Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Conference Explores the Art of Peace

August 29, 2011

Photo: Lindsay Richardson

Jarat Chopra, founder of Peacemaintenance International, provided a case study from Somalia of how peaceful intentions can go awry, during a conference, The Art of Peace in a Time of War, organized by the Watson Institute-based Global Media Project this summer in Quebec.

An uncommon gathering of scholars, practitioners, artists, and filmmakers, the conference was intended to catalyze a new research initiative and result in various publications and media, including a documentary film.

Chopra, who recently developed the United Nations' system-wide strategy for Somalia, spoke about the situation in the country and the barriers to peacekeeping operations.

He spoke of aid organizations with good intentions turning to Somali businessmen following the withdrawal of the UN, thus making a considerable contribution to the war economy. In fact, the largest business sector in Somalia is aid, Chopra said, and so NGO money tends to aggravate the already-existing warfare and fighting, as groups struggle for control of these funds and reproduce the conditions of war in order to draw more international aid.

Somalia provides an example of how the NGO sector can fail by blindly following ideals without paying much attention to the execution, by letting the ends justify the means, Chopra concluded.

This account of Chopra's talk is one snapshot of the Art of Peace conference proceedings, as they were blogged on the Global Conversation. Other talks described in the blog include a discussion of war and peace in the digital world, a film centered around the "art of teaching," as embodied by elementary teacher John Hunter, and the role of empathy in creating peace.

A Radio Open Source program also features participants Hunter, novelist Sandra Cisneros, Stephen Del Rosso of the Carnegie Corporation, and Watson Institute Global Media Project Director James Der Derian.

Der Derian co-coordinated the conference with then-Institute Visiting Fellow Nisha Shah. Funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the conference was co-sponsored by the Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Toronto’s Canada Centre for Global Security Studies, University of Waterloo’s Conrad Grebel University College, University of Ottawa, and University of Texas-San Antonio.