Friday, 28 November 2014

We Day 2014: Atlantic Canada



Atlantic Canada's We Day 2014 is upon us. It kicked off this morning around 8:45am. A live feed can be picked up at the following location:

http://www.weday.com/watch/

As you read this around 8,000 students, teachers and other guests will fill the Scotiabank Center for the entire day where they will experience inspirational speeches and performances. As the above embedded video points out We Day is about giving back to communities both locally and globally, this event is a celebration of their actions and to kick off the drive for more of the same over the next year.

We Day is an initiative coming out of the Free the Children organization. Free the Children is about striving to find a way to ensure all children achieve their fullest potentials as agents of change. This is both a domestic and global initiative that works to remove barriers to things like education and help break the cycle of poverty that so many young people face.

Free the Children was founded by brothers Craig and Marc Keilburger. Marc has been recognized as one of NUPRI's Agents of Peace. His playlist can be found below.



More information on We Day and Free the Children can be found at the following web addresses respectively:

http://www.weday.com/

http://www.freethechildren.com/


Peace,

Randy

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Nipissing Speaker Series: Hilary Renner

Many apologies for the short notice, this even came together in the matter of a couple of days earlier this week.

In its evolving Speaker Series the Nipissing Universit Political Science Association (NUPSA) and the Canadian International Council (CIC) are proud to announce Hilary Renner, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto will be visiting Nipissing University on Friday, Novermber 21.

She has had an incredible career so far having served as the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota Colombia as well as the Public Affairs Chief at the Bureau for African Affairs. Ms. Renner will be speaking on her experience within the U.S. State Department as well as the U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa and South America.

Date: Friday, November 21st
Time: 4:30pm - 6pm
Location: Nipissing University, room A122


I encourage all who are interested to take the time to attend the event. The wealth of experience Ms. Renner has incredible. Her current posting as the Public Affairs Officer to the U.S. Consulate in Toronto has put her in a position to bring a unique perspective to the connections between the U.S. and Canada. As she is new to the position she is traveling across Ontario to get a better understanding of the make-up of not only Ontario as a whole but also the Southern and Northern parts of the province. She will be open to questions at the end of her talk which could provide a great platform to garner a understanding of the challenges faced by countries who have embassy's in unstable regions of the world, as well as the challenges faced by women in those international positions.

Hope to see you there.

Peace,

Randy

Friday, 14 November 2014

Amnesty International: Write for Rights

This is a heads up, a call if you will, for the upcoming Amnesty International: Write for Rights event taking place on December 10th, 2014.

Over the last couple of months the Nipissing University Amnesty International Community Action Circle has organized several letter writing campaigns, which I have had the pleasure of attending. They are informal events involving both students and faculty (though anyone else who wishes to join is fully welcome). We spend time writing letters to various governments requesting an end to acts of torture against an individual, alternately we may write letters to someone who has been wrongly imprisoned as a sign of support for their cause.

December 10th this year is the annual Write for Rights event run by Amnesty International. The NU Community Action Circle has plans to run a large event open to everyone and anyone who is interested in writing to make a difference. There will be several causes to direct your letter(s) to, all paper, envelopes and stamps will be provided.

One of the reasons for engaging in a letter writing campaign is because of the tangibility of it. Sitting down and taking time to write something that is a physical representation of yourself is a drastically different experience than typing it up on a computer with a keyboard. With the increasing movement of the world into the digital realm letters and letter writing is becoming a obsolete art. Taking the time to put a physical effort into a letter carries more weight both physically and mentally than sending an e-mail.

There are still a few details to work out with the local Write for Rights event, they will be posted as soon as they are available.

To be added to the NU Amnesty International mailing list or for more details on this or any future event you can contact the event organizer Dr. Sarah Winters at: sarahw|at|nipissingu|dot|ca. I would include in the subject line "Amnesty International".

For more information on the larger event and to make a pledge to be involved in the campaign follow this link: http://www.writeathon.ca/

If you are interested in other ways to become involved with Amnesty International you can check out their Canadian website here: http://www.amnesty.ca/

Hope you see you December 10th.

Peace,

Randy

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The 2014 Global Peace Index

Over the last few days I have been looking over the 2014 Global Peace Index and have discovered some things of interest.

For those who may not be aware the Global Peace Index is an annual report (and interactive map) released by the Institute for Economics and Peace that ranks the relative peacefulness of over 160 world countries according to their scores across a variety of metrics including militarization, human security and domestic & international conflict. The results of the 2014 Global Peace Index was released in June of this year so some of the more recent developments have not been taken into account in ranking the countries, they should be factored into the 2015 index.

According to the summary report accompanying the map the overall trend for peace in the world has dropped every year since 2008. In terms of numbers 111 countries have deteriorated in levels of peace while only 51 have increased. As alarming as this sounds it must be noted that even slight movement downward on the scale counts as a deterioration in a country's level of peace. Fluctuation is bound to take place in all countries in a given year. The Boston Marathon bombing that took place in the United States in 2013 impacted its level of domestic violence and terrorism which in turn would drive the position of the U.S. down, depending on how great an impact the event was deemed on the overall peacefulness of the country.
The overall downward trend is alarming especially considering terrorism is seemingly on the rise. It is not difficult to predict that the 2015 index will see another drop in the overall peacefulness of the globe. With the recent events here in Canada, as well as the "War on ISIS/ISIL" and the recently renewed violence between Israel and Palestine coupled with the ongoing unrest between Russia and the Ukraine the downward trend is seemingly going to continue.

Among some notable positives Canada ranks as the 7th most peaceful country in the world, it is largely due to Canada's rating that North America ranks as the 2nd most peaceful continent on the planet. The top 3 most peaceful countries (as well as 7 of the top 10 and 14 of the top 20) are found in Europe, consequently it is no surprise that Europe is considered the most peaceful area of the world. It is largely due to political stability post-internal conflict that has allowed countries like Libya and Georgia to improve their overall peace rating.

One country which, to me, is confusing is Quatar. It ranks as the 22nd most peaceful country in the world yet is also listed in the top 10 most likely countries to slide into conflict in the near future. Initially I thought it might be related to its geographic position but according to the index the most immediate countries are relatively peaceful; Saudi Arabia is 80, UAE is 40, Oman is 59 and Kuwait is 37. Quatar is situated across the Persian Gulf from Iran, which is listed at 131, but I do not know how much of an impact this is having on the likelihood of it sliding into conflict. Though my knowledge of Quatar is somewhat limited I do not notice any trends in news stories pointing to an impending crisis within the country, which is why its position on the top 10 list is all the more confusing.

Several things to look for in the 2015 Global Peace Index: 
- How much will Israel's position (141) be impacted through the recent violence with Palestine? According to the 2014 index Israel improved its rating. All progress made is likely going to be reversed in the 2015 index.
- What impact will the recent violence in Canada as well as Canada's involvement in the ISIL fight have on Canada's #7 position?
- Will places like Georgia, Libya and Cote d'Ivoire continue their upward trend? Which other countries will make peace improvement over the next year?
- Which countries will see the largest upward movement on the index? 

In the countries that have improved their positions on the index it largely comes from a greater stability of government after a period of internal conflict. Though as a whole the country may still be in turmoil finding those areas of stability for which to move forward on top of is important.

The full report can be read at the following link:


Peace,

Randy

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Look for the helpers


During this difficult and uncertain time the Nipissing University Peace Research Initiative would like to extend its deepest regrets to all the people and families affected by the events of the last few days.

The words of television icon Mister Rogers are perhaps the most profound and important at a time like this, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’”

The helpers do not do it for recognition; they do not do it for praise or money. These men and women help because it is the human thing to do. The world is full of people who want to help no matter how small or how great the situation. It is not just the doctors, nurses and first responders but also the friends, neighbors, shopkeepers and volunteers who are there ready to jump in when things go wrong.

Peace,

NUPRI

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Focus on Peace Education

A number of our interviewees for the Agents of Peace project have made note of a lack of peace education as an obstacle to building and sustaining a peaceful society. Increasingly universities across Canada and the United States are offering programs related to Peace and Conflict Studies, particularly at the graduate level. It is notable that the investment in Peace education has been dubbed a fear response to international crises - particularly relating to terrorist activities witnessed in the past decade. This explains the focus of many of the already existing programs on violent conflict management. Regardless of the impetus for the increasing focus on peace studies, we choose to celebrate it. 

So here is a list of a couple programs across Canada and the United States that focus on Peace studies. (This is certainly not a complete list of all related programs; if there are some missing that you think are notable, please let us know!)


  • Rutgers University - Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies - Newark, NJ, USA
    • This interdisciplinary programs is based in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and is oriented to the social bases of conflict and cooperation, of war and peace. Social dimensions include topics of migration, economic development, environmental degradation, inequality, education, race, ethnicity, religion, and gender.
  • Royal Roads University - BA in Justice Studies, Master of Arts in Disaster and Emergency Management, Conflict Analysis and Management, and Human Security and Peacebuilding -  Victoria, BC, Canada
    • The school offers interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs that respond to the increasing demand for leadership in humanitarian assistance, social reconstruction and conflict management. Their programs are directed towards working professionals or those looking for a career in peacebuilding.
  • University of Waterloo - Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies - Waterloo, ON, Canada
    • Recognizing conflict as an inescapable part of the human experience, and a potential vehicle for positive change at local, national, and international levels, this master’s degree offers a unique approach to peace education in which dynamic, sustainable, and creative solutions to conflict can be imagined, tested, and applied.
  • University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs - BA in Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies - Toronto, ON, Canada
    • The Peace, Conflict and Justice program confronts some of humanity's most complex challenges. It offers an undergraduate B.A. degree that emphasizes the integration of practical and theoretical knowledge, the interdisciplinary nature of peace and conflict studies, and the value of incorporating research into undergraduate education.
  • University of Texas at Austin - Certificate in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies - Austin, TX, USA
    • Bridging Disciplines Programs allow you to earn an interdisciplinary certificate that integrates area requirements, electives, courses for your major, internships, and research experiences. The Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies BDP offers you the opportunity to both study and promote conflict resolution in interpersonal, institutional, societal, and global contexts. Students in this program will explore the causes and consequences of various forms of violence, as well as the conditions of peace. In addition to gaining a more sophisticated understanding of peace and conflict, students will also learn about and practice skills necessary for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
  • University of Manitoba - PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies - Winnipeg, MA, Canada
    • The Ph.D. Program in Peace and Conflict Studies provides a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to prepare students to pursue independent research aimed at analyzing and resolving the complex issues facing the global milieu of peace and conflict using a variety of conflict resolution, social justice, and peace studies tools, processes, and methods.

So there you are! There are plenty of programs across Canada and the US that offer programs in peace and conflict studies. Increasingly, programs are also focusing on the idea of Peace Itself, rather than peace as conflict management. This is an exciting time for peace research and education in North America and we are happy to be a part of it!

For more information about peace studies or to learn about Conflict Resolution training with our partners at CIIAN you can comment, send us a message on Facebook, email nupri.johanna@gmail.com or nupri.lieann@gmail.com or visit us on youtube at Youtube.com/peacefulagents


Peace,

NUPRI

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The geography of hate

(This is a response to USB researchers' Twitter "Hate Map", written by NUPRI's research assistant, Johanna Fraser)

A recent map created using twitter posts as reference points for understanding where and how much hate exists in the United States has recently been brought to light. The map, which can be found here, uses hateful speech--homophobic, anti-disability, and racist twitter posts--to show the so-called "geography of hate" in America. Researchers--led by Dr. Monica Stephens at Humboldt State University--use the map to geo-tag the origins or hateful speech on twitter based on negative references to particular keywords--queer, fag, cripple, and dyke being examples.

The map has, in my opinion, rightly, received a lot of heat for the possibility of presenting a flawed or misleading view of the general views of individuals living in particular regions. The data used to create the map was collected from an aggregation of all Tweets posted between June 2012 and April 2013 that used the "hate" keywords. These tweets were then screened by students to classify them as either positive or negative and only those deemed negative by the screeners were used to create the map.

On a very basic level this project seems to make an interesting point about hate in America, particularly hate on the internet in America. However, besides the obvious problem with relying on subjective student understandings of what constitutes positivity or negativity in relation to hate speech, the map has a deeper and more harmful impact.

That is, while it is important to draw attention to hate it is also, as silly and optimistic as it sounds, it is also important--if not more important--to draw attention to love.

North Americans, I propose, are infatuated with darkness. Numerous papers in the last decade have focused on this aspect of the modern psyche. While it is not necessarily a new phenomenon in the history of humanity--Greek tragedy certainly presents us with a dark image on par with modern art and film--it is becoming more and more acceptable for people, particularly in our neck of the woods, to focus on the darker side of life. In casual conversation about the merits of this or that week's top box-office hit the common thread is that movies are better when they are more realistic; and what makes them more realistic in our eyes? Well, a film can be said to be realistic when it presents us with the darker underside of humanity--that part of us that exists in all of us but which we hide--our darker side. Thinkers have been quick to claim that this explains our generation's obsession with Vampires, Werwolves and Zombies. These mythical creatures present us with a more "realistic", if metaphorical, view of human nature. Inside all of us is a monster. Perhaps that is why we love True Crime television shows, why our favourite characters are the anti-heros, the Dexter Morgans, the Hannibal Lecters, and even more banally, the drug-addicted Jackie Peytons and rude and uncompromising Dr. Houses.

Works like Dr. Stephens' "hate map" do the same thing that modern art and popular culture do to us. It presents us with a distorted understanding of reality. It shows us where hate is strongest, but ignores where, even within those boundaries of, for example, anti-queer speech, love exists. On first glance, for example, it would appear that the entire Mid to Far Eastern U.S. is rife with racism. When one first clicks on the "racist" option the entire right side of the map lights up a glowing bright red--indicating, according to the creators, the "most hate". A swift double click, though, and you find that within the glowing red glob there are in fact only a few counties and regions that contain within them large numbers of hateful Tweets, double click again and you find that in fact there are only a few towns, some of which are quite sparsely populated that still glow red, the rest of the map left either a light or dark blue indicating "some hate" or--more commonly--not lit up at all.

My question, then, is whether we might find out that in those non-lit up places, or in the light blue shaded areas, or even in the middle of the most frighteningly and brightly red towns we might find, if we cared to look, the most powerful sentiments of love. We have, as I noted already, a tendency to look on the dark side. We think it is realistic to presume that the United States is hateful, racist and homophobic. That's what we see on the news and in films and in popular culture and that is the image which is presented to us by researchers like the ones as HSU that created this map of the geography of hate. But it is not the truth. The world is not a dark place. It is a place with both light and dark and sometimes, if you know where to look, or if you even just care to open your eyes to it, you will find that the light has a way of outshining the darkness in the same way that when you are in a dark room the light from the hallway finds it way in through the crack at the bottom of the door.

So, my message of peace for the day is to find the light in even the darkest of places and Tweet, post and talk about that instead. Perhaps, then, researchers can create a map highlighting the Geography of Love.

Peace,

Johanna