International Relations Students and Faculty at the Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference | Webster University Thailand

International Relations Students and Faculty at the Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference

 By Dr. Kenneth Houston, Webster University Thailand

This week students from the BA International Relations attended the Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference hosted by the Tomorrow People Organization at the AETAS Lumpini in Bangkok. The conference provided the venue for scholars and practitioners to present their research and practical experience to peers and interested observers.

Twelve BAIR students attended the three day event along with four of the faculty from IR programs. Following the opening session the subject matter of paper presentations ranged across topics as diverse as leadership in peacemaking, alternatives to violence education, genocide and mediation. The first evening ended with a boat cruise and dinner on the Chao Phraya River.

On day two the morning opened with an in-depth analysis of the dynamics of the break up of the Soviet Union. Following this was a succession of stimulating papers including the impact of Brexit on the Northern Ireland Peace Process, the Role of ASEAN in the Rohingya Crisis, and the insights of Rational Choice Theory in the Prosecution of War. After lunch the sessions continued with papers on the TRC in South Africa, the Role of Religion in Peacemaking, Indonesia’s role in Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis and the issue of Unreserved Classes in Gujurat, India.

The last day of the conference consisted of the presentation of studies related to the issue of Transitional Justice in Uganda and a quantitative measure of the impact of the ban on schooling for girls in north west Pakistan. Webster University Thailand’s own faculty presented their research projects at the conference. Dr Brett O’Bannon presented his analysis of Genocide as a cultural object, stressing the differential in salience accorded to human death through atrocity versus those through disease or poverty. Dr Robin Ramcharan undertook a critical look at the role of ASEAN in the Rohingya crisis and explored the institutional inhibitions precluding the bloc from acting collectively and decisively in the face of manifest crimes against humanity.

Dr Balazs Szanto argued that the Peace and Conflict field needed to engage more realistically (and less emotionally) with understanding the ‘war option’ pursued by states. Finally, Dr Kenneth Houston examined the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU on the Northern Ireland peace process, arguing that the EU provided the fundamental structural premise that permitted conflict actors to square the circle of incompatible political demands.

Throughout the three days, students were exposed to stimulating and innovative perspectives on the issue of peace and conflict and strategies of analysis, management and resolution. In a very collegial and supportive context they were given the opportunity to ask questions of scholars and practitioners, network, and consider their own research and academic interests, as well as possible professional opportunities going forward.

The event was an excellent opportunity four our students to learn about the academic work of their own faculty and that of academics and practitioners from a range of contexts. The IR department would like to thank Tomorrow People for their efforts to make our attendance as enjoyable as it was.