Seychelles set to become hub for peace studies
(Original article: Seychelles Nation. June 14, 2016)
The University of Seychelles has announced that it is considering setting up an international centre for peace studies and diplomacy with the expert guidance and experience of Seychelles’ founding President Sir James Mancham.
In fact the idea of Seychelles hosting an international centre for peace studies and diplomacy is an initiative of Sir James.
The University of Seychelles (UniSey) has said this is an ambitious and timely project that will add to the reputation of Seychelles as a peaceful nation making a further contribution to global society.
“And it will support the university’s drive to develop niche areas of research and course opportunities,” added the UniSey.
Why peace studies?
The subject of peace studies is as intriguing as it is important:
- it is about war as well as peace;
- it embraces terrorism along with national confrontations;
- it is an academic study but also highly practical;
- it ranges from the boundaries of religion to the hard edge of geopolitics;
- it encourages abstract debate but cannot shy away from problem-solving;
- it draws on a variety of disciplines but belongs to none; and
- it addresses contrasting instances of conflict in different parts of the world.
Given the ubiquitous nature of national and international conflicts – and consequent attempts to resolve them – it is hardly surprising that peace studies has taken its place on the world stage. There is much to be understood, much to be done. But the ground is by no means saturated, the need to do more by no means met. The new centre will have an important role to play.
Politically, the Republic of Seychelles is a small island state that is a friend of other nations and a threat to none; its neutrality is a key consideration. Indeed, neutrality made possible a much-lauded attempt by the President, James Michel, to broker an agreement between opposing factions in Madagascar at a time of political deadlock.
Socially, the country has an enviable record of ethnic harmony. It is widely regarded as a peaceful society. Where better to locate an international centre for peace studies?
Geographically, it is located in the Indian Ocean, just a few hours from the African continent and the Middle East, two regions where national and regional conflicts are too often in evidence.
Environmentally, Seychelles is a mecca for tourists who value the exceptional quality of its islands and turquoise seas. As a tranquil backcloth to negotiations on war and peace, it is hard to imagine a more conducive setting.
But there is another reason too why this is an ideal location. For many years, the first President of the Republic of Seychelles, Sir James Mancham, has forged links with a wide range of international organisations and he, himself, is a renowned spokesperson for peace and reconciliation. Only recently he was awarded the prestigious Africa Peace Award 2016.
For all these reasons, Seychelles lends itself to this innovative proposal to establish a permanent centre for peace studies in the Indian Ocean.
What is proposed?
The mission of the centre will be to offer an international hub for the study of peace and to play an active role in conflict resolution as well as the training of diplomats.
The vice-chancellor of the University of Seychelles will be personally responsible for its development, helped by a project manager who will, initially, research the field and prepare the ground for the formation of the centre. Funds will be sought externally for specialist appointments and for the provision of a well-appointed office suite, located within the Anse Royale campus of the university.
The early appointment of a professor of peace studies and the support of visiting academics will provide specialist guidance to develop an appropriate programme of research and activities.
Although the centre will be located at Anse Royale it is anticipated that high-level talks might be arranged in secluded surroundings on one of the nation’s many islands.
What activities will take place?
The proposed professor of peace studies will provide both academic leadership and proven negotiating skills.
The centre will be a hub of information and also a meeting place for practitioners and scholars alike. Conferences will be a feature of the centre’s activities.
Under the auspices of the UniSey, it will offer a Master’s Degree in peace studies for local as well as international students, together with opportunities for doctoral and post-doctoral research.
Increasingly, consultancy will play a key role in the work of the centre, with assignments to undertake different aspects of conflict resolution.
How will it be funded?
The involvement of the vice-chancellor and the appointment of the project manager will be provided by the UniSey, while Sir James Mancham will be on hand with expert advice.
Applications will be made to external funding agencies to enable the appointment of a specialist professor peace studies and for the provision of suitable accommodation.
How will it be managed?
A Board of Trustees – to be chaired by Sir James Mancham – will be appointed, with responsibility to ensure that the mission of the centre is maintained and that funds are spent wisely and responsibly. The Trustees will also be responsible for the appointment and strategic monitoring of the performance of the professor. On a day-to-day basis, the centre and its employees will be directly accountable to the vice-chancellor of the UniSey.