West Africa Peace and Security Network Symposium 2017 call for papers

For its 2017 Symposium, the West Africa Peace and Security Network welcomes proposal for papers on the theme of: Back to the Future? Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Peace in Contemporary West Africa

A plethora of literature exists on the violent conflicts in West Africa and how they are managed most especially through peacekeeping missions. On the other hand, scant attention is given to the study of how the root causes of the extremist violence in the region are addressed or can be removed through conflict resolution mechanisms. The 2017 WAPSN Symposium seeks to address this existing lacuna in our knowledge system in a manner that makes a contribution to the attainment of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in West Africa. This emphasis compels a critical look at the difference between conflict management and conflict resolution and applying this to the understanding of the present and future scenarios in West Africa.

The goal of conflict management is to control the spiral of a conflict in a manner that reduces its damaging effects. In this case, the conflict is assumed to be a terminal problem that is easier to manage than solve. Taking this into consideration, peacekeepers (whether along the Chapters 6, 7 or 8 trajectories) focus more of their energies on calming the conflict situations and limiting casualties, with the result that exit strategies for peacekeeping missions are often based on noticeable reduction in violence. It is one thing for the violence associated with a conflict to be terminated and it is another for the root causes of the conflict to be removed. The end of physical hostility between belligerents does not also suggest that the psychological damage done to the fabric of the society by the violent encounters has been resolved. Hence, in many post conflict societies in West Africa today, people still refer to the past. The Nigerian civil war was fought from 1967 to 1970. Some Igbo people are still nursing the “Biafran” agenda of exiting from Nigeria. Many lives have been lost in 2016 for this. The militant youth in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria are back to the creeks blowing up oil pipelines. A lot is spent on defeating Boko Haram in Nigeria but there is little commitment to addressing the core issues that brought the insurgents into being. It may be recalled that there were many phases in the Liberian crisis. One phase ends and another starts later. This is largely because the core issues in the conflict were not addressed. The country has consistently found it difficult to experience any political stability. The violence in Mali might have abated but the conflict issues are yet to be resolved.

By focusing on “conflict resolution” WAPSN seeks to reclaim the knowledge of the salient issues that have to be addressed in order for these violent conflicts to be better dealt with. What can we learn from past experiences? What are the futures of conflict resolution as a normative project, as a research programme, and/or as a practice for building peace?

WAPSN welcomes 250-word proposals for papers that address past examples of conflict resolution or failure and/or the current state and the future possibilities of conflict resolution in managing or transforming West African conflicts. Whether understood as a normative project of conflict transformation or of managing the status quo, as a research programme that challenges disciplinary understanding of conflict, or as a policy practice, it is imperative to assess or reassess the possibilities of conflict resolution. We strongly encourage submissions that link the epistemological and ontological, theoretical and methodological issues in developing conflict resolution approaches to the promotion of sustainable peace in West Africa. The following are potential topics for consideration:

·         Links between the normative, theoretical and practical aspects of conflict resolution

·         Best practices in the use of conflict resolution

·         Conflict resolution in post conflict peacebuilding

·         Application of ECOWAS normative framework for peace

·         ECOWAS Council of the Wise

·         Governance and security

·         The intervention of eminent persons

·         National Peace Councils

·         The role of traditional political authority or mechanisms in resolving conflict

·         Role of CSOs

·         Case studies of conflict resolution successes or failures

Proposals in French or English should be sent to: westafricasymposium@gmail.com by 6 January 2017. Note that the 2017 Symposium will take place in Montreal in early May 2017 (date tbc) and that the main language of the conference will be French. Please note also that paper givers should normally approach their institution for funding to attend the Symposium. While some limited funding may be available to assist colleagues who wish to take part in the Symposium, this cannot be guaranteed at this stage.

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