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A Call to Action: The Department of Peace and Conflict Research’s response to #BlackLivesMatter and beyond

On May 25th, 2020 George Floyd became one of the countless Black Americans to die as a result of police brutality. Though this event occurred in the United States, it has become symbolic of a global pandemic of violence and brutality against populations made vulnerable by systematic and institutionalized oppression. 

In response, thousands upon thousands of protestors have flooded the streets in countries across six continents. Calls to dismantle systems designed to benefit the white and privileged could be heard echoing with urgency. Residents of Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, India, Kosovo, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Jamaica, Mexico, Canada, and more marched in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, while memorials to George Floyd emerged almost overnight in Syria and Iraq, taking a stance against police brutality in the United States and human rights abuses within their own borders. In light of this global recognition of the symbolic nature of this moment, it is only right that we, as an institution renowned for peace and conflict work, take a stand. 

As the momentum for the #BlackLivesMatter movement builds, those with privilege have been called to listen to the voices of the historically oppressed, and reflect on how they have benefited from and been complicit in sustaining these systems of injustice. Individuals and institutions have been called upon to begin the difficult work of dismantling these very systems they have benefitted from.

We as students and researchers at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research (DPCR) believe that it is our responsibility to take a direct, explicit and active stance against social injustices all around the world. As peace and conflict researchers, we benefit and profit from researching those who are oppressed and marginalized by societal structures. As such, we expect Uppsala University to be a frontrunner for other institutions in recognizing and speaking to issues of injustice and human rights violations in Sweden and around the world, regardless of political affiliation. This includes taking inspiration from movements in recent times, such as Black Lives Matter and Love is Love. 

We call for the following actions to be taken.

  1. The department will take a consistent and active stance against social injustices and human rights abuses around the world. This includes taking active steps to depoliticise them. While human rights have always been politicised, this need not drive how these rights are conceived of and spoken about.

  1. Introduce and require the Research Ethics Course early in the Bachelor and Master Programmes to set the stage for a more critical examination of our studies.

  1. Create a more representative and inclusive course structure, including:
    • Decolonise reading lists. For example, when researching war and peace in East Asia or Latin America the literature should, wherever possible, include local scientists and practitioners.
    • Incorporate readings and theory on race and the long-term impact of colonisation. This is relevant for ALL areas of study, including medicine and science, but particularly in the field of peace and conflict research where race has played a significant role in entrenching structures of instability. This can be modeled after existing approaches that use gender as a lens to understand conflict dimensions.
    • Restructure courses to include critical examination of the role of the Global North in conflict, and their contributions to conflict. The one-dimensional focus of courses on conflict in the Global South without this lens is damaging and enhances stereotypes of the Global North as the only purveyor of peace.
    • Reduce the focus on some regions over others. For example, there is often significant focus on civil wars in Africa, which reinforces the stereotype of this region as conflict-prone. This also does not represent other types of conflicts around the world, e.g. Latin America, the United States, and eastern Europe.
    • Include resources and lessons on modern and unconventional forms of conflict like cyberware, fake news, propaganda, internet censorship, etc.

  1. Enhance training on diversity and inclusion received by staff, including anti-racism, unconscious bias, LGBTQ+ sensitivity, and structural discrimination.

  1. Practice an active commitment to equal opportunity and diversifying the student body and staff group at the DPCR, acknowledging that the current majority is white and/or from Western nations. This includes: 
    • Adapting recruitment strategies for both employment and students that do not tokenize but rather improve program reach and share opportunities (e.g. course announcement news, Rotary Peace Fellowship) to a larger number of countries and communities around the world
    • Providing platforms to (international) students to be able to directly impact the learning environment when their regions are covered with their experiences and knowledge, coordinating with them where appropriate
    • Create a supportive learning environment for students of colour. This includes ensuring students and staff are trained in discussing race-related issues, and are able to take a proactive rather than reactive approach against racism.

  1. Create an institutional plan or policy that commits to specific institutional changes to act against racism and establish a more inclusive department.

  1. Establish a working group of students and staff, with capacity to use the momentum of global movements to institutionalise long-term change for the department. This working group should organise annual workshops to discuss how to utilise lessons learned through courses to address current social issues.

  1. Make an active commitment to provide populations who are the subjects of peace and conflict research with the benefits of the work that we do. This includes:
    • Not just publishing research, but structuring findings and recommendations in a way that is accessible and usable by the general population who may benefit.
    • Making essential courses available freely online to allow the general population to benefit from peace research, including a course on nonviolence that activists and community organisers without the means to gain formal academic qualifications can benefit from.

Our support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement should be viewed as only the beginning. This moment in history should act as a catalyst towards encouraging the department to take active notice of, and be directly responsive towards, global events. 

The work we have called for is not for the fickle hearted. Institutional change cannot happen overnight, but rather, takes the sustained commitment of a collective group to question and dismantle the structures that allow systematic racism and discrimination to persist. It is our view that the DPCR has the means to be a leader in this space, inspiring other academic institutions to do the same.

#BlackLivesMatter #NoJusticeNoPeace

Signed

Want to add your signature? Click here.

Kamil Hamid
Agnes Cronhom
Amanda Lanigan 
Tanushree Rao
Cathinca Verwey
Lars Heuver
Jordan Mathews
Andreas Jamne
Annalena Podzun
Jan Rustemeyer
Fakiha Ahmed
Katja Holböll 
Samikshya Bashishtha Bhattarai
Alanna Smart
Maurice Schumann
Andy Fallon
Lovisa Berglund 
Tove Lexén
Jack Breslin
Christiana Lang
Carolyn Williams
Zoe Meijer
André Liivakant
Sofia Jarvis
Evanthia Karamichail
Jim Jormanainen
Mathilda Grönlund
Jonah Simonds
Katrīna Marija Sitniece
Henrique Garbino
Bijay Shrestha 
Maria Laila Bayer


Open letter regarding the loss of study spaces at Gamla Torget 3

Dear members of Pax et Bellum, sister organisation UPaD, staff of DPCR, and students at Campus Gamla Torget,

We, the board of Pax et Bellum, hope this letter finds you in good health! COVID-19 is spreading rapidly around the globe and our thoughts are with you all. Despite these gloomy times, the world does not stop spinning and tomorrow (19th of March 2020) is the day the future of Gamla Torget 3 will be decided. 

Our student areas are important for the cohesion of DPCR students and the department, for the work conducted by the student associations and to facilitate the close bond with our lecturers. The area at Gamla Torget 3 serves as a meeting place for master and bachelor students alike. It is our second home. More importantly for the campus as a whole, the potential loss of study areas will affect us all. No viable suggestions for compensation have been presented to us. Hence, we continue to request a comprehensive plan for the whole campus. We urge the campus board to refrain from hasty actions. Together with our partners, we have worked relentlessly during the past weeks to save our facilities from termination, especially the student areas. We had planned one final physical protest for tomorrow, which won’t be possible due to the current circumstances. 

In collaboration with several student organisations, we composed a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the university, urging her to act in the matter by providing the Campus Board with the necessary support to address the situation appropriately. We hope our actions will bear fruit and she will act in favour of the students – all of us. 

Finally, our petition “Fight for Gamla Torget 3/Kämpa för Gamla Torget 3” has gathered a total of 617 signatures. We want to thank every one of you for your support. Our work for the students at the DPCR, our members and for maintaining student areas at Campus Gamla Torget is not over yet. The petition will be handed over during the campus board meeting and we hope our concerns are addressed. The quality of our learning environment should be taken into account throughout this decision-making process. 

Your voice matters to us. Now we hope it matters to the Campus Board as well. 

Stay safe! 

Yours sincerely,
The Board of Pax et Bellum

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