Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto: New Developments, 2009-2010

An Update from Professor Ron Levi, Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

When the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies was named six years ago, Alexandre Trudeau emphasized that Canadians “live in a country where there is peace, justice and tolerance while the world is on fire.” For over 25 years, our program has grappled with some of humanity's most pressing problems: it is the leading place where students can focus on the complex relationships among conflict, peace and justice. To keep to this mandate, we are working diligently to evolve a curriculum that provides students the knowledge, skills and tools they need to make a positive difference in the world.

A New Home for the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

The Trudeau Centre and Peace and Conflict Studies recently joined the University of Toronto’s new Munk School of Global Affairs. The School’s Director is Professor Janice Stein, and I am proud to report that we now represent the flagship undergraduate program for the School, which also has a Master of Global Affairs program and a Collaborative PhD program in the Dynamics of Global Change. Among the many incredible achievements of scholars in the Munk School are the headline-making work of the Citizen Lab on cyber espionage, as well as the designation of the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies as an EU Centre of Excellence. Our new home will provide the intellectual synergies required to sustain and evolve our shared enterprise.

Teaching in Peace and Conflict Studies

In 2009-10, our Peace and Conflict Studies courses were taught by three remarkable and path-breaking scholars: Taylor Owen joined us from the University of Oxford; Cristina Badescu from the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies; and Jean-Yves Haine from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Their expertise and teaching in human security, peace-building, humanitarian advocacy, the responsibility to protect and international security have made them invaluable assets to the program.

In addition to teaching our foundational interdisciplinary course, Taylor Owen spearheaded a unique collaboration between the Trudeau Centre and The Mark News, through which student research on contemporary conflicts is being given an international reach.

Cristina Badescu took our third-year course in a cutting-edge direction by focusing on the complexities of humanitarian intervention. She provided students and the broader community with a unique opportunity to hear Fabrice Weissman (Médecins Sans Frontières) debate Allan Rock on the Responsibility to Protect, which is available on webcast.

And Jean-Yves Haine—in addition to teaching our advanced seminar on security and, furthermore, winning an award for his work on European security—has just led our fourth-year class to Turkey. Students, funded by the Dean's Office, have had an extraordinary opportunity to complement their scholarly work with field trips and policy meetings on security. You can read their blogs at http://turkeytrip.tumblr.com/.

Rejoining our instructors in 2010 is Nancy Bertoldi, who will be returning to teaching from research leave to shepherd our students in their foundational introductory course.

Visitors to the Trudeau Centre

Throughout the year we have been joined by numerous scholars and practitioners, who have given of their time and expertise to present papers and discuss their field experiences in our seminar series.

Among the rich round of seminars were those on the political context in Iran, the mental health of journalists in war zones, women's roles in post-conflict Rwanda, the changing role of diplomacy, HIV and women in the urban periphery of kwaZulu Natal, the repatriation of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and the prevention of mass atrocities. In addition, we launched a new practitioner-based series, which brought in experts from the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of National Defense.

We also sponsored a workshop on the International Politics of Social Order, and, in October, our own students mounted an international conference on “Redefining Central Asia: Cooperation, Stabilization & Implications of Regional Security.” Topics ranged from human rights, identity politics, state building and transition, resource scarcity and environmental and energy politics, to terrorism, insurgency and transnational criminal activity such as drug and arms trafficking.

Three graduate students joined our community to serve as mentors to our undergraduate students. Hailing from history and from political science, these PhD candidates offered a wealth of experience on issues of humanitarianism, sovereignty, foreign policy and international security. We have been lucky indeed to have them join us!

Students Studying and Doing Research in the World

Summer months are often a calm time in universities, but for students at the Trudeau Centre, the summer “break” means taking part in a wide array of coursework and related activities. Through the summer abroad program, we are offering a Peace and Conflict course taught in Kenya on “Conflict in Africa: Causes, Consequences, and Responses.” In addition, thanks to generous funding from the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, we are mounting courses in Jerusalem on “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Political and Religious History” and on “Conflict Resolution from Theory to Practice: Israel as a Case Study.”

Closer to home, Jean-Yves Haine is teaching a new summer course on “Making and Sustaining Peace after Conflict.” This course will focus on contemporary case studies of peace-making, as well as current conflicts in which peacemaking appears elusive.

In addition to these organized courses, two of our students have been selected as Beattie Fellows, and will be pursuing their own research projects in Nepal and in Israel. They follow in the footsteps of last year's Beattie Fellows, who are now completing their research projects with data they collected in Nairobi and Russia.

And while Trudeau Centre students—as always!—will be pursuing numerous endeavors of their own over the summer months, we are excited that several will be undertaking internships with the Mosaic Institute, a Toronto-based think tank that seeks to develop Canadian solutions for advancing peace and development worldwide. We are enthusiastic about this new collaboration with the Mosaic Institute, and look forward to finding new partners in the community.

Trudeau Centre Students Honoured and Recognized

The exceptionally high caliber of students in our program is well known at the University of Toronto (and far beyond).

Our students continue to be recognized with important awards, with four students this year winning U of T’s Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, and Michael Beeler being presented with the Dean's Student Leadership Award. Indeed, their accomplishments reach far and wide. One of our graduating students, Jasmeet Sidhu, is a leading voice on youth empowerment, immigration, climate change, HIV/AIDS and violence against women. She has recently been named to the Canadian Who's Who, one of Canada's 100 Most Powerful Women and one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women in America.

Our students are among the most engaged in the University—whether it be flying to Copenhagen to participate in the climate change conference, editing a literary journal designed to foster peace in the Middle East or launching Social Impact 101, a workshop series designed to provide leadership training to those working in the humanitarian sector. I am always impressed and motivated—and consistently humbled—by their efforts, energy and enthusiasm.

The Years Ahead

Our program began in 1985, under the intellectual leadership of Anatol Rapoport, an eminent mathematician and peace scholar. In 2004, the program gained increased momentum when The Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies was established to reflect the legacy and vision of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Among my current goals for the program as director of the Trudeau Centre, I have launched a curriculum review to ensure that our program remains at the cutting edge of the field. Those of us focused on peace and conflict must often be conversant in a wide range of subjects—and while academic disciplines provide insightful lenses on the world, the complex and enduring challenges we face do not present themselves in neat disciplinary categories. We must expand our skill sets to identify, and address, the core issues of peace, conflict and justice that are at stake in our world.

The world since the end of the Cold War has been marred by new violent conflicts. Yet it is also a world in which peacekeeping operations are increasing in size and scope, in which claims to global justice are now a central consideration and in which, consequently, strategies for resolving conflict have changed dramatically.

I have seen this in my own experience. Much of my research focuses on the widespread emphasis on global justice as a strategy for addressing conflicts worldwide. This includes institutional responses to mass atrocities over the past two decades—such as the emergence of international criminal tribunals—and the ascendancy of legal experts in responding to conflict and war. I am now examining how international human rights agencies develop programs to address conflicts, struggles and inequality in different parts of the globe.

I look forward to forging ahead with our alumni and students, and to ensuring that the Trudeau Centre and Peace and Conflict Studies program remain a world leader in this field for many years to come.

We invite interested individuals to follow our activities through our website and our Facebook page.