University for Peace Community Liason Group

- a concerned citizens initiative -

(Our group is independent of and has no formal approval from the University for Peace)

 

 

 
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UPeace friends
James Wallerstedt
November 14, 2003

All -      

It does seem likely that, right now, we are in the process of seeing the UN's only degree-granting university - the University for Peace - turned into a facility that, among other things, is focused very much upon training programs for military, police and "intelligence" staff (with announced plans to graduate more such, during the next several years, than regular students).    

Meanwhile, it remains true that the world is already chock full of military and paramilitary training facilities - which can be improved and made better over time - but which still remains devoid of a pioneering "Peace Academy" concept, one associated with the UN system, as was the original vision for UPeace.   

The University for Peace, today, continues to solicit the great majority of its funding from governmental entities and, now, may be developing plans to increasingly rely upon from funds from the Pentagon (hard to tell, when the books of the University and its executive decision-making processes remain so opaque).  Hard to imagine how such collaboration - raising serious questions as to who would really control the admission of participants and the ultimate design of curriculum offered - would not jeopardize the self-selected mission statement of the University.

Conversely, the key, latent promise of the institution, I and some others believe, lies in the direction of developing a tuition base and an honored, global reputation, for helping young and mid-career professionals learn how to become inspired leaders, directly engaged in resolving key world problems; pro-actively advocating and helping to establish conditions necessary for global peace.    

Some months ago, in fact, I proposed to Georges Tsai (who is the recently arrived, likely replacement for Vice-Rector Franz van Haren) the following "condensed mission statement," as something which might be printed upon the University's letterhead - 


   University for Peace

advocating conditions necessary for global peace

liberty . equality . justice


The response to it was not especially overwhelming...

I've also raised questions as to why it is that a university with the envisioned Mission Statement of UPeace does not offer a single course that takes a good look at how much money and energy the world wastes on militaries and the whole "defense" sector, while considering arguments and models for more constructive alternatives to same; why it doesn't have any serious coursework treating topics of world ethics, when establishing conditions necessary for global peace will rely upon the development of a higher global ethic; why there's no decent coursework dealing with modern NGO formation and related management issues; nor one treating major UN reform alternatives, etc, etc.  Instead, they are ready to jump four-square into paramilitary training because "that's where the money is," they have "ability to pay"; and, meanwhile, RFPI is thrown out on its rump without a penny, shutting them down, and the whole thing really stinks! 

The UN's "other university," UNU in Tokyo - which, as you may know, is restricted by its charter not to offer degrees - is a natural for producing thought leadership in many of the same areas in which UPeace could concentrate principly (though not exclusively) upon producing practice leadership; being engaged, proactively, across a broad range of activities that hold the potential to help outline and advocate greater levels of international justice and cooperation, rather than getting involved in reactive issues like law enforcement and military training (for which many other excellent candidate institutions already exist; it is vital work, yet given present ethical concerns and all the alternatives, not necessarily a timely addition at UPeace).

The above-mentioned developments, with respect to the new paramilitary training, and its long-term potential to compromise the image and reputation of the institution; turns upon the instrinsic lack of institutional transparency and accountability that today characterizes the University.  Such thoughts were among my reasons for writing to former President Carazo, not long ago, suggesting that such problems needed to be addressed, and that increased press coverage and public scrutiny of the institution - whether graciously invited by present management or not - would likely be a necessary component toward institutional renewal and improvement.

I would like to conclude with what I believe are prescient comments, which Robert Muller made in an interview recently published by Share International Magazine (July, 2003).   Here's the relevant excerpt -

"Today the University for Peace is accepted. But it will be a while before it receives the necessary funds. The military is not happy at all to see a United Nations University for Peace. There are about 600 military academies and institutions around the world. They are scared of having to disappear. They are afraid that they are under attack and that they might have no reason for existing in the future. There are not enough wars for them in the world."  

Just in case you might want to read this interview in its entirety, I've attached a copy to this message... 

I remain hopeful that we can help the University for Peace to correct its present course and move forward, in months and years to come, along a higher and better path than the present trajectory implies.  Having said that, reaching that better future will probably require a bit of periodic involvement and contribution from each of us that feels that this represents a worthwhile project, along the lines of world service.

All the best,

James Wallerstedt
Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica



 

 

 

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