Talking peace: IPRA 2006

By Shelsea Willett

The 2006 International Peace Research Association bi-annual conference, “Patterns of Conflict: Paths to Peace” was held at the University of Calgary over the July long weekend, marking the first time in 25 years an IPRA conference has been held in North America.

For four days 350 representatives from over 30 countries convened on campus to discuss and share their research into the conditions of sustainable peace, causes of war and other forms of violence.

IPRA has 1,300 members worldwide and is linked with over 200 international peace research institutions. The association was developed to enable communication among peace researchers.

The conference included roundtable panel sessions to discuss topics such as Aboriginal Canadians on peace, peace in journalism and security with a human face. During these sessions academics, business leaders and teachers presented their papers and answered questions pertaining to their peace research.

During a panel session on peace education businessman Bob Stewart summed up the main concern of many of the presenters.

“We are undershooting our potential,” said Stewart. “We need a new narrative to get peace across, we must be able to speak to business people and the youth.”

Some sessions and speakers were cancelled, leaving delegates to question the conference organization.

“The session discussion and conference had some major organizational problems, yet the overall feeling of the conference was extremely laid-back and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves despite the hitches,” said Emily Rogers, a graduate student studying urban planning and development.

Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, was supposed to be the keynote speaker, but was unable to attend after he was asked to speak at Elton John’s AIDS benefit concert in Germany, according to conference organizers.

Martin Luther King III replaced Lewis. Other keynote speakers included Dr. David Suzuki and retired lieutenant general Romeo Dallaire. On the last night of the conference IPRA held a Native American pow-wow that included world-renowned traditional dancers.

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