Thanks to the partnership between the International University of Monaco (IUM) and the University for PEACE (UPEACE), I participated to the Summer Peace Institute with University of California at Berkeley (UC at Berkeley) last June. The Summer Peace Institute brings together a diverse international group of students (US, Denmark, Japan, Singapore, Philippines, South-Korea, Austria, Australia, and Lebanon, to name a few) with the purposes of inquiry and dialogue on current world issues related to peace building and human security – « problems without passports » in the phrase coined by Kofi Annan during his tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations.
Guided by Dr. Jerry W. Sanders, Chair, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of California at Berkeley, this summer course on Human Security and Peace Building is divided in two parts.
In the first part, through lectures and interactive seminars we learn about and discuss foundational concepts, current controversies and case studies on topics such as peace building for human security, climate change and human vulnerabilities, economic migrants and international law, globalization poverty and inequality. We also had the opportunity to more deeply explore what we have learnt in the classroom through the undertaking of a research assignment and in-class presentation of our findings.
For the second part, an intensive three-week field study assignment provides us with the opportunity to interact with a variety of both governmental and non-governmental institutions and actors working in the areas of environment, health, food security, education, development, gender equity, conflict resolution and other human security issues. The initial group of students is split into smaller groups that work all over Costa-Rica.
I worked with the « Bri Bri » indigenous people in Kekoldi reserve on the Caribbean side. It took 4 years to build a research center in the middle of the jungle in order to help the association to conserve the land and expand it through self-sustainable program that is also based on eco-tourism and maybe in the future on agriculture. This program gave me the privilege to live three weeks in the jungle and help this organization – by building trails, restoring the birds observation tower (Kekoldi is one of the three best locations to watch the migration of Hawks), and finally by counting frogs for the scientific center research, a task which helps detect the climate change effect on the jungle. I learnt a lot. For instance I discovered the 4 elements of life in the jungle: water, food, medicine, and shelter, thanks to Sebastian Hernandez B. Morales, the Director of the scientific center of Kekoldi reserve. Finally this experience showed me and my group how the method of peace building can be done from a local approach from inside the population to the outside world.
The other teams had different experiences which we all shared during a presentation session at the end of the program.
I truly recommend this program, full of interaction with teachers and people working with NGO’s and international organizations. In addition, the variety of students in terms of nationality, background and academic field was definitely a plus. Besides the program, we also had the chance to visit Costa Rica, Paos and Arenal volcano, to do a 4 hour rafting trip, and to enjoy the beach both sides Pacific and Caribbean and their beautiful national parks.
I wish to say a special thank you to the program’s host families and the UPEACE and program Staff for their warm hospitality throughout my stay.
Reported by Ziad Kanaan, Master in Sustainable Peace through Sport 2014