Fostering Global South perspectives in peacebuilding processes

November 28, 2022
Ana Maria Tarazona, TAPRI master student and UniPID intern

Coincidentally UniPID and the Master's Degree Programme in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research at Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI) are celebrating their anniversary this year. Perfect occasion to highlight the relevance of Global South contributions to peace and conflict studies!

¡Hola hola!

My name is Ana Tarazona, a master’s Peace student at Tampere University. I am so delighted to celebrate the anniversary of two institutions that have played a crucial role in my career. While UniPID celebrates its 20 years of commitment to global sustainable development, the Tampere Peace Research Institute –TAPRI honors the 10th anniversary of the master’s degree programme in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research. What a good occasion to highlight the relevance of Global South contributions to peace and conflict studies!

As a peace researcher coming from Colombia, I feel so glad to not only find institutions and partnerships interested in contributing to sustainable development in the Global South, but also, in giving value to processes of knowledge-production taking place in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

To honor these two institutions, the Taprians Kaarle, Angel and I share our thoughts and reflections based on our experience gained when working with communities in Africa and Latin America.

Towards a more reflexive and multidisciplinary Peace Research Approach

TAPRI is one of a kind in Finland. Increasingly more and more social researchers are getting concerned about the contributions in topics such as peace and non-violent resolutions of conflicts in historically marginalized regions. In this sense, UniPID has become a valuable partner for both students and professors aware of global responsibility in research and education. The collaborative work promoted through these partnerships encourages peace researchers to see in different disciplines proper contributions to our field, because as we usually claim, “Peace is everywhere, everything is Peace”. Therefore, this allows us to see in very small moments relevant contributions to the study field.

Kaarle is one of the master’s students who took some courses provided by UniPID and –in her words- she would describe it as an enriching experience, where she learned so much from professors, but also from fellow students who brought interesting topics for discussion. “The course gave me approaches to critically address theories, methods, and practices used in humanitarian and development projects, often based on western knowledge and ideals”, she said. In her opinion, the content and methodologies used during the studies made it possible to reflect on her role and responsibility as a researcher.

On his part, Angel is a TAPRI doctoral alumni who has considered it relevant including multidisciplinary approaches in peace and conflict studies as a critic of essentialism. His work is based on peace and social justice in critical border approaches, with a valuable experience in the Mexico-USA border, thus demonstrating how this scenario represents a clear show of conflict settings. Therefore, critical peace approaches are needed to leave aside the simplistic perspective which considers that conflict is exclusively promoted between belligerent actors.

Promoting Global Responsibility in Peace and Conflict Studies represents a path full of challenges

Highlighting Global South perspectives and listening to marginalized voices in peace and conflict studies is not an easy task, considering that in the study field still prevails the European tradition which is not always suitable when working with different background and communities. One of the main challenges we should assume is to stop thinking that knowledge is exclusively produced in classrooms and buildings. Outside of our zone of comfort, communities are building knowledge based on their lived experiences, which also represents a valuable source of wisdom.

Kaarle considers that as most of the research is conducted from the perspective of the “Global North”, peace researchers should acknowledge this issue and start working on broader understanding of practices, actors, and methods in peacebuilding efforts. “Peace research must question the state-centric view on conflict resolution. The epistemic violence regarding indigenous knowledge –for giving an example- has remained excluded in the hegemonic ideas to promote peace referring to western-led thinking and neoliberal world order. Thus, it is crucial to tackle this constructively in our study field”.

Angel brought up that during the EuPra Conference 2022, it was mentioned the relevance that Latin America has in peace studies. Unfortunately, to some extent, the language represents an obstacle in fostering south-north partnerships, and not so many initiatives are promoted to strengthen the already existing ones. For Angel, this issue is as an example of how uneven the global education system is, which instead of reducing inequality levels, creates barriers to continue ignoring marginalized voices.

Collaborative partnerships as a strategic tool for fostering societal impact

Self-reflecting about the role of social researchers in peace studies encourages a more empathetic field which prioritizes local agents as active knowledge-producers. Instead of asking what could be taught in the Global South, peace researchers from the north should be open to learning from the lived experiences and analysis already done in remote regions. And this would not be possible without the establishment of strategic scholar networks in the frame of a more horizontal educational system.

“Europe has to look at Latin America” was what Angel said when he was asked how to foster a more equal academia. He noted that theories, models, and proposals are arriving late in Latam, basically due to the language. Angel added that it is commonly thought that one of the big problems is the poor English language proficiency in Latin-American countries ; but what if we start thinking in the opposite way? Why not encourage social researchers to prioritize the communities’ original languages? Once again, there is a need to hold a discussion about how to decolonize academia as an effort for global responsibility .

In a similar sense, Kaarle considers that more collaborative work is required in order to represent different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as to amplify the voices in the Global South. “UniPID courses and the scholar networks have a significant role in supporting the objectives of my peace programme and bringing students from different universities to learn together. The courses have been highly valuable experiences for me to grow, and learn as a peace student”, she asserted.

Overall, UniPID 20th Anniversary will be the perfect occasion to celebrate the strategic south-north partnerships with a shared concern for values of societal impact and global responsibility. Collaborative alliances willing to share knowledge, experiences, and perspectives are greatly contributing to a more self-reflective and open discipline. Thank you so much UniPID and let’s continue working together on peace initiatives.

Photo credits: Jyrki Nieminen, 2019 on Unsplash