Amr’s Reflections on Research for Peace!
Throughout my career in the field of peace and conflict resolution, and with much travel to conflict zones, post-conflict societies, and to nations going through the peacebuilding process, I have discovered that there is a huge need for real, dedicated research in the field of Peace and Conflict studies. During my career and my work worldwide, I have found many positive examples and unfortunately, also many negative ones. Each of such examples seemed to impact people to a great extent; sometimes in healthy and constructive ways and sometimes the most devastating.
I have also experienced many situations that defy common knowledge dictated by dominant media. For example, while briefly in Rwanda and for a few weeks in Burundi in 1998, I encountered a sizeable population of Muslims who lived among a majority of Christians. I was curious about the connection of the people’s ethnic and religious identities. I thought for a while that perhaps Muslims were made of ethnic groups other than Hutus and Tutsis. I was quickly corrected; Muslims too were mainly either Hutus or Tutsis. This raised the question of how they handled themselves during the ethnic war in 1994. The response I received from Muslims in Rwanda and Burundi was that because they were Muslims they should not, and could not fight each other, or fight others, due to ethnic differences. Islam, they said, prohibited that sort of violence against each other. In order to validate this story, I asked professionals working with the United Nations and other Western non-government organizations if they knew about that situation, which to me seemed like a phenomenon. Everyone I inquired from responded positively: that it was true that the Muslim population refrained from participation in the war and those Muslim sections of Kigali and Bujumbura were safe havens during the war.
This information seemed to be of great value to those interested in the role of religion in conflict resolution and peacebuilding– especially given the fact that a vast literature on the subject assigns blame, especially to Islam, for instigating conflicts.
As my background and experience dictated, I knew there had to be more to the story: something that we could learn from the current situation to affect the future. I asked myself, does this story not deserve further research into the “why” and “how” the Muslims there managed to play such a peaceful role in the middle of an ethnic genocide? Would not the result of such research inform us and guide us to develop similar approaches to reduce violent conflicts in other Muslim countries such as Iraq and Libya? Would not we be able to contribute to the knowledge about what can work in the mirth of violent ethnic conflict? Could not we learn how to use religion in a constructive manner, instead of abusing it for the sake of war and violence? For these reasons and much more that span the possibility of building a more peaceful world, we have developed models for research in the field of Peace and Conflict studies. I consider us researchers who can make a difference, and researchers who have the possibility to change the world. We are researchers with an attitude: we search for answers in difficult situations, we give people a voice to tell their stories and we make sure that voices are heard.
Research Methods Courses and Workshops
The focus of these courses and workshops is on research methods. This focus is considered in connection with three themes: 1) peacebuilding, conflict analysis and resolution, 2) gender issues, and 3) cultural considerations. The courses and workshops incorporate these three themes throughout their lesson plans and applied assignments by addressing qualitative, action and participatory research issues from a gender perspective, while critically using traditional research perspectives.
Such an approach corresponds to the unique principles of conducting research in the areas of peacebuilding, conflict analysis and resolution- namely, the principles of inclusiveness, participation, and contextual analysis. In addition, this gender-based approach to research methods establishes a foundation for reviewing cultural issues that are often fundamental to peacebuilding, conflict analysis and resolution. Practical experience and examples are utilized extensively to illustrate theoretical concepts.
The courses and workshops are designed for working professionals and for students at Masters or doctoral programs. Students and participants completing these courses and workshops will be able to:
- Design sound research projects relevant to the fields of peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
- Incorporate qualitative and basic quantitative research methods.
- Demonstrate appreciation to, and consideration of, gender and cultural issues in their research design.
- Emphasize the use of participatory research approaches as crucial to the integrity of research in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
- Implement research designs with high ethical, professional, and compassionate standards.
- Conduct both qualitative and quantitative analysis.
- Write clear and concise research reports.
Below is a list of courses and workshops conducted in the last ten years:
- Graduate Course (online) on Research Methods for Peace and Conflict Studies. University for Peace. 2011- 2019. Costa Rica.
- Graduate Course on Research Methods for Peace and Conflict Studies. Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. March-May 2017. Doha, Qatar.
- Research Design Workshop on African-European Migration (African Voices from the Ground). Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Addis Ababa University. March-November 2017. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- Training Workshop on Research in Peace and Conflict for African Ph.D. Candidates. The African Peacebuilders Network (APN) and the Social Science Research Council (SRC). Fall 2012. Nairobi, Kenya.
- Graduate Course on Research Methods for Candidates of the Doctoral Program in Peace and Security. University of Addis Ababa. January 2011-October 2016. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- Graduate Course on Research Methods for Peace and Conflict Studies at Hacettepe University’s Master’s Degree Program in Peace and Conflict Studies. November 2014. Istanbul, Turkey.
- Graduate Course on Research Methods for Peace and Conflict Studies at UPEACE. 2003-2013. San Jose, Costa Rica.
- Graduate Online Course on the Evaluation of Peacebuilding Programs and Projects. Open University of Catalonia. March-June 2011-2015. Barcelona, Spain.
- Graduate Course on Research Methods for Peace and Conflict Studies at the UPEACE Asia Pacific Center. July 2012. Seoul, South Korea.
- Graduate Course on Skills for Peace Research. International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program. School of International Services. American University. Fall 2010-2013. Washington, D.C. USA.
- Training Workshop on Qualitative Research in Peace and Conflict for African Ph.D. candidates. The Canadian International Development Research Center (IDRC) and UPEACE. May 2011. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia.