How can we build peace in the aftermath of extensive violence? Is that even possible? Wars often destroy existing governance structures. They create deep resentment over past injustices and human rights violations. They divide couples, families, communities, and societies, pitting members against each other. These challenges are so significant that many countries that emerge from war lapse back into violence within a few years. However, certain communities manage to maintain some stability and eventually escape the cycle of war and violence. How do they do that?
One key element in this process is the presence of international peacebuilders. International interventions have multiplied since the end of the Cold War, with United Nations operations, non-governmental agencies, diplomatic missions, and regional organizations becoming increasingly numerous and influential. These external contributions can mean the difference between war and peace: Regardless of local conditions, foreign peace interventions increase the chances of establishing a durable peace. However, international peacebuilding interventions face multiple challenges, and sometimes they actually worsen the problems that they mean to address. Why do so many international interventions fail to bring about peace? Why do others succeed? What are the most useful frameworks for analyzing international peace efforts?
This colloquium focuses on international peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding in recent conflicts. It adopts a critical, social science approach to the topic of building peace (it is not a class on how to design and implement peacebuilding programs, but rather a class on how to think about such initiatives). Readings for this course are drawn from a variety of disciplines (political science, anthropology, and others), approaches (rational choice, constructivist), and methodologies (qualitative and quantitative). They include both highly theoretical works and case studies. Guest speakers will be invited for several class sessions to interact with students and explain how the debates studied in class play out in the “real” world.
Throughout the course, students will develop their knowledge of international relations theories. They will acquire a broad understanding of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. The course also will introduce students to new issues in the field, such as the micro-foundations of peace settlements, the importance of local perceptions, and the attention to the everyday in the study of conflict-resolution. Furthermore, by the end of the semester, students should have an in-depth understanding of some of the most salient peace processes in recent years, including those in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the former Yugoslavia.
Class discussions and written assignments will help students develop their research and analysis skills as well as their ability to understand, criticize, and create scholarly arguments. In addition, this class puts a lot of emphasis on developing students’ leadership and oral presentation skills. We will do so through various activities in the classroom (class discussions, oral presentations, role play, student-led discussions, and interactions with guest speakers) and outside the classroom (through three workshops with the Barnard Speaking Fellows, the first on oral presentation skills, the second on how to lead a meeting, and the third on negotiations).