School News AGS

A Palestinian and an Israeli Present their Joint Peacebuilding Initiatives
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 14:36

Read more...On September 25th, the AGS Middle East Society hosted an inspiring and insightful guest talk by two peace activists, a Palestinian and an Franco-Israeli, who presented their joint peacebuilding initiatives in the Middle East.

Palestinian Ali Abu Awwad is a founder of Roots, a Palestinian-Israeli NGO that seeks to support peace and reconciliation through dialogue as "a secure place for argument". He also is a founder of Taghyeer (change in Arabic), a Palestinian national nonviolence movement.

Jean-Marc Liling is a Franco-Israeli lawyer specializing in right of asylum. He heads the Center for International Migration and Integration in Israel and joined Ali Abu Awwad in his peace initiative.

Both shared their personal stories and explained how they managed to transcend the narrative of victimhood and the idea that the other is the enemy, to develop the powerful tool of nonviolence in order to engage their respective societies into becoming agents of peace.

The speakers were introduced by Mehra Rimer, a Swiss-Iranian peace advocate who co-founded be8ofhope, an umbrella organization for Roots, Taghyeer and other peace initiatives. They were invited by Professors Mariam Habibi and Joav Toker, who co-teach the course on the Middle East at AGS and animate the AGS Middle East Society with students.

Below is an excerpt from Ali Abu Awwad's speech.

 "One of the things that we suffer from is that people take sides. Whether you are pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. And you make a conflict in your country – between Jews, Muslims, Christians… you take a stand. And people used to deal with that before but today there is a price, a terrible price, because people are dying because of that – in your country, in our country.

One of the things that bring me outside the country is that speaking to you is so important, because you are part of it, whether you are directly part of it or not. I think that radical and terrorist movements have used this conflict a lot, including politicians and governments. So one of the reasons that we are here is because we don’t want to be used. And we cannot be used if we are clear about what we want and speak with one voice. And here, I have to say that it’s hard. It’s much easier to be part of the problem, but being part of the solution is really hard. Especially for someone like me.

I’m a Palestinian, I come from a refugee family from 1948, I’ve carried this heavy, bleeding narrative in my heart all of my life. Then I opened my eyes and I realized that I was born to a very political mother. My mother was one of the leaders of PLO; she was leading the Fatah movement with Arafat since the 1970s, and I encountered the conflict, I encountered the Jews, and I experienced, I breathed the occupation every day.

When I was a child, I saw her beaten in front of my eyes. There, you don’t need an ideology to hate. You lose your mind. I was just a child, who wanted to grow up normally. Sometimes, I’m amazed, especially when Jewish people ask me: “Why, you, Palestinians, educate your kids to hate?” Then I come up with this answer that if you grow up like this, I don’t think you need a specific curriculum for hate. It does the job for you. And this is what we are having, every day. 

Just imagine: you open your eyes in the morning, you cannot think about any future. It could take you sometimes two hours to reach your school, which normally takes ten minutes. You come home with tear gas, with no school bag because you ran away from the soldiers, maybe with a rubber bullet, and you see your father being slapped on his face by a 19-year old soldier. And you live in a home that has no water – just imagine – your house has no water for 25 days during the month. No water. It’s still happening today. So what? You will not be a Mandela.

So in 1987, I found myself coming to the street where the first Palestinian uprising started, and throwing stones on Israeli soldiers. Not because I was a fanatic, not because I was a terrorist, but that was my only way to scream and to show the whole world that I deserved to live with dignity – that’s all I wanted. I was arrested, and then I was released, then I was arrested again, and in 1990 I was arrested with my mother. She spent five years in prison; I spent four years in an Israeli prison.

Here, I can say that when the military court gave me ten years to prison, I was totally broken, because I felt that that was unjust, because the only thing that the Israeli Shabak wanted was information about my mother. So they tortured me for one month and six days, physically. You cannot imagine. Some Palestinians lost their lives in that torture. But I refused. I refused to give any evidence against my mother. So there was a promise to throw me ten years to prison. And I couldn’t believe it. When the judge gave me ten years, I almost fell down. I couldn’t imagine – I was 17 years old – that the next ten years of my life, I was going to spend in prison because I threw stones at Israeli soldiers. And this is what happened.

So now you have to deal with it. You’re still breathing – you’re not alive exactly, but you’re still breathing – and you have to show that you are a hero, because you are the son of a hero, and people look at you as a leader. So what do you do? So with this broken heart, I went to prison, but I didn’t realize that I was going to one of the best universities that you can imagine, because Palestinian political prisoners succeed in creating a whole system to lead and manage their daily life. There were professors, lawyers, teachers… they created five committees: committee of education, security, management, national, and negotiation court. I always say that if a Palestinian were to create the same system outside, it would be the best nation! And that’s really what happened. So my best education, that has much influenced me and was better, I can say, that even a university, was in prison, studying psychology, politics, Judaism, Christianity, all kinds of subjects. The best travel agent was a book: if you want to travel from prison, you grab a book, and there you go on a journey. That was how I experienced different cultures. 

But the big lesson was: during three years I was asking the Israeli authorities to allow me to visit my mother in her other prison. Israel refused. So in 1993, after three years, she and I decided to have a hunger strike. So we entered a hunger strike that continued for 17 days, starving everyday just to see each other. And after 17 days of that fight, we managed to meet. And that was my first transformation. Not by meeting Israelis, not by seeing the humanity of the other, not by these nice values of peace: it was targeting my mind before my heart. What is this weapon that I was too blind to see? What is nonviolence? Why did Israel agree? They could have let me die. And I started to dig into and learn about nonviolence and nonviolent struggle.

And finally, I realized that this effective weapon, I had never used before because I was stuck, and my blindness came from my rightness and anger, but deep under, I was led by being a victim. When you consider yourself as a victim, you give yourself the right to do whatever, and no one has the right even to judge you or to punish you. And this is the hidden psychology and the hidden psyche of the Jewish people and the Palestinians. And that is what keeps this conflict going. Which is right. 

So finally, by also a peace initiative, I was released after four years, but I couldn’t really be part of that process. And I’ll tell you why the peace process has failed in my opinion. I think that we Palestinians, before the Oslo peace initiative that was signed in 1993, we used to have one identity: to prove our belonging to Palestine and to practice our identity as Palestinians. That identity means: “revolution”. We are the people of the Intifada (the uprising). We are the people of PLO, the resistance. These words are values of our identity. So after the signing of the peace agreement in Oslo, we were expected to do a huge shift from being part of a revolution to being part of a country, a society, to become citizens, not fighters. But we didn’t make the shift. The Israeli continuation of the occupation didn’t allow us to do that. The corruption of part of our leadership didn’t allow us to do that.

The big arguments between different political parties were that Fatah couldn’t prove that peace was welcomed and could lead us to our legal right of independence; then Hamas also couldn’t prove that violence was working. And the international investment in our conflict continued, because we are a good market for outsiders. We are a good market for the Western world, with its politics, for the congress, and for the Arab world. We are a good market to invest hate – by ourselves, because we allow others to do that with us and for us.

So by the end of the day, 2,000 Palestinians had lost their way to practice their identity. Shall we fight as a right? No, it’s not working. Should we go to peace and become citizens? It’s also not working. But there is a new reality on the ground that the Palestinian authority is there.

So on the one hand you pay wealth taxes every month to an authority that doesn’t guarantee freedom of movement as a basic right of any human being. So we become confused. That’s why the whole process has blown up. Peace collapsed, our hope collapsed, and then Israel came with new actions on the ground, and new facts, including this wall. And they’re still there, and I still believe that this wall has nothing to do with security, because hundreds, tens of thousands of Palestinians every day illegally pass and go to Israel for work. But this law has designed a new political, geographic, demographic fact on the ground.

But on the other hand, this wall is like a psychological treatment of the Jewish fear – because it defends them, and as long as this defends me, I cannot argue if this wall is legal or not, because it’s my life, and I can understand that. On the other hand, I’m sure it prevents from attacks, but it cannot prevent totally from attacks. Because when people lose their fear of dying, you cannot stop them. They will dig, they will jump, and this is what happens. So it’s not about exactly security, because in my opinion, security cannot be achieved by using people’s fear, by authorizing others, by pressuring another nation. As my argument today, we cannot achieve freedom by killing others. It doesn’t work. You don’t need to be Gandhi to realize that. And my last statement is very clear: our freedom shouldn’t pass through Jewish bodies, graves; it has to pass through Jewish hearts. Because there is enough humanity there – but I didn’t grow up with this, because of my life condition.

So finally, in 2000, the fight started. I couldn’t really find myself a fighter or a citizen. But people expect from you as a leader to come up with things and I couldn’t come up with things; I couldn’t give answers. One day I was badly wounded by a settler who was driving and using his weapon against Palestinians. I was sent to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment because I got this dumdum-exploding bullet in my knee. I was really in a difficult situation. A month later, I received the news that my older brother Youssef, 31 years old, was stopped by a group of Israeli soldiers at the entrance of my town, Beit Ummar, near Hebron, and very violently murdered. 

So now, what do you do? I mean, all of my life was about a price that I had to pay, but that price was different. I experienced what it means to lose rights, what it means to lose land, and I could deal with that. But loosing him, for me, was like loosing my best reason for life. I mean, after him, nothing was worth anything. I promise you, I would be ready to do anything that you can imagine just to bring him back to his kids.

Then another struggle had started. What shall I do? I used to be a fighter. I know how to use weapons – I was trained. Yes, I have never used them, but I will be ready to go for revenge, punishment, because the murderer of my brother just murdered him for no reason. Even the officer of that unit slapped that soldier on his face, took his weapon, and threw him out. But this is not enough. That soldier has never been to prison, has never been to justice. So in general, when this happens to any human being, the first reaction is revenge. And you are right, it is legitimate, and you go for it. But something inside me rejected that because I suddenly thought: if revenge is about seeking justice, if revenge is a just act against the killer, what is justice? That is a big question. I couldn’t really know what justice was.

Then I went back with my memories to prison where I started learning about nonviolence, and I remembered reading Malcolm X, when he said: “Justice is just us.”  I couldn’t really understand what he meant by saying that. But I rejected any revenge – not by lack of anger: I was so angry and ready to take revenge, but then I said: how many people shall I kill? What could replace this feeling of having him? Is it by killing ten million people, Israelis, Jews? I will not be happy because he is not there anymore. The only justice for me would be to have him back to his kids – that would be justice. Does it mean that there is no justice in life? That’s a big question. Then I realized that I was stuck with this. Because, yes, part of me believes that there is no 100% justice in life, because you cannot bring a broken hand to be the same as before it was broken. You will never have that. But you can heal it. That, for me, is sort of justice – but there is no complete justice in life. 

And from there, I started a journey after my mother, a year later, hosted Israeli bereaved parents who called us, asking to come and visit us. And I was shocked. Because Israelis used to come to my home but they never called. They used to come and damage and arrest, they never paid condolences, they never showed humanity. And suddenly, my mother was hosting them. And I promise you – I was born in 1972 and that meeting happened in 2001 – that was the first time that I sat with an Israeli who was crying. I couldn’t believe that Jewish people had tears, until that minute. And suddenly, the devil had a face, and that face was human, and that mother or that father had paid the same price as my mother. And suddenly, there was an earthquake inside my heart. It was so hard to put a human face to my enemy.

I started a long, complex journey that brought me to places where I would never have imagined being, and finally, to coming and speaking – not to the people that I agree with, because talking to the Israeli leftists is nice, but what about the core of the problem? 600,000 settlers: these are the people that need transformation, or at least need to be engaged. Yes, I do have deep political arguments and disagreement. Because in my opinion, settlement is an illegal political act based on a legitimate political, ideological identity for the Jewish people – this is how they think. And dialogue is not to ask people to change their identity. Peace is not giving up our identity – who we are. Peace is giving up our behaviors. Occupation is a behavior. This is what we need to argue, not Judaism. Right of return, “refugeness”, are a behavior. This is what has to be healed in a way or another, by creating a new environment that will guarantee for these two identities to live with respect.

So design it: one State, two States, three States… as long as people will agree about that, we are fine with that. But with my sorrow, until today, we are not ready for that. What can make us ready? One is the best engagement between two identities for Palestinians; two: to have resistance, but nonviolent resistance; and also, to develop our life and to take responsibility. Because we cannot say that occupation is guilty of our violence. That has to stop. We have to take responsibility, because our freedom is stuck there.

On the other hand, Jewish people have a lot of homework to be done. Starting with overcoming the Jewish fear that has become our biggest enemy, but also to find and support partners on the ground who are making a difference, and to stop criticizing everyone and wanting to throw them to the sea. Israelis have to learn how to engage, not to disengage. That’s the only way that Israel can be saved. And the only people that Israel can engage with, in the first place, are the Palestinians. And we know that, because we come from the ground.

So finally, I created this nonviolent center, in Goush Etzion, where the heart of the problem is, four years ago. Many people, friends of mine, told me that I had lost my mind, that Israelis were going to kill me, the settlers were going to take over… And for the past four years, until today, I have received more than 30,000 people to that peace of land, from all over the world, including Israelis and Palestinians.

But the best thing that has happened is: after Roots, I succeeded, with community leaders, for the first time, to create a Palestinian national nonviolence movement, to build a new identity of nonviolent resistance and nonviolent development. It’s called Taghyeer – Change in English. This is the movement that I am really now invested in, because my dream is to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the first place struggling and standing for their rights, nonviolently, with this message of dignity. That’s the key. 

Our politicians will tell you that the ball is on the Israeli yard, because these are the occupiers. In my opinion, they key is in the Palestinian hands. The minute that we stand nonviolently, Israelis will stand by us. Because I believe, through experience, that there is enough humanity in our area to promote peace and nonviolence.

[Audience: How do you go from this narrative of having your enemy facing you everyday, coming to your home, to loving him? Where along the way have you found this humanity to love your enemy?]

I’m not sure it’s about loving our enemy. I have an argument for that – because sometimes we listen to these nice things: “love your enemy”, etc. I think it’s mostly about responsibility. I mean: what is the interest of Israel today? To secure its citizens, right? What is the interest of the Palestinians? To get rid of the occupation. So it’s mostly about mind before heart. Because people are traumatized – Israelis and Palestinians are totally traumatized. If you keep acting for peace with hugs, hummus, five-star peace conferences, the whole world invites us and treats us as heroes because we are the peacemakers. And these nice NGOs who have invested millions of dollars on the salaries, which can feed my village for one year… there is also so much dirt there.

So the first question has to be: what is the best for me? How do we create interest? That security and freedom can be achieved by nonviolence – that’s first. Second: meeting the other is so important. Dialogue, in my opinion, is not heart agreement. Dialogue is to create a secure environment for argument. People need to feel secure to argue. Not to love – to argue first, because you cannot start with love. We don’t love each other, but we share the same destiny.

What does that mean? What is the future of Israel, having four million Palestinians and five million outside? What is the future of Palestine when Israel has six million inside and some millions outside, 17 million Jews? Are they going to disappear tomorrow? They will not. Are they going to give up their rights? They will not. It’s the opposite. Both sides will fight until the last drop of blood. Because this is the only place where we belong. Not just that: this is the only place where we want to live. And not just that: this is the place where everyone around us doesn’t want us. If Jews think that the Arab world wants the Palestinians they are making a big mistake. If we think that Americans want the Jews, we are making a big mistake. But we need to learn that together.

We need to create benefits from peace. There is a psychological benefit from revenge, because it feeds our anger and hatred. But it victimizes us – we don’t see that. But there is a great benefit from nonviolence: it gives us a taste of life. My life didn’t become better, my conditions are the same – even worse, because now, I’m carrying two nations on my shoulder, and they are so heavy… but my life today has a taste. So my interest is also through my mind.

So how do we bring them? First, we create a framework, because Palestinians will not come just to meet Israelis and go back to their refugee camps. This will not be enough; the peace movement has to learn that lesson. What will bring them is to guarantee two things for them: a place for their anger to come out without harming themselves or anyone, which is nonviolence; and on the other hand a place that they will benefit for their life, from their engagement in peace-building: to have bread on their tables, to have water in their houses… This is what the peace movement is missing.

And finally, I’m not sure it’s about marriage, love, but it’s not about divorce either. I used to think it was about divorce: two States, we need to divorce, then we will be ready to get married again. No, we cannot do that. We need a relation of covenant. Nobody is authorizing anyone, but also it will prepare us maybe to get married, but if we don’t get married, we will not separate. Two states acting with deep cooperation in all values of life, including security and staff: this is my political vision. Because we cannot live without each other, we know that very well. If you ask a Palestinian “do you want Israel to disappear tomorrow?” they will say “no, but we don’t want the occupation”. If you ask Israelis “who is the closest people to you?” they will tell you Palestinians, more than Syrians, more than Jordanians, more than whatever. So it’s about managing it in a framework. 

People need to feel secure to admit for their mistakes. Why this competition of suffering? I’m telling you: because if you criticize one side, it will become defensive. And this is what I’m experiencing with Jewish people who live in France, because the whole movement is against them, so you put them in a corner, then they become defensive. No. We need to create a secure environment for them to stand and end the occupation. Because it’s their job, but it’s by us, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists… whatever. This is hard, this is really hard, because the judgment is very clear: Israel is the occupier. Should we compliment the Jews for that? No, you are not complimenting the Jews. But you are helping also the Jews, and by helping them, you are helping me. By threatening them, you are victimizing me, because I’m the one who is dying over there. 

So that is the deep value of nonviolence that we want the international community to understand. We want Trump to understand that investing in Israel and supporting Israel blindly, you are killing Israel, you are not killing the Palestinians. Because this blindness is disengaging Israel from a normal future with its neighbors. You cannot do that, because one day, it will blow up. And here, what are we facing? In France, in Europe, in America, these attacks are the consequences of the Western politics that we face and you are not aware of. And before you discuss hoping to open your borders for refugees don’t create them. Don’t send your Marines to Iraq to bring down Saddam Hussein, and you bring down a dictator but you create fanatics. That Middle East has been damaged. People think it was an Arab Spring – it was an Arab winter. Because you cannot bring down a dictator and have the whole country collapse. I agree: Hosni Mubarak in Egypt was a dictator, but bringing him down with killing all of Egypt was not the right thing to do. Look at the consequences. Look at Syria. And stop blaming Muslims. You want us to be closer to the Jews? Don’t push us to the corner, don’t label us fanatics. It’s not Islam, it’s Muslims, it’s their behavior, it’s not their ideology. And by the way, in Islam, in Judaism, in Christianity, there are enough crimes and enough acts of reconciliation. It’s up to you to choose. You can have legitimacy for violence and war and you can have legitimacy for peace. So let’s stop this argument between religions – the issue is about the people."


 
Upcoming Guest Talk about a Grassroots Peacebuilding Initiative in the Middle-East
Monday, 18 September 2017 15:04

Read more...On September 25th, AGS will host a guest talk about a unique grassroots initiative promoting dialogue and peace in the Middle East: Roots.

The NGO Judur/Shorashim/Roots was founded in 2014. It brings together local Palestinians and Israelis who have refused to remain the enemies that history made them, and have come to “see each other as the partners they both need to make changes to end their conflict” (see the organization's website).

Through various activities fostering understanding and bridge building between Palestinians and Israelis, they seek to “challenge the assumptions that [their] communities hold about each other and change the mentality and discourse around the conflict in their respective societies.” Activities include holiday camps for children of the two communities, youth meetings, language courses to learn the “other”’s language, and more. These activities have reached over 15,000 participants in the past three years; the majority of the Israeli participants are settlers. 

Talking about this initiative will be one of the two founders of Roots, Palestinian peace activist Ali Abu Awwad, and Franco-Israeli lawyer Jean-Marc Liling, who heads the Center for International Migration and Integration in Israel and has joined Ali Abu Awwad in his peace enterprise. Ali Abu Awwad and Jean-Marc Liling will also introduce the larger grassroots movement that this NGO is a part of, called b8ofhope, which also hosts other peace initiatives.

Watch Ali Abu Awwad's TED Talk (2015)

The talk will take place on September 25th from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. It is open to AGS students, alumni and faculty. A few seats will be open to the public on RSVP. If you are interested in attending, please contact us at rsvp@ags.edu.

Photo courtesy of www.b8ofhope.org

 
AGS Signs Dual Program Partnership with American University, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 06 September 2017 17:16

Read more...AGS recently signed an academic partnership with American University in Washington, D.C. allowing us to offer a new dual program opportunity. AGS students and AGS recent alumni may now apply to earn American University’s Master of International Service in only one year after completing AGS’s Master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy.

American University (AU) is well known for its academic programs in international service, public policy and public affairs, international law, and human rights. AU’s School of International Service, through which this dual option is offered, is a top ten school for international relations. Through this partnership, AU applies some of the graduate credits earned at AGS toward its Master of International Service, thus reducing the number of credits that have to be completed in residence at AU.

The complementarity of the two programs, their respective specific expertise in the field, and the school locations in two of the world’s main political capitals, make this association ideal for the study of international affairs.

“This partnership is an optimal match,” says AGS’s president Eileen Servidio-Delabre. “Washington, D.C., just like Paris, offers a wealth of political, cultural, educational and professional resources, as well as unique networking opportunities for students in international affairs. This makes both locations perfect for a combined academic and practical experience. In addition, AGS and AU share a strong commitment to peacebuilding, human rights, engagement in political activism, community service, and sustainable development.”

Other dual program options at AGS include a US-accredited M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution in partnership with Arcadia University (PA, USA), a Master in Diplomacy and International Negotiation in partnership with Université Paris-Sud (France), and an LL.M. in French and European Law and Business Ethics in partnership with Université de Cergy Pontoise’s Law School.

More information on this dual program

American University's School of International Service website

Photo credit: AU Photographer Jeff Watts

 
AGS Professor and AGS Ph.D. Candidate Participate in Peace Studies Summer Program in South Korea
Monday, 28 August 2017 12:54

Read more...As nuclear tensions mounted between Supreme Leader Kim Jung-un and President Donald Trump, AGS Professor Douglas Yates and AGS Ph.D. candidate Olivier Sempiga participated in the World Peace Academy 2017 held in Jeju, South Korea from August 6 to 9.

This innovative peace studies program is organized by the World Association of Island Studies at Jeju National University, in conjunction with Hokkaido University of Japan. The goal is to promote peacebuilding andpost-conflict healingin Korea and other countries. The audience is composed of an international community of scholars, students, and human rights and peace advocates. Prof. Yates says: "Although not a panacea, nevertheless there is a powerful role for peace education as one component of peacebuilding, privileging nonviolence and enabling a space and a process through which the values and interests of the Korean peoples might be negotiated. The establishment and institutionalization of peace education on Jeju Island can be a part of this peacebuilding process, enhancing the prospects for resolution of this protracted conflict."

The 2017 edition of the Jeju World Peace Academy was entitled "Towards Jeju Type of Peace Education at the Grass Roots Level."Sempiga, who had been a scholarship student in South Korea before joining AGS, and is fluent in Korean, shared his experience as a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Yates, who teaches conflict resolution at AGS, presented a keynote lecture on "Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding" in the conflict between the two Koreas. Other subjects included the April 3rd 1948 Jeju Island massacre of some 30,000 islanders by US and South Korean soldiers, the construction of a US military base on Jeju, and comparisons with the US base on Okinawa.See full program

AGS students who are interested in participating in the 2018 Jeju World Peace Academy should contact AGS's academic coordinator Marinella Bergese (academics@ags.edu).

 
Commencement 2017: "Lead Us Forward With the Knowledge You Have Gained from AGS!"
Wednesday, 07 June 2017 16:39

Read more...The American Graduate School in Paris celebrated its 2017 graduates during a Commencement ceremony that took place on June 2nd in the French Senate in Paris. Students from the United States, Canada, Nigeria and Uzbekistan were awarded a Master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from AGS, in partnership with Arcadia University. Some of them were also graduating with a dual Master's in Diplomacy and Strategic Negotiation from Université Paris Sud.

“Conferring our American degree in the French Senate to our students who come from around the world is a nice way to symbolize the international dialogue that we promote as a school of international relations and diplomacy,” said AGS’s president Eileen Servidio-Delabre. In her introductory speech, she emphasized the importance for countries to act beyond their own self interest: "Getting more than one gives: this is what most countries want. And this is not what makes International Relations, or the world, a better place. Solutions to disagreement should have no real winner or loser. Everyone should sacrifice something to resolve the issue. This is a far cry from ‘Let's get more than we give’ attitude."

The Commencement speaker this year was Georges-Vivien Houngbonon, the President of L’Afrique des Idées, an independent think tank dedicated to the political, economic and cultural advancement of the African continent. Houngbonon’s address focused on the importance of what he called “bottom-up” approaches in international relations, creating more opportunities to make a change in the world – which is the ultimate goal of our graduates as they are about to pursue their own career in international affairs.

Dr. Warren Haffar, Dean of International Affairs at Arcadia University, AGS’s academic partner, was not able to attend the ceremony this year but sent his encouragements to the graduates: “I wish you heartfelt congratulations from Arcadia University on the successful completion of your Masters degrees in international relations and diplomacy! As you enter the world with this very special skill set, our common future depends, perhaps now more than ever before, on your successful application of dialogue and diplomacy as a preferred form of engagement in international relations. Congratulations on all that you have achieved, and lead us forward with the knowledge you have gained from AGS!”

Following the conferring of degrees, Megan Pritchard, a graduate of the dual Master’s program in International Relations and Diplomacy and Diplomacy and Strategic Negotiation, gave a testimony of her AGS experience. She said: “One of the benefits of getting an education at AGS is the exposure we get to so many different opinions, beliefs, ideas and feelings. AGS is truly an international school. We have students coming from literally all over the world. [...] Being a student of IR, having so many countries and regions represented among my fellow classmates and professors has expanded my mind and has made me think about the world in so many new ways.”

Read the full transcript of Megan Pritchard's speech

See photo album on Facebook

 
Master's Student Presents at DAKAM International Conference on Security Studies
Monday, 15 May 2017 13:40

Read more...Chloe Bingham, a Master's candidate in the International Relations and Diplomacy program at AGS (Class of 2018), was accepted to present a paper at an international academic conference on Security Studies that took place in Istanbul in April. She was selected to receive a scholarship from AGS to support her conference participation. Below is a short piece she wrote to share her experience.

"On April 7th and 8th, I attended the International Conference on Wars and Military Conflicts, hosted by DAKAM in Istanbul, Turkey. DAKAM is the Eastern Mediterranean Academic Research Center that has hosted a number of conferences across a variety of disciplines, creating a forum for a network of scholars in Istanbul since 2010. They form their principles “on the basis of a critical perspective, an interdisciplinary approach and social responsibility.”

I was fortunate enough to present a paper I had written last semester for Dr. Ruchi Anand’s “Factors and Theories of Analysis in International Relations and Diplomacy” class. The paper centered on the Democratic Peace Theory, and whether or not it was sufficient to explain the lack of war between the United States and Saudi Arabia. While I had a fifteen-minute slot to present this term paper, others were presenting M.A. or even Ph.D. research in the same amount of time. Two conferences were taking place on the same day (International Relations and Terrorism Studies), so paper topics ranged as much as age and origin of the speakers (which was vast, to say the least).

For me, it was a “first” in several different ways. I had never presented at or even attended an International Relations conference previously. It was interesting to meet people from countries I had never met anyone from before, let alone visited. However, it was comforting to see scholars from all over, coming together to share research on terrorism and war studies in hopes of creating more peace in the world. Luckily, I was able to visit the historical sites of Istanbul while I was there for the conference. I was fascinated to not only see centuries of culture still intact (the only thing older than 250 years in Kentucky are our trees), but also to be a strait away from a continent I had never been so close to before.

The conference and trip as a whole had its ups and downs. My presentation was not perfect, many presenters (myself included) were faced with difficult questions, and travelling to an unknown place can always be daunting. However, I have never experienced anything like it before. I was able to present something I had worked hard on, represent my school and my old Kentucky home, become a published academic, and explore new places. Studying at AGS continues to open doors in the academic world, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me next."

Photo: courtesy of DAKAM

 
AGS Students Participate in International Negotiation Simulation on Europe's Migratory Crisis
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 16:36

Read more...Like every year, AGS Master's students who have opted for the dual program in Diplomacy and Strategic Negociation joined their fellow students from Université Paris Sud for an international negotiation simulation. This year's mock negotiation took place in Beirut, Lebanon, and the theme was "Europe and the Migratory Crisis".

Sivan Ghasem (Class of 2017) was one of them. She shared her experience and a few photos with us.

"On April 3, 2017, AGS students playing the role of ambassadors to specific countries travelled to Beirut, Lebanon to take part in a negotiation exercise on the theme: 'Europe and the Migratory Crisis'.

The simulation brought together 47 students from many different origins, through three participating institutions: Université Paris Sud, the American Graduate School in Paris, and La Sagesse University in Beirut, which hosted the event. We decided our conference was best suited to take place in Beirut, as Lebanon hosts a tremendous amount of refugees and has done a great deal to aid those fleeing war.

Each student participating in the exercise represented a specific country or international organization. The aim of the exercise was to formulate a legal document in response to the migratory crisis Europe is facing at the moment as a result of civil wars, wars, famines, and general instability.

After hundreds of hours of work and compromise, our class was able to furnish a document with articles in regards to the crisis and promises from countries to help alleviate the issue and encourage European partners to take initiative. Some of the main topics we discussed were security, finance, and integration.

I, myself, represented Iraq. As the representative, my main goal was to attain funding. Iraq in general is in a precarious state. It is a host country for approximately 300,000 Syrian refugees and has 6 million IDP’s of its own due displacement induced by the Islamic State. On top of this, Iraq is fighting a simultanous war on international terrorism to dislodge militants from strongholds in Hawija and Mosul. Moreover, these were some of the positions and arguments I made during the time span of the exercise in an attempt to secure funding. Funding was essentially my main goal and position as the Iraqi representative because of the dire state of affairs of the country at the moment.

Subsequently, I was able to discuss with one of the leaders of the Gorran movement in Kurdistan in regards to the Iraqi position on refugees. Evidently, 97 percent of Syrian refugees are currently housed in the northern region due to stability and the political representative highlighted to me the issue of financing in a country that has been ravaged by sectarianism, terrorism, economic deficits, and general insecurity. In short, it is difficult for the northern region to sustain itself due to a lack of funds and resources and the pressure of IDP’s and refugees has further complicated matters.

After the negotiations, our group was able to visit a refugee camp in the northern region of Lebanon and experience first hand the sad reality of these displaced people. We met several families and listened to their stories. Most came from Homs and recounted their lives before and how the Syrian civil war took everything they had. Some of the children we met were born in the camps and refugee life was all that they knew; it was a sad reality and a rude awakening. The ones we met were considered the lucky ones because clearly they were able to escape. The Syrian war has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and the advent of the Islamic State in regions has only exacerbated the situation.

I was especially touched during this visit because my family spent some time in refugee camps as they escaped war. We were fortunate enough to be accepted by Canada and I was able to live a different life and become the person I am today because of my generous country. My parents arrived in Canada on Halloween of 1991. I was just an infant, but had we not left, I would have spent my toddler years in camps as my cousins and other extended family did in Iraq. During the visit I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am and how every refugee deserves the chance I had, but unfortunately this is not the reality."

This was especially highlighted during the exercise and the sheer complicated matter of the situation. Working with European counterparts was a rewarding experience but was difficult in the sense that Europe has its own issues such as a high unemployment rate and economic issues, therefore reaching a general consensus of accepting a certain number of refugees was understandable and proved to be a difficult task during our exercise. Nevertheless, the level of cooperation presented by Europe and the partner states afforded a final text that each country signed.

Finally, our exercise proved to be extremely valuable because as we have witnessed, instability in the region is not on the decline, and is in fact on the rise due to famines, climate change and brutal regimes. Our mock simulation was an attempt to alleviate these emerging challenges and find practical humane and rational solutions to a problem that is not going to go away any time soon.

 
12th AGS Conference Brings Together Scholars and Practitioners to Explore Non-Western Perspectives in International Relations
Friday, 21 April 2017 16:32

Read more...The 12th AGS International Graduate Student Conference that took place on April 21st was a success, with presenters and attendees from such diverse national origins as Thailand, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Qatar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, and India. The theme this year was Non-Western Perspectives in International Relations. As Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan state it, "Western International Relations theory has the advantage of being the first in the field, and has developed many valuable insights, but few would defend the position that it captures everything we need to know about world politics." The AGS conference brought together scholars, students, economists and NGO leaders to explore alternative ways to look at international politics and open the stage for innovative debates.

Professor Douglas Yates introduced the first panel by talking about how in the 1950s and 1960s, Western theories of Marxist and Capitalist development proclaimed a kind of unversality that was challenged in the 1970s by indigenous models of development (Asian, Islamic, African). These were criticized in the 1980s as unworkable romantic visions, that were abandoned at the end of the Cold War in the 1990s as Western liberal democracy and economic neoliberalism became hegemonic. In the 2000s, after the United States attempted to impose its values through the use of military force, there has been a renaissance of interest in non-Western theories, with Asian values presented as a possible alternative to Western hegemony.

The second panel was moderated by Patrick Clairzier, a Ph.D. candidate at AGS whose field of expertise covers political economy of developing countries, and global inequalities. Clairzier introduced the panel by demonstrating the necessity of expanding the global debate, which is the larger goal of this conference: "The historic rise in global inequalities that has occurred over the past forty years has been accompanied by high levels of poverty, environmental degradation and socio-economic instability in both developed and developing countries. This wide-ranging instability has set off an intense debate that questions the legitimacy and future of our global system. This seemingly growing rejection of Western ideals and the rebuke of the political and econ omic elite that controls the world’s wealth has also engendered a wide range of non-traditional and non-western perspectives that are helping to broaden the conversation and put forth new, eclectic and innovative approaches to solving these issues."

Finally, the keynote panel featured three economists: Marc Raffinot, a senior lecturer at University Paris IX-Dauphine in France and a member of the French Association of Economists; Georges Vivien Houngbonon, the president of a think-tank called L'Afrique des Idées; and Stéphane Tchasso Kpowbié Akaya, economic advisor for the Prime Minister of Togo. The panel was moderated by Bertrand de Largentaye, who teaches at AGS after a forty-year career holding various key positions in the French government. Marc Raffinot discussed the economic trends in emerging economies, particularly in Africa. Georges Vivien Houngbonon talked about the demographic growth of Africa and its great economic and innovation potential, while the the role that it can play in international relations remains limited since none of its countries has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This keeps them from being part of the decision-making process even when it comes to decisions about UN missions in Africa. Stéphane Tchasso Kpowbié Akaya gave a case study of Togo, where the government is designing a plan for how to create a national identity to take over the one that was imposed on them by European powers. The speakers went on to discuss the concepts of non-Western economic, particularly rejection of the GDP as a valid measurement of development.

The AGS International Graduate Student Conference focuses on a different theme of international Relations every year. It is organized by AGS students under the faculty supervision of Ruchi Anand. This year's student coordinators, Wanrawee Kruawan (a candidate in the combined M.A./ Ph.D. program) and April Ward (Master's candidate), many AGS students participated by presenting their research: Ph.D. Candidates Olivier Sempiga, Chidima Achudume, and Emirjona Cake, and M.A. Candidates Suneetha Musah and Lelan Evans.

Professor Anand says: "This year's conference did perfect justice to the intended theme and ideas. The rich layering of ideas, countries, continents, issues, debates and lenses powerfully reiterated the tearing need to start caring, talking and listening about;, theorizing about and doing something about the distanced, silenced, nuanced, neglected and often paradoxical perspectives of the world. We talked the talk, it's now time to walk the walk!"

See conference program and speaker bios.

See conference photos on Facebook

 
Guest Speakers from UNEP Talk About Gender-Specifc Impact of Climate Change
Friday, 07 April 2017 13:37

Read more...On April 6th, Dr. Ruchi Anand's class on International Environmental Policy hosted two guest speakers from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to talk about gender issues relating to climate change. The two speakers, Rahel Steinbach and Marie Jalabert, gave a presentation entitled "Climate Refugees: Gender-Specific Needs and Women Leadership".

Ruchi Anand gives the following summary of the talk: "Rahel and Marie's talk brought to the centre-stage the pressing need to adopt a gender-sensitive and gender-inclusive approach to issues of climate change and sustainable development. They clarified that the gender approach is not only about women but men as well. They discussed a range of different consequences for different stakeholders following impacts of climate change. According to them, the worst affected were the women. They used the example of 'climate refugees' to highlight this claim. 80% of the 22 million people displaced by climate- or weather-related events since 2008 are women. Their talk brought home the staring need for an approach to law, politics and environmental responses that embraces gender-sensitivity and responses. Alluding to the weaknesses of international law in updating itself to new realities, they pointed to the definition of the term 'refugee' in the 1951 Refugee Convention that does not include the idea of a 'climate refugee.' In an interactive talk, Rahel and Marie grappled with a range of student questions surrounding their subject matter as well as possible employment at the UN. A great talk that brought the practitioners to the home of the academics at AGS, a teaching approach that I highly recommend for today's students of political science and international relations."

Dr. Rahel Steinbach is an international development practitioner with expertise in sustainable development, climate change, sustainable energy, gender mainstreaming, and results-based management. She works as a Programme Officer at the United Nations Environment Programme in Paris, and also acts as the Gender Coordinator of UNEP's Economy Division. Prior to joining the UN system in September 2000, she served on a short-term basis as Legal Associate on Human Rights for the German Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She is an active advocate for sustainable development and gender equality, which has led her to lecture at various universities including Oxford University, University of Vienna, ISEG and the American Graduate School in Paris. She holds a PhD in Sustainable Development from the University of Vienna, Austria, a Master’s degree in Political Science from Sciences Po, Aix-en-Provence, France and a Master of Advanced International Relations from the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, Austria.

Marie Jalabert is an international legal practitioner with expertise in environmental affairs, sustainable development, climate change, sustainable energy, and gender mainstreaming. She works as a Consultant at the United Nations Environment Programme in Paris. She previously served as a legal consultant on marine pollution for the European NGOSurfrider Foundation Europe, which specializes in ocean protection and coastal development. She holds a Master’s degree in International and European Environmental Law from Aix-Marseille University's School of Law, and a Bachelor in Political Science and Law from the Catholic Institute of Paris, France.

 
Coming Up: Second AGS Seminar on Religion and International Relations
Monday, 27 March 2017 14:34

Read more...On Saturday, April 22nd, AGS will host the second seminar in the series on Religion and International Relations that it started in February.

These seminars aim to bring together scholars, diplomats and graduate students to explore the links between religious beliefs and global politics. After the successful inaugural seminar on the theme of "Religion and State: A Troubled Relation", this second edition will focus on "Religious Minorities and Freedom of Religion".

It will feature Ambassador Michael Einik, US Senior Diplomat, along with Professor Manlio Graziano, AGS's specialist of the geopolitics of religion, Professor Christophe Grannec, a sociologist of religion at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and graduate students from AGS and Université Paris-Sud in France, and La Sapienza University in Italy.

Click here to see the program

If you wish to attend, please email rsvp@ags.edu and we will send you the practical details.

 


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Robert SimmonsUnited States
M.A.in International Relations
Candidate, Class of 2017

quote leftMoving to Paris has taken a top rank amongst the most challenging things I have experienced in life so far. AGS – the classes, my colleagues, and the school staff – provided for me a sanity that I had lost! This program is phenomenal and is giving me opportunities to do some really cool things, such as being invited to intern for a summer at a school/community outreach program in Tanzania.quote right

 

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