After six months of elicitive curriculum development for Peace and Conflict Studies in partnership with nine Iraqi universities, the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the United Nations Development Program, Wolfgang Dietrich and Adham Hamed were invited to celebrate the launch of a national pilot diploma at the University of Baghdad on the 11th of March 2019. The University of Innsbruck’s team was welcomed by the Rector of Baghdad University and UNESCO Chairholder Wolfgang Dietrich delivered an address to the University Council, which consists of representatives from 23 colleges and all research centers. Peace and Conflict Studies in Baghdad will be hosted at the College of Arts, which historically has had close ties with the University of Innsbruck within the field of Archeology.
Following the declaration of victory of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), the launch of Peace and Conflict Studies in Iraq comes at a critical moment of transition in Iraq. After decades of armed conflict there is new hope for constructive transition and transformation of conflict. In his address, Wolfgang Dietrich introduced a framework of Many Peaces – Salamat, which proposes an understanding of peace in the plural and as relational, as a possible avenue for conceptualizing this urgent topic. In reference to the ancient goddess Ishtar, he underlined the long and rich history of peace within Iraqi society.
Wolfgang Dietrich’s full speech at the University of Baghdad
Rector Magnificus Prof. Dr. Alaa Mohammed Abdul Hussein Abdul Rasool Al-Kashwan, esteemed Dr. Ghassan, esteemed Dr. Abduljabbar, esteemed Deans, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen!
In my position as Head of the Unit for Peace and Conflict it is a special honor to be here with you at the distinguished University of Baghdad and bring you the greetings of Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Tilmann Märk, the Rector of my home University of Innsbruck, Austria. What a wonderful coincidence that we are launching here, at the College of Arts, at the University of Baghdad, the first Iraqi Diploma Program for Peace and Conflict Transformation while our University at home celebrates in this year 2019 its 350th anniversary. The official book of the University that I herewith present to you may illustrate a bit its rich history.
Thus, I am the humble messenger from a European University of tradition and prestige. Taking into consideration that Peace Studies, as an academic discipline of its own rights, research interests and methods, is in this year exactly 60 years old, I represent one of the younger but internationally quite well-known Units of our University.
After decades of armed conflict there is new hope for constructive transition and transformation of conflict.
The Master’s Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation at the University of Innsbruck was founded in 2001. Since then we have welcomed 29 cohorts of students. In other words, 411 persons from 83 different countries from all continents, making up 848 participants in total, with Germany, Austria, the United States, Colombia, Canada, Norway, India, Brazil and Uganda being the most highly represented countries. The first student from Iraq came to us only in the last semester based on a scholarship provided by the rectorate of our University after a visit of your former Minister of Higher Education, Prof. Dr. Abdelrazaq Al Esa, in Innsbruck last year – and I am pleased to tell you that she is doing very well. We are happy to have her in our academic family and we are looking forward to the next Iraqi students who will follow this year on the same track.
Out of our 411 students, 229 have already graduated while almost 100 are currently busy with their theses and some dozens are actively studying. The high rate of exam-active students in the overall enrollment is remarkable compared to the national, continental and even global standard. This received particular attention lately, as exam-active – and not only enrolled – students became a political goal in many countries.
Our outstanding number may be based on innovative didactics that we developed in the frame of our Master’s program since the beginning. In 2008 UNESCO rewarded us with the establishment of a UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck. In 2017 the Unit for Peace and Conflict Studies was created and last year we founded a transdisciplinary Research Center for Peace and Conflict that currently comprises nine disciplines ranging from international law to psychology, and from education to language.
Based on our numbers we can say that Peace Studies opens the door to interesting careers for students who want to serve the cause of peace in their country, their region and the global brother- and sisterhood of mankind. To give you some examples: The current prime minister of Ethiopia graduated from Peace Studies at Addis Ababa University and his spokesperson is an alumna of our program. Similarly, the current regional director of the ICRC for the Middle East and North Africa is a former student from our program, and so are many people who hold important positions in humanitarian organizations as well as in the broader UN system.
Therefore, studying peace and conflict makes sense. If you learn that peace is not simply the absence of war or violence – though we all know too well how appreciated this absence is – and gain a deeper insight into peace as existing on all layers of human individuals and relations – the physical, the sexual-familial, the emotional-communal, the mental-societal, the spiritual and transpersonal and even on the transhuman – it can change and satisfy the mind enormously. And it can open up previously unimaginable professional and personal perspectives.
It is not only the drama of history, but also its beauty. Mesopotamia has been one of the cradles of our current cultures. We, in Europe, owe this place a lot.
Therefore I welcome the University of Baghdad in what we call the “peace family”. In Innsbruck we made international academic cooperation a principle since the very first day of launching our Master’s program when our then Rector and his counterpart from the University of Castellón signed the first Memorandum of Understanding on mobility of students, credits and faculty. Many Memoranda of the same type followed. The most important among them concerned the UN Peace University in Costa Rica, University of Basel in Switzerland, Hacettepe University in Turkey, Cambridge University in England, University of Notre Dame in the United States, Dublin City University in Ireland, University of Jena in Germany, several universities in Colombia and many more. In the context of larger cooperation projects, we have contributed to curriculum development at four universities in Georgia (Erasmus+), at the Haramaya University in Ethiopia (APPEAR), Paz & Mente in Brazil, UCATEC in Bolivia and so on.
Therefore, we were very happy when we received the invitation from the Iraqi Al Amal Association, backed by UNDP, to do the same with nine universities in your country. It is not only that Iraq, due to its recent history, is in our discipline a place of highest interest. It is not only the drama of history, but also its beauty. Mesopotamia has been one of the cradles of our current cultures. We, in Europe, owe this place a lot.
My colleague Adham Hamed and I happened to be accommodated in Hotel Isthar last night. What a name of highest relevance and beauty, what an appropriate choice for peace researchers! Isthar, one of the most prominent names of a Great Goddess, the deity of fertility and energetic peace! We can learn so much about the human perception of peaces from ancient history, especially here in this region. By studying how peace has been interpreted by our ancestors we can challenge our contemporary concepts and stereotypes. And it invites us to become aware of some errors that we committed along the way when we have had to live under conditions of un-peace. Iraq is not just another name of horrible human suffering in contemporary history, it is also the synonym of possibilities and perspectives, and it is definitely the place of an extremely rich and illustrative history. Some of our colleagues in the Research Center at Innsbruck, who come from backgrounds like ancient history, archeology, history, philosophy or theology will be pleased to hear that.
Having said that, I am happy that our meeting today is not the very first encounter of representatives of our Universities. Baghdad and Innsbruck have a long tradition of cooperation in archeology and ancient history. Our current colleagues of the respective institutes met your Minister of Higher Education when he visited Innsbruck. There was mutual agreement that the traditional cooperation in this field has to be continued. The general circumstances of the past made these things difficult but they could not destroy the affection, the enthusiasm and the interest.
In a way presence and history meet here. It is more than evident that many Iraqi Universities need to implement Peace Studies as an independent discipline in order to support the people in their daily and societal struggle. And since the history and hence the deep culture of these people can teach us so much about their specific interpretation of the Many Peaces – salamat – we consider peace history as a crucial aspect of this endeavor. In this sense I hope that your efforts will be successful. May the energy that you have already put into this project, and keep on mobilizing, be rewarded by the biggest success a peace worker can long for – making the life for many a little bit more beautiful.