26th IPRA General Conference


26th IPRA General Conference

About the Conference

The International Peace Research Association has been hosting insightful conferences in the pursuit of world peace and security since its inception in 1964 and has recorded massive success and support from global stakeholders of peace building. The 26th IPRA General Conference organised by IPRA in collaboration with the University of Sierra Leone as the host institution as and Northumbria University (UK) and Sakarya University of (Turkey is to be recorded as another benchmark of our visionary history.

The increasing ratio of violent conflicts arising within countries rather than between them in the post-cold war era possesses serious threat to global peace and security. This unabated growth of conflicts and wars has created an academic awakening and opened the eyes of scholars and decision makers to deliberate on the means of developing effective short, medium and long term strategies and viable methodologies for preventing and resolving these conflicts and wars and in overcoming the challenges and difficulties that lie ahead.

Following its successes and remarkable international recognition it gained in its contribution to inspire global peace and security, IPRA recognises its obligation and responsibility at this important point in time to frame its 26th General Conference to focus on generating research interest and discourse on how to take active, preventive and remedial action to address the challenges of development as part of the root causes of conflicts.

Most wars fought in the world are now civil wars although they attract less global attention compared to international wars. Because civil wars are increasingly common in developing countries and go on for years, a report by the World Bank in 2003 argued that civil war is now an important issue for development. War represents an obstacle to development, but conversely, development can prevent war. Civil wars have been on the increase, especially in the most deprived parts of the world, because the international community has done little to prevent them through pro-active development projects. It is recognised that lack of development which manifests in the form of poverty has been responsible for civil wars in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Gulf, the Caucuses, and Southeast Asia. Poverty and conflict are two dependent variables that can cause each other leading to human disasters that become protracted. There is evidence that where conflict reduction and good governance prevails the effects of environmental disasters are reduced. This could be achieved through more comprehensive approaches to development, peace and human security.

Far from being an idealist dream, there is already evidence that strengthened communities are offsetting the impact of potential disasters through enhancement of their education, health and wellbeing.

However, according to Collier et al (2003), two beliefs have served as blinkers to international interventions to end distant civil conflicts: first, that we can safely ‘let them fight it out among themselves” because it has nothing to do with us, especially after the end of the Cold War, and second, that “nothing can be done” because civil war is driven by ancestral ethnic and religious hatreds. But research by Collier et al (2003), and many others has found out that ethnicity and religion are much less important factors in causing conflicts, and that economic characteristics such as low per capita income and inequality are often more greater conflict risk factors; because they lead to a breakdown in governance structures, thus creating a vacuum which too often leads to violence.

Other researchers have blamed corruption and bad governance at both local and international levels as the main reasons for conflicts and wars in the developing world. Yet, despite the growing nexus between economic development and conflict dynamics, this area has so far attracted little interest from peace researchers. It is to address this gap in peace research that is the focus of the 26th IPRA General Conference scheduled to take place in Freetown between 27th November -1st December 2016 on the topic:

‘AGENDA FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT: Conflict prevention, post-conflict transformation, and the Disaster and Sustainable Development Debate’ to be hosted by the University of Sierra Leone in partnership with the Risk and Conflict Network, and Disaster and Development Network at Northumbria University in the UK, and Sakarya University in Turkey.

This conference will bring together more than 1000 participants including scholars, experts, civil society activists, human rights activists and peace practitioners from different parts of the world and serve as a great platform and an inspiring occasion for discussion, engagement and networking.

Why Host this Conference in Sierra Leone and Africa?

One of the criticisms peace researchers and the media have been facing recently has been their focus on the top-down approach in addressing challenges of sustainable peace in post conflict countries and the fact that very little attempt, if any, has been made to explore grass root bottom-up approaches reflecting the concerns and challenges of those who are trying to cope with and manage those challenges. The proposed conference in Africa, home to the world’s most devastating civil wars which have claimed over 10 million lives in the past three decades, seeks to address this gap.

Moreover, many of the people most exposed and vulnerable to environmental or pandemic disasters have also been exposed to violent conflict. This conference will therefore explore the interrelationships between disaster, development, conflict and media related perspectives on peace and human security with the explicit aim of advancing research, policy and practice for each. Furthermore, this event takes place in the year following three further major policy orienting events, the outputs of which needs to be considered within a conflict risk reduction, disaster and development framework. These events are the revision of the United Nations Hyogo Accord for Disaster Reduction, Sustainable Development Goals and latest round of Negotiations on Climate Change.

The venue of the next IPRA conference, Freetown, Sierra Leone, the second African country to ever host the IPRA conference since the organization was founded in 1964, is very appropriate for such a conference theme, not least because of its recent history of suffering from one of Africa’s most brutal civil wars (1991-2002) claiming about 120,000 lives, and, addressed by one of the more successful hybrid war crimes courts (the Special Court for Sierra Leone), but because it was declared in May 2014 by UN Secretary General Banki Moon to have moved from a post conflict country to one of development. This conference would help generate interest amongst peace researchers in the global South and North in the way that exploitation of mineral and forestry resources in Sierra Leone and other African, Latin American and Asian countries has caused massive damage, both to the environment and people, not only threatening post-conflict reconstruction efforts but reinforcing structural problems such as poverty. This, potentially, can be a timebomb for future conflicts.

During the conference, arrangements will be made for peace researchers to visit some of the historic relics of the civil war in Freetown such as the Peace Museum and the Special Court set up by the UN to try those who committed crimes against humanity.