New International Studies Course with Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi: "Conflict and Conflict Resolution"

Ambassador Brahimi

Noted diplomat and former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, who is currently serving as the Practitioner-in-Residence at the Einaudi Center, and Professor Muna Ndulo will jointly teach a course titled, "Conflict and Conflict Resolution" during the Spring 2016 semester.

Course Description: 

Law 6190: International Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Spring 2016, 1 credit

The nature of conflict has changed and continues to evolve. The end of the Cold War has not been the panacea many expected it to be. It did create better conditions to solve some, but not all, of the conflicts which existed at the time (end of the 1980s/early 1990s). Indeed, it may be argued that some conflicts erupted BECAUSE the Cold War ended. Look at the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Most of the conflicts today, are internal and start inside one single country. They rarely stay that way, though. They will, on the contrary expand out in a variety of manners. Just look at Syria! There is an abundant literature about all aspects of conflict and interested students will have no difficulty accessing books, reports articles and filmed material on these subjects.

The course is jointly taught by Professor Muna Ndulo and Ambassador Brahimi, Practitioner in Residence of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies in Spring 2016. It will focus on a limited number of conflicts of which Ambassador Brahimi has had personal experience. In most – but not all – of these cases Brahimi had a role in regional or international efforts to resolve or at least manage the problems. He will draw from his personal and professional experience to explore with the students the practitioner’s perspective and share lessons learned.

The objectives of the course are to: (I) analyze the main facets of the conflict (its root causes, evolution management and resolution); and (II) understand how outside intervention in its many manifestations has been helpful or harmful in dealing with the conflict under consideration.

Traditional diplomatic techniques and practices no longer suffice to deal the conflict challenges of this, our post-Cold War period. Internal conflicts tend to linger on and require a long term external role to achieve peace: statistics say that about half of the conflicts resolved will re-ignite within five years. To make peace durable will require institutional and governance reforms to create capacity for continued peaceful resolutions of dispute. Tension may arise between the goals of peace and justice. Issues such as human rights, war crimes, crimes against humanity, justice, accountability, impunity and more generally the social need to deal wisely with the past must be addressed. Ethnic and religious tensions and other sources of state fragmentation will not disappear overnight.

The course will also explore various aspects of institution-building in post-conflict environments. For example, constitution making, elections, disarmament, reconciliation and strengthening the rule of law are often essential to peace-building efforts. Elections are not the «perfect exit strategy» they were once thought to be. Essential, they certainly are in any peace process. But timing and sequencing of the various elements of a peace process are essential.

The conflicts which will be studied will be chosen from the following list which is given here in no particular order: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Sudan and South Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, the Congo and South Africa.

Each session will last two hours, during which 2 (and sometimes 3) students will take 30/40 minutes to present the case. The class will then engage in a discussion of the case and try to draw lessons from the experience. The dates are: March 1, 8, 15, 22, April 5, 12. The last session is a wrap-up seminar discussion of the issues presented.

During the spring break, March 29, Ambassador Brahimi will offer a one-day visit to the United Nations in New York. Students will have an opportunity to meet and interact with some of the people whose day job is to deal with peace and security issues in the entire world. The visit will usefully illustrate and supplement what we would have learned during our case studies.

Attendance at all sessions, except the UN trip, is mandatory in order for the students to receive the 1-credit.

About Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi: 

Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi is an Algerian United Nations diplomat who served as the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria until 14 May 2014. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria from 1991 to 1993.

He is also a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders working for global peace. Ambassador Brahimi is a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, the first global initiative to focus specifically on the link between exclusion, poverty and law. He is also a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to promote good governance around the world. He is currently a distinguished senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a governing board member of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.