The festivities organized in Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Wall these days are plenty in number and can hardly be overlooked. Besides the official ceremony today there are many exhibitions, concerts, discussion circles taking place; there was even a U2 concert at the Brandenburger gate Thursday night.
Renowned figures from international politics and academia reflected on the development of international relations since 1989, the challenges faced by the leaders of the future, and the growing influence of cultural diplomacy and “soft power” in the contemporary political international environment.
On Tuesday, 3 November I will attend the Swisspeace Annual Conference. The topic is “Rebels with a Cause? Understanding and Dealing with Non-State Armed Groups During and After Violent Conflicts.”
The Swiss NGO has invited some high-level speakers that have field experience in negotiation with non-state actors, such as the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and our partner Small Arms Survey. For more information on non-state actors, you can check the ISN keyword on our website that contains a lot of publications.
Then on the following Thursday, I will attend the annual conference of UNO-Academia on “Collective Security and Maintenance of International Peace and Security: What are the Stakes?”. UNO-Academia is a network between all the Swiss universities that gathers research on UN-related topics.
According to the program, academics will be joined by policymakers to develop a comprehensive approach on the above mentioned question. For a short summary of the concept of “Collective Security”, you can check out this story from ISN Security Watch partner World Affairs Journal by Peter Beinart. The conference will be preceded by a roundtable discussion in which I have been invited to speak: “Youth Meets the United Nations: Which Role for Youth in the United Nations?”.
Of course, I’ll update you next week with the outcomes of these conferences. If it happens that you are also taking part in the same conferences, it would be a pleasure to meet you there.
The second day of the SNIS conference was devoted to interaction between the academic and policy worlds (I introduced the conference in my previous post).
While everyone agreed that not all research must necessarily be policy relevant, the participants stressed the need for more cooperation.
The tension between demand-driven research and academic excellence dominated the discussions. On the one hand, research should provide information to help solve practical policy problems. On the other hand however, research must remain independent from the policy realm in order to guarantee objectivity and innovation.
A panelist argued that this tension was very present among European researchers, but that it didn’t bother US academics as much. Fellow Americans, if you read this, how did you solve the problem?
Here are a few (summarized) thoughts from panelists, both academics and policymakers.
I’m writing from Bern, where I’m attending the Swiss Network for International Studies‘ (SNIS) first yearly conference. The Network was established two years ago to promote interdisciplinary research in issues of international relevance among Swiss academics.
The international relations field is still pretty new at Swiss universities. It might well be a corollary of the fact that, for much of the past century, the country’s neutrality in international politics boiled down to passivity. Several speakers at the first day of the conference reminded us that Switzerland only joined the UN in 2002.
In any case, the young Swiss’ interest in international affairs is exploding at the moment: A Geneva professor talked to me about the exponential rise in student numbers since his university launched an undergraduate program in international relations.
Here are two highlights from the first day of the conference – based on my own biased personal interests…