faculty & experts
19 November 2021

Peacebuilding: A Community Effort

The Graduate Institute is a co-founder of Geneva Peace Week (GPW), along with the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform (and its five partners). As a place for international and local actors to build bridges towards a more peaceful world, the Institute has taken centre stage. 

To understand further the Institute's role in and contributions to the conference, Danson Gichini (Project Lead, Geneva Peace Week), Oliver Jütersonke (Head of Research, Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP); Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Programmes, the Graduate Institute) and Annika Erickson-Pearson (alumna; Head of Community Management, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform (GPP)) offer their inside knowledge.

What is the importance of Geneva Peace Week (GPW) to the Graduate Institute community? What is the significance of this year's event?
Danson Gichini: The Institute is very much institutionally engaged in GPW, and it is a brilliant opportunity for its community-at-large to be active and engaged participants. 

The GPW team are members of the Institute’s community in different ways, and there are endless opportunities for our peers to engage each year.

The GPW team has previously worked with Career Services to develop offerings for students about building careers in peacebuilding. In addition, the Institute's Executive Education programmes had the opportunity to present a portfolio of their offerings to the Geneva audience.

GPW has also matched workshop topics to the portfolios of both professors and student initiatives. 

Students participating in the Graduate Institute’s Applied Research Projects (ARPs), participated in an event on the occasion of GPW21, on “Fresh Perspectives on Peace and Security”, sharing their findings and insights with seasoned professionals.

Professors and researchers should view GPW as the chance of the year to build relationships with international organisations or decision-makers in Geneva, and to present or receive feedback on their related research projects.

Since the beginning, we’ve seen numerous sessions each year from Institute entities. These organisers take advantage of the collaborative format of GPW to stretch beyond disciplinary boundaries in the Institute to work with other centres, or to partner with organisations outside of the Institute itself.

How does GPW foster a space for dialogue and exchanges on peacebuilding topics? 
Oliver Jütersonke: The Centre on Conflict, Development & Peacebuilding (CCDP) is one of the co-founders of the GPP, constituting GPW as a very important time of the year when there is a critical mass of peacebuilding actors not only from Geneva constituencies but from further fields, coming together, building partnerships and doing things in tandem.

This year in the GPW Digital Series, there's a joint panel of the CCDP with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on peace and resilience and together with the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in New York. GPW offers this setup which allows us all to showcase partnerships and talk about emerging themes in our fields. 

Having been part of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform since its inception, it is great to see how it has developed from being an annual meeting, which we've had since 2007, to an entire week’s worth of events, such as online workshops and pre-recorded digital series videos, podcasts and blogs. And how that has very much become an important part of the Geneva calendar as well.  

GPW fosters a space not only for peacebuilding constituents but for other sectors who are interested in peace and security concerns, peace and conflict concerns, and those who are based in Geneva, like the humanitarian community, the human rights community and trade.

All these people from different sectors come and talk about emerging issues on peace and security throughout GPW. So for us at CCDP, it is amazing to see how it has developed over the years.

How has COVID-19 changed the way peacebuilding communities interact?
Annika Erickson-Pearson: As Head of Community Management at GPP, my work involves building connection points between different actors working around Geneva and then outside of Geneva to foster innovation and shared thinking.

The significance of GPW is really the opportunity for people to make meaningful connections around the substance.

With COVID-19, GPW changed to a semi-hybrid model, which improved the conversations during GPW because we were better connected to the countries where so many of the organisations who are hosting sessions are actually working.

Instead of having a technocratic approach (i.e. experts speaking on behalf of other places), people from their own communities are able to speak up on behalf of their own work. Last year online, too, we saw more inclusiveness within discussions.

But there's a renewed urgency underneath our work which requires intentionality. Clearly we must bring actors together to meet and talk about peace, but we need to center concrete impact.

And, so, I think it's sort of twofold: COVID-19 has increased inclusion, clearly as we've moved online, and it has driven home an intentionality to focus on the impact of our work.