MHC Sponsors Conference on Peace Building

This age-old question is as timely as today’s headlines: How can societies build lasting peace when they emerge from violent internal conflicts?

From Syria to Guatemala, countries around the world wrestle with this question while facing widespread trauma and loss of life, disintegration of the social fabric, weakened state institutions, and broken economic structures.

On February 28 and March 1, the Justice and Imagination: Building Peace in Post-Conflict Societies conference at Mount Holyoke College will bring together leading authorities from around the world to analyze which processes of transitional justice, forms of reconciliation and memory, and conditions for economic and social policies increase the effectiveness of peace building and reconstruction following conflict.

All conference events take place in the Art Building’s Gamble Auditorium. The program opens Friday at 8 pm with a keynote address, “Justice and Peace: Can We Have Both?” by Juan Mendez, United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

“How to build peace in post-conflict societies? This question is as acute as ever, whether we look at developments in the post-Arab Spring countries, the future of Afghanistan, the tenuous peace agreement between Sudan and South Sudan, the specter of renewed disintegration in Rwanda, or the high violence and weak institutions in El Salvador and Guatemala. There are no simple answers,” says Eva Paus, professor of economics and Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, which is sponsoring the conference.

Saturday’s events begin at 8:30 am and include panels on Transitional Justice, Memory and Reconciliation, and Social and Economic Policies for Lasting Peace.

  • The Transitional Justice panel will be moderated by MHC assistant professor of politics Andrew Reiter and will feature Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; Lavinia Stan, director of the Center for Post-Communist Studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada; and Leslie Vinjamuri, associate professor and codirector of the Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice, SOAS, at the University of London.
  • The Memory and Reconciliation panel, moderated by Karen Remmler, director of the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center and MHC professor of German studies, will include Ervin Staub, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts; Malathi de Alwis ’85, visiting professor on the faculty of graduate studies at the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka; and Judy Barsalou, president of the Elhibri Foundation in Washington, D.C.
  • The Social and Economic Policies for Lasting Peace panel, moderated by Eva Paus, MHC professor of economics, will include James Boyce, professor of economics and director of the Program on Development, Peacebuilding, and the Environment at the UMass-Amherst Political Economy Research Institute; Graciana del Castillo, former senior research scholar and adjunct professor of economics at Columbia University; and Jonathan Goodhand, professor of development studies, SOAS, at the University of London.

For some 150 MHC students, the conference will be more than a two-day event; it’s the culmination of intensive study in the course Building Peace Post-Conflict. Seven professors covering six academic specialties team-teach the half-semester course.