Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

exploring new grounds for Peace and Conflict Studies

HI² International Fellow, Camila Braga, tells us about her ongoing research with the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of São Paulo

Q&A with Camila Braga (HI² International Fellow)

Tell us about your work at the newly created Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at University of São Paulo? What are some of the tools/methodologies you and your colleagues are using?

Created in 2016, The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS), associated with the University of São Paulo and the International Relations Research Center (IRRC), seeks to build an institutional space for research and analysis in the dynamics of conflict, violence, war, and peace. The Center aims to integrate a plurality of disciplines and theoretical perspectives. From macro to micro analysis and multidisciplinary research projects, the Center aims to produce critical knowledge for policy-oriented practices in public, national, and international security.

The one common view that is present among our researchers, which is what brought us together,  is that we do not corroborate one conception of peace. Peace is a value-driven concept and values change over time and space. As peace, conflict, and violence are concepts in transit, a focus on social change is paramount to our research. We hope to engage communities everywhere in a mutual learning process in order to promote conflict transformation through non-violent means. We aim to explore new grounds for social research, connecting a variety of disciplines when exploring traditional and non-traditional avenues in Peace and Conflict Studies.

The first research project "Stable peace, conflict, and resolution in Latin America" developed by the CPCS, coproduced by Professor Rafael Villa (USP) and I, was developed to map governance systems in peace and conflict throughout Latin America as well as their overlapping dynamics. Data will be collected through fieldwork in the trilateral border areas of Brazil, (e.g. Brazil/Argentina/Paraguay; Brazil/Peru/Colombia; Brazil/Colombia/Venezuela) as well with extended visits to Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. The findings will be publicized in a Political Atlas of Peace and Conflict Formations. The Political Atlas will provide data for cooperation and policy-work in public and international security and for understanding the ongoing need for integration of thought and practice.

Our most recent project titled “Peace Operations Observatory Project” aims to create a digital database where information about current and past operations are summarized from the UN Peacekeeping website. The project is coordinated by professor Vanessa Braga Matijascic (FAAP), who holds a postdoctoral position at CPCS. The Observatory will bring together academics and practitioners invited to write about local experiences and analyze current and past peace operations. Bridging information and technology for policy purposes, the Peace Operations Observatory Project will present critical information on UN Security Council mandates, UN staff personnel (military, police, and civilians) and NGOs on the ground (before and after Peacekeeping Operations (PKO)). The project will invite academics and practitioners who had field experience in these missions to produce short analyses on the challenges of international institutions, threats to human security, and perceptions on PKO work through surveys and open-ended questionnaires.

Overall, the Center’s research methodologies, currently in use, are subdivided into three areas: networked contact with the support of external research groups, research centers or stakeholders, in a dialectical approach of knowledge sharing and creation; fieldwork, through semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, following in a snowball process; and third, revision and update of current datasets of regional violence (armed, political, gender-based, drug trafficking, terrorism etc.) and security (military, public, and human).

How does your project "Stable Peace, Conflict and Resolution in Latin America" examine the peace initiatives being carried out to address these conflicts? Is there a gap between the efforts being dedicated to peace building initiatives and the levels of conflict formation in the region?

The research project "Stable peace, conflict, and resolution in Latin America" was paramount for CPCS institutionalization and its domestic and international projection. The fundamental aim is to analyze systemic formations of regional security governance. It addresses the overlap between distinct practices and discourses on peace and conflict. The notions of peace and conflict formation are understood, in this work, as referring to systems of international or regional security governance, in which security practices and discourses are instrumental to state and non-state actors in their contending logics (cooperation/conflict).

This pilot research project has three defining features:

First, we seek to go beyond the state-centric view, emphasizing notions of conflict and violence that take individuals and social groups as subjects in a process of social transformation, permeating all measures of social life (local, national, regional, global). In this way, we go beyond the usual dialectics of interstate and. intra-state violence, also observing its transnational dimension, as well as the innumerable conflicts that permeate and emerge in this increasingly relevant space for a practical and pragmatic understanding of contemporary international relations.

Second, we focus on a broad definition of violence when approaching (state and non-state) armed actors, their structures, resources as well as the process through which they have achieved increasing relevance in Latin America regional security system and politics. In all Latin American countries, rising levels of military expenditures and police action, adding to the over-stretched penal system, the swelling numbers of registered violent deaths, and increasing crime rates, point us – within the Centre – to the urgent need for a deeper look in security policies conducted throughout the region. The identified problems corroborating for high rates of armed, political and social violence in Latin America, leads us to consider a wide variety of actors and processes.

Therefore, a third defining feature is the emphasis on cooperation and integration initiatives concerning interstate confidence building and conflict resolution measures, as well as second, third or multi-track processes developed by a multiplicity of state and non-state actors. In this way, we hope to identify opportunities for positive action and change.

About the gaps, certainly we expect to find many, but at the current stage of research development, our focus is on data-mining, from open and official sources, and preparing the fieldwork in national and international sites, planned to start on the second semester of 2018.

How will the data generated by this project be used and disseminated? What do you hope to achieve?

The consolidated results of this research will be published in a Final Report, entitled: “Peace, conflict and conflict resolution in Latin America: representation of regional security systems.” By its turn, the final report will produce a Political Atlas in which the cumulative data of two years of empirical research in Latin-American peace and conflict formations will be presented. The Atlas will include data on the last 20 years of regional security governance on themes relating to armed violence (interstate and intrastate), political and social conflict, transnational flows of illicit drugs, armed non-state actors, migration, citizens security, cyber-security, conflict resolution, international cooperation, peace activism, and social movements.

The Atlas will be made available both in print and through an online platform, where the compiled results will be made available to the general public. Considering the absence of comprehensive information (empirical data) on the topics discussed in this project, the consolidation of the research material we propose, and its publication in both digital and print versions have the potential of addressing an ongoing gap in the studies of regional security.

Those interested in learning more about The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies please contact "cpcs.usp@gmail.com"