The College of Advancing and Professional Studies' Summer Institute on Conflict Transformation across Borders, which took place in Ecuador from June 10-30, concluded with a successful inaugural year.
Fourteen participants from nine different countries studied the dynamics of peace and conflict in areas affected by complex transnational challenges, including cross-border environmental conflicts, border wars, drugs and human trafficking, spillover from internal conflict, and addressing social conflict and integration in migrant and refugee-receiving communities. They also engaged in a series of hands-on skills workshops that built capacity in conflict analysis, cross-cultural and nonviolent communication, negotiation, mediation, and proposal writing.
Led by Professor Jeffrey Pugh, who joined the McCormack Graduate School last year, the program took the classroom into the field with trips to the Amazon cloud forest to study environmental conflict resolution and to the northern border with Colombia to study migration and refugee issues, cross-border dynamics, and bi-national peace initiatives. The group met with United Nations officials, the former minister of foreign affairs of Ecuador and ambassador to the United Nations, the former mayor of the border town, a former U.N. peacekeeper and officer in the Ecuador-Peru border war, as well as religious leaders, scholars, and NGO activists.
Graduate and undergraduate students also participated in a joint forum and dialogue with refugees at the Mennonite Church Colombian Refugee Project, where program participants who had their own migration experiences from countries as diverse as Haiti, Indonesia, and Colombia exchanged their stories and perspectives with Colombian refugees in a mutually-affirming time of solidarity.
According to Pugh, a faculty member in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, there were several program outcomes. Students increased their knowledge and skills to build peace in areas of conflict within complex border contexts; developed new networks and connections among the participants and local partners in Ecuador; engaged in efforts to translate the class discussions to a broader audience; and wrote a series of grant proposals on peacebuilding research or practical intervention projects.
In fact, three articles have already been published by participants in international digital magazines and journals and grant proposals are currently being refined submit to funding agencies.
Pugh notes, "These outcomes reflect the vision of the program, articulated by my co-instructor Cecile Mouly of FLACSO-Ecuador and me, to design the summer institute not just as a learning space, but as a platform for concrete action for peace, and an incubator of relationships and partnerships among emerging peacebuilding practitioners."
One student from Ecuador blogged on the insights he received from the training, "Participating in the summer course with an inspiring, diverse group of participants furthered my conviction that a way to peace is always possible. Working for peace is not just for the experts, but a responsibility we all share, a common vocation to which everyone is invited to respond."