International conference gathers insights into peace-making

Published 22 May 2012

An international conference at the University of New England last week drew participants from Japan, Kenya, Nepal and Costa Rica, as well as from other Australian universities, to share their insights and investigations into the cultivation of peace.

Many of the participants in the conference, titled Cultivating Peace: Context, Practices and Multidimensional Modes, were international students – at UNE and elsewhere – from a wide range of Asian and African countries.

Dr Bishnu Raj Upreti, a Regional Coordinator – based in Kathmandu, Nepal – for the National Centre for Competence in Research, travelled to the conference partly, he said, to find out more about Peace Studies at UNE, which is one of only a few such academic programs – and the oldest – in Australia.

Dr Upreti, who said he was keen to support any initiatives – particularly in the study of peace-making in South Asia – presented a paper titled “The business sector in peace promotion: a comparison of business engagement in Assam, India and Nepal”.

“I’m interested in how money-makers are involved in peace-making,” he said, explaining that the extent of their involvement could depend on the effect of the conflict on their business, their ambition to enter politics, opportunities for business expansion through peace-making, and desire to be recognised as a peace-maker.

Dr Upreti said the keynote address by UNE’s Professor of Peace Studies, Helen Ware, had “brought a very different perspective” to the conference in her discussion of excessive military expenditure that, in the interests of peace, could be better spent on such things as health and education. Dr Tony Lynch, a Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Humanities, contributed a thought-provoking philosophical perspective in his keynote address titled “Two kinds of peace”.

Dr Jack Maebuta, a Pacific Island Research Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra, presented a paper titled “Building peace in post-conflict Solomon Islands: socio-economic and political issues and challenges”. Dr Maebuta, who graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy from UNE in March this year, comes from the Solomon Islands. He said his conference presentation looked at underlying issues in a conflict that, if left unresolved in the aftermath, could lead to further conflict.

Some of the other presentations at the conference dealt with conflict – and its resolution – in countries including China, Afghanistan, East Timor, Zimbabwe, and Ivory Coast.

Professor Ware said the conference, organised by a committee of UNE postgraduate students led by DB Subedi, had been “a striking success”. It was part of the University’s inaugural Peace Festival, which included also the annual Nonviolence Film Festival, exhibitions and public forums.

Clicking on the image above reveals a photograph of Dr Bishnu Raj Upreti (left) and Dr Jack Maebuta.