Archive for the ‘Academia and science policies’ Category

Our 30 years with peace – And what happened to world peace? Part I

By Christina Spannar & Jan Oberg, TFF founders

Part I

TFF was established on September 12, 1985. We think that it’s 30th Anniversary is a fitting occasion to reflect on what has happened in the big world and in our lives with the foundation.

It is also a piece of Lund’s research history in general and of peace research and education in particular.

Motivation

The 1980s was a decade of gross changes in Europe, the struggle against nuclear weapons in particular.

Lund University was predominantly about education and single research projects – while TFF could be more of an experimental playground. We wanted to do truly free research and not negotiate with higher levels at, say, the university what to do where, in which countries to work and what to say to the media.

Peace has always been controversial and there were – and remain – enough examples of places that become ‘mainstream’ and routine – rather than experimental and radically ’alternative.’

What we did not know back in 1985 was that Lund University wanted to get rid of all inter-disciplinary academic endeavours – women, environmental, human rights and peace studies – and closed down the Lund University Peace Research Institute of which Jan had been the director since 1983, in November 1989.

Being a private undertaking

The HQ is the first floor of a two-family house in a villa area of Lund. Visitors, board members etc. have held seminars there, eaten and often stayed with us. Board members were colleagues and personal friends and new board members were recruited from Associates who were also personal friends, like-minded colleagues or mentors one way or the other.
Our children and other friends were often involved in the things TFF did – including printing newsletters in the basement, gathering them, putting them in envelopes and fix address labels.

Goals

The permanent top priority has been to promote the UN Charter norm that ‘peace shall be created by peaceful means’ (Article 1).
This was promoted through traditional book-based research and later field work – i.e. conflict analyses and mediation and peace plans – in conflict zones, but also through intense public outreach/education such as newsletters, media participation, press releases – and, from 1997, the Internet and then social media.

Secondly, we wanted to integrate theory and practice. While it is good to do basic research in the laboratory, what is peace research really worth if it is never applied to real life’s tough situations?

The first five years we did book projects like everybody else in the trade. But in September 1991 TFF went on its first peace mission to former Yugoslavia. It is safe to say that we were among the first to embark on that in-the-field philosophy and practice it – with all the problems and risks that it entailed.

Foundation and management

The word ‘foundation’ does not mean that we had an endowment to start out with – and funding has been a constant problem every day and year ever since. And getting worse over time.
But it meant flexibility and – being and remaining small – quickly adapting to a changing world.

Being our own and not part of Lund University was another advantage – and a drawback in terms of finding funds. TFF had to build its own reputation from scratch rather than piggyback on that of the university’s. It was quite tough but also more rewarding in the long run. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF turns 30 Part 2: Why peace research is about finding solutions

Jan Oberg talks about why it is essential to not only do analysis and criticism but to also be pro-peace – come up with constructive ideas, concrete peace proposals and thereby combine science with the art of seeing a better future than warfare and other violence.


TFF turns 30 Part 1: How it all began

In this short video founders Christina Spännar and Jan Oberg talk about why they set up TFF in 1985 and what the basic idea behind was.


Peace, research and social innovation

A conversation with Ilhami Alkan, Lund University’s Commissioned Edu – about the above and about human duties and not only human rights.


Dr. Jan Oberg – Social Innovation in a Digital Context from Lund University Commissioned Edu on Vimeo.

The Value of Values to Build a World for the Common Good

By Kamran Mofid

Lecture at World Congress of Faiths, Annual General Meeting, London School of Economics, University of London, May 20, 2015

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today, and for giving me the opportunity to share with you my journey for the common good, a journey which I began many years ago, when as a young man I left Iran for England in 1972 in my search for life’s bigger picture.

Friends, I very much like to set the scene by reading a short statement, giving you a brief background to my presentation, my abstract, if you will:

First:

This presentation is dedicated to the youth of the world, our children and grand- children, who are the unfolding story of the decades ahead. May they rise to the challenge of leading our troubled world, with hope and wisdom in the interest of the common good to a better future

Second:

Our country, the United Kingdom, like all nations of the world, despite many good works, deeds and actions by so many individuals, organisations, civil societies and more, is facing a number of major socio-economic, political, ecological, moral, ethical and spiritual crises.

However, I wish to argue that:

Our crises can only be addressed, reversed and resolved, and our goals can only be achieved, if we change direction, adopt new values and become concerned with life’s bigger questions. We must reconnect ourselves with nature and with our true human and spiritual values. Moreover, as members of the household of humanity, we must provide security, sanctuary and constructive engagement for all of our human family. Sustained by the bounty of all, called by the Sacred, and animated into action by the Spirit of peace, Justice, and Reverence for All Life, we must be guided by values and take action in the interest of the common good, empowering each other to build a better world, for all of us.

Continued here.

The Semantics of struggle

Richard Falk

By Richard Falk

Words Against the Grain

While reporting to the UN on Israel’s violation of basic Palestinian rights I became keenly aware of how official language is used to hide inconvenient truths. Language is a tool used by the powerful to keep unpleasant realities confined to shadow lands of incomprehension.

Determined to use the rather modest flashlight at my disposal to illuminate the realities of the Palestinian ordeal as best I could, meant replacing words that obscure ugly realities with words that expose as awkward truths often as possible. My best opportunity to do this was in my annual reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the General Assembly in New York.

My courageous predecessor as Special Rapporteur, John Dugard, deserves credit for setting the stage, effectively challenging UN complacency with language that looked at the realities lurking below the oily euphemisms that diplomat seem so fond of.

Of course, I paid a price for such a posture as did Dugard for me. Your name is added to various black lists, and doors once open are quietly closed. If the words used touched enough raw nerves, you become a target of invective and epithets. In my case, this visibility meant being called ‘an anti-Semite,’ even ‘a notorious anti-Semite,’ and on occasion ‘a self-hating Jew.’

Strong Zionist pressures have now been brought to induce legislative bodies in the United States to brand advocacy of BDS or harsh criticism of Israel as prohibited form of ‘hate speech.’ In April of this year pressures broad to bear by the British Jewish Board of Deputies led the University of Southampton to cancel a major academic conference on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

In relation to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the clarifying/offending words are ‘apartheid,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘settler colonialism,’ and ‘annexation.’ The UN evades such invasions Read the rest of this entry »

Apartheid and the Palestinian National Struggle

Richard Falk

By Richard Falk

Editor’s note
This is a grand essay on the dimensions, history, structures of the Middle East/Palestine-Israeli-Western conflict over about 100 years. It is extraordinarily rich – but doesn’t cause the reader to drown in too many details. I highly recommend it to any student – young or old, journalist and politician – whose understanding of the issues may be based on the woefully biased, general account in Western mainstream media.
- Jan Oberg

Preliminary Observations

In this period when the centenary of the genocidal victimization of the Armenian people in 1915 is being so widely observed and discussed, it seems especially appropriate to call attention to the comparable victimization of the Palestinian people. This second story of prolonged collective victimization also received its jump start almost a century ago with the issuance by the British Foreign Office of the Balfour Declaration supporting the Zionist movement project of establishing a Jewish national home in historic Palestine.

The most striking difference between these two experiences of severe historical wrongs is that the Armenian people are seeking acknowledgement and apology for what was done to their ancestors a century ago, and possibly seeking reparations, while the Palestinian people may sometime in the future have the opportunity to seek similar redress for the past but now their urgent focus is upon liberation from present daily structures of acute oppression.

This Palestinian situation is tragic, in part, because there is no clear path to liberation, and the devastation of oppressive circumstances have gone on decade after decade with no end in view.

The political puzzle of the Israel/Palestine conflict continues to frustrate American policymakers despite their lengthy diplomatic engagement in the search for a peaceful future that satisfies both peoples. There are significant changes, of course, that have occurred as time unwinds.

Perhaps, the most crucial change has involved the gradual extension of Israeli control over virtually the whole of historic Palestine with American acquiescence. This coincides with a growing and more vivid awareness around the world of how much suffering and humiliation the Palestinian people have endured over the course of the last century, and the degree to which this frozen situation can be blamed on the unlimited willingness of the United States to deploy its geopolitical muscle on Israel’s behalf.

My approach to the Palestinian struggle reflects four points of departure: Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 311 – Nobel Peace Prize Watch launched

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

On March 3, 2015, The Telegraph and a few other major news surces broke the quite extraordinary story that the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee – the body that decides who is awarded the Prize – former Norwegian PM Thorbjoern Jagland had been demoted; it’s the first time it has ever happened.

It was during his chairmanship the will of Alfred Nobel was ignored most systematically – e.g. by awarding the world’s allegedly most prestigious prize to President Obama, the EU and Chinese human rights (but pro-war) Liu Xiaobo.

It’s about 7 years ago that a small group of Scandinavian scholars decided to investigate how this prize is managed. The basic research can be found in a book by Norwegian lawyer and author, Fredrik S. Heffermehl, The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted which was the first major result of the group’s work. It documents how this prize is “prestigious” only for those who either a) have never read Alfred Nobe’s will; b) don’t believe it should be interpreted with respect for his motives and goals and c) have very little knowledge about peace and peace research.

Nobel’s formulation in his will is short and clear – the Peace Prize shall go “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” He calls such people “champions of peace”. More here.

Thus, the Nobel Peace Prize is not a do-good prize, not a human rights or environmental prize and not a pro-war prize. But it is a reward work for disarmament, anti-militarism and the abolition of warfare and people – be it politicians, scholars, activists – who are pro-peace, champions of peace. The legal challenges that the Nobel Peace Prize Watch has raised over the years can be found here.

The Nobel Peace Prize Watch

Over the years, the criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s work has increased. Seven years ago, I cannot remember that any journalist who interviewed me about the Prize had read the will. Now about 75% of them seem to have before they call.

Fredrik Heffermehl, Oslo, and Tomas Magnusson, Gothenburg, have now established the Lay Down Your Arms Association which was incorporated and registered in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2014 with a Scandinavian and an International Advisory Board. The Association’s first project has been to set up the Nobel Peace Prize Watch where you can acquaint yourself with the Prize, its history, background, the criticism over time, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 302: Interview with “Iran Review” – and a word about intellectual freedom

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

Lund, Sweden, January 21, 2015

I visited Iran for a third time in December last year, participating in the international UN-endorsed conference, WAVE – World Against Violence and Extremism.

I gave interviews to some ten agencies and media but the longest was this exclusive one by a passionate and very professional 24-year old Iranian journalist, Kourosh Ziabari, for the esteemed Iran Review.

The distorted image of Iran

TFF has been engaged with an in Iran the last three years. We believe that the general image in Western media – covering almost only Iran’s nuclear program, human rights violations and Iran as a threat to the world – is neither objective nor fair.

It conveniently omits the harmful effects on the Iranian society of Western policies since the days of the US-UK coup d’etat against the democratically elected President of Iran, Dr. Mossadegh, in 1953.

Whether intended or not, this type of media coverage risks contributing to deeper conflict and legitimise future violence – rather than mutual understanding and peace.

It is therefore imperative to go there and see for yourself. More about that in the next TFF PressInfo.

What TFF tries to do in Iran

TFF has these aims with its work in Iran:

a) Fact-finding: to simply learn first-hand about its history, culture, people and how they think on all levels; by traveling around and interviewing people, as many and different as possible.

b) To influence the image in the West of Iran Read the rest of this entry »

Memoir sketch: Championing lost causes

By Richard Falk

Richard Falk

By chance I was reading César Vallejo’s poem, “Black Stone on a White Stone,” in a translation by Geoffrey Brock, and was struck by the opening stanza:

I’ll die in Paris in the pouring rain

a day I have a memory of already.

I’ll die in Paris—I won’t try to run—

a Thursday perhaps, in Autumn, like today.

Without being literal, I was reminded that I could appraise my death while alive, and not leave a final reckoning to some solemn memorial event in which speakers are challenged to find humorous anecdotes to lighten the occasion, otherwise uttering honorific platitudes quite unrelated to the experiential core of my being.

I had been thinking quite a bit recently about ‘lost causes.’

Recently I gave a lecture at Columbia University on this theme, inspired by Edward Said’s seminal late essay “On Lost Causes” (1997) in which he ties together the ‘nobility of failure’ as portrayed in literature with his own unswerving dedication to the Palestinian struggle for a just peace. On that occasion, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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