealing With Disasters Series, Northumbria University (UK)and Sakarya University (Turkey) and  the University of  Sierra Leone at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone from November 27 to 1st December 2016.

 

 The conference, which was hosted by the University of Sierra Leone, brought together peace researchers, experts, activists, representatives of civil society organisations and community based organisations, social activists and human rights activists from all over the world. More than 300 participants took part in the conference from 82 countries to present academic papers and share their ideas, research findings, experiences and practices.

 The conference also aimed at fostering links between researchers, policy makers, activists, civil society organisations, human rights activists and the media to better address the issues of just peace in the world. The conference grand opening ceremony took place on Sunday November 27th following registration of participants and three parallel pre-conference workshops facilitated by the Risk and Conflict, Conflict-sensitive journalism, Practice-based peace Working Groups. The conference was officially declared open in a statement by the Vice President of Sierra Leone Honourable Victor Bockarie Foh.

 The Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Sierra Leone Professor Thomas Gbamanja presided over the inaugural event while the welcome speech was delivered by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone Professor Ekundayo Thompson. The IPRA Secretaries General Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and Dr Nesrin Kenar, the World Bank Country Director Parminder P.S. Brar, Dr Guan Yi, CEO, Shanxi Zhuoao Organisation, Xian, China, Professor Andrew Collins, Director, Disaster and Development Network, Northumbria University addressed the inaugural day event.

  Most of those who addressed the event congratulated the Secretaries General Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and Dr Nesrin Kenar for conducting the conference successfully, in a brave way, despite several challenges. This 26th Conference has the distinction of being the conference held in an African Country for the second time in the history of IPRA, the first time in West Africa. In his statement, IPRA Secretary General Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw said the main idea of the conference on AGENDA FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT “is to bring  peace researchers from all over the world to explore the ‘hidden narratives’ of conflict, which the founder of peace research, Johann Galtung refers to as ‘invisible’ structural and cultural forms of violence in his ABC conflict triangle, and which are often ignored in research and policy interventions to address the challenges of peace and development.” Dr Shaw, who is also Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics at Northumbria university in the UK, said the aim of the conference is to shift the focus of peace researchers and policy makers from more dramatic challenges of peace and development such as wars, terrorism, civil wars, disasters, to those less visible issues such as global poverty, discrimination, marginalisation, human trafficking, forced migration, which if not addressed, or prevented, could lead to more dramatic challenges of global peace and development. Dr Shaw provided a brief background about IPRA, including its history and affiliation with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) where IPRA has five permanent representatives, as well as UNESCO and International Social Science Research Council.

 He said when he campaigned to be IPRA Secretary General at the IPRA 24th General Conference in Japan in 2012, “it was on the basis of bringing the conference to Africa for the second time in the 52nd year history of IPRA (the last time was in Durban, South Africa in 1998), and to his home country, Sierra Leone, which went through one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars in the 1990s, and which recently, according to UN Secretary General Banki Moon, made the transition from a post-conflict country to one of development, thus making it the best African candidate to host the 26th IPRA conference. Dr said when he announced this plan, including at the 25th IPRA conference in Istanbul, some of his IPRA colleagues were not sure, especially given the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015; however, he said through hard work and support from his colleague co-secretary General Dr Nesrin Kenar, and members of the conference organising team, especially those in Sierra Leone led by Mrs Memunatu Pratt and Mrs Bernadette Cole, as well as support from local and international organisations, he was able to pull it through as planned.

 In her statement, Dr Shaw’s co-secretary general, Dr Nesrin Kenar emphasized why it is appropriate to hold that conference in Sierra Leone given the country’s recent history of conflict despite the challenges encountered. She said the conference theme was a very good follow up to the IPRA conference held in 2014 in her country Turkey which focused on the search for universal peace. She said organising this conference in Freetown and the one in Turkey in the past four years of their term has made IPRA to be more global which is important for the international credibility of the organisation.

 In his statement, the World Bank Sierra Leone Manager, Parmendrar Brar, expressed appreciation to IPRA for choosing Sierra Leone as the host of this important global peace conference. He said despite some challenges, including the recent civil war and Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone has made progress as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and sees this global peace conference as a boost of confidence in the country as destination for foreign investment and tourism. The Sierra Leone Police Band provided music during the opening ceremony, which was closed with a Cocktail Reception and light entertainment by the Sierra Leone National Dance Troupe supported by the University of Sierra Leone in partnership with World Bank Sierra Leone.

 During the conference IPRA announced Dr Guan Yi, a member of All-China Youth Federation and CEO of Shanxi Zhuoao Organisation and chairman of China Zhuoao Group and China Shandong Huidong Group as IPRA Peace Ambassador to China to promote its aims, objectives and programmes. In his statement at the Opening Ceremony, Dr Yi said: “Peaceful development for China and the world needs healthy and well-intentional interactions between China and other countries. And I am very glad and couldn’t resist but to restless again, that the 2016 IPRA conference indeed makes this effort in peace and development happening via bridging the network of communication among people from about over 100 countries.”

 For more on the opening ceremony visit this You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93baLHdRmzY.It is also available on the IPRA web site www.iprapeace.org

 In all, seven thematic plenary and about 40 commission breakout sessions presented by 20 IPRA commissions were held during mornings and afternoons of the remaining three and half days where over 300 peace researchers, peace practitioners and Human Rights activists from 82 several countries of the world representing all continents delivered their research papers. The World Bank Sierra Leone also organised a session on ‘Conflict, Security, and Governance’ with speakers including its Country Manager, Parmendrar Brar. Further, several training workshops, including one for local journalists on peace journalism, were also conducted while one sightseeing tour was organized.

 Financial assistance for the travel and accommodation grants for the Peace Researchers from various countries, particularly the Global South, was provided by IPRA Foundation, TIKKA, Shanxi Zhuoao Organization, African Peacebuilding Network and the British Academy. The 4 days long conference came to an end on the 1st of December followed by a special Sight-seeing of cultural and touristic sites, including the Peace Museum and the Sierra Leone Special Court

 Participants were asked to complete conference feedback forms. The feedback is being analysed and the final version of both documents, together with the public feedback, will be available soon on the IPRA website. However, the preliminary results of the feedback indicate that majority of the participants were very satisfied with the conference. Most of them said that the decision to hold the conference in Sierra Leone was absolutely timely and very appropriate. They said they found the people of Sierra Leone friendly, helpful and hospitable. To quote a participant “The conference was well promoted in the country, and locals were quite welcoming to the researchers. I appreciate the efforts to give us a sense of security as guests”. “Choosing a post conflict country as the venue helped contextualise peace matters” said another participant. Participants also said they were very satisfied with the quality of the presentations delivered during this conference and conference organisational arrangements.

 In an email message to outgoing IPRA Secretary General Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, IPRA Foundation Treasurer, Rachel Trueblood had this to say: “Congratulations on what everyone agrees was a most wonderful conference! All our travel grantees have given me glowing reports of the conference. All of them feel it was extremely important for their careers and they all met many new people with whom they will stay in contact. Great work!”

 Nevertheless, few participants expressed dissatisfaction over the room arrangements for the commission sessions. One of them said, “it was a good experience. I enjoyed myself but most importantly I learnt a lot. There is room for improvement though, especially with room assignment, microphone facilities etc.” “Sierra Leone is perfect location for IPRA but time management and arrangement of commissions were rather disorganised” opined another participant.

 IPRA Institute formation announced

During the closing ceremony outgoing Secretary General presented a brief report, including a provisional financial statement, where he announced that he and his outgoing co-secretary general Dr Kenar are setting up an IPRA Institute as an autonomous body to support the work of IPRA .

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 September 2017 01:30
 

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