The Peace and Justice Studies program at Utah Valley University had become increasingly involved in sustainable mountain development and plans for this focus and work to increase over the years ahead. It is important to note that other collections of faculty, administrators, and students at UVU are also involved in sustainable mountain development efforts, and that most of these are spearheaded by Dr. Baktytek Abdrisaev. Among the many movements forward is discussion toward the creation of a Sustainability Studies program.
Here find a brief report that summarizes our Peace and Justice Studies efforts to date, and plans for the future.
In November of 2012 Dr. Abdrisaev, Associate Vice President for Diplomacy and International Affairs, Dr. Rusty Butler, Dr. Minch, and two UVU students, Dallin Kaufman and Greg Haddock, went to the Kyrgyz Republic to engage in a set of purposes. We participated in four conferences. The first was a student conference on sustainable mountain development, with special attention to climate change held at the International University of Kyrgyzstan. Mr. Kaufman and Mr. Haddock played crucial roles in the development and leadership of this conference. The second was a conference for academics at the same university, which mirrored the same purpose. Third, we met with a broader set of people at the (National) Academy of Sciences in Bishkek. This conference included not only climate scientists and other researchers, but university administrators, government officials, and NGO directors, all from Central Asia. It also focused on climate change and sustainable development, while my paper introduced the problematic of conflict to the discussion as well. This third conference also issued a joint Resolution that called for action from academics and governments in the Kyrgyz Republic, Central Asia, and beyond. The votes endorsed the Resolution overwhelmingly and the delegation from UVU made significant contributions to it, for example, in respect to the call to build a global database focusing on sustainable development and conflict transformation (see below). The fourth conference was held at the Osh Technical University in Osh, the second largest city in the Kyrgyz Republic, and located in the Ferghana Valley shared with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The same topics were discussed with faculty, university administrators, and NGO officials.
While in the Kyrgyz Republic we met with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, officials of the Mountain Partnership, the University of Central Asia, and faculty and administrators of the Polytechnic University of Kyrgyzstan. We discussed partnerships of various kinds, as well as valuable contacts and organizations to connect with in respect to a UVU Peace and Justice Study abroad program in summer 2014 and beyond.
I have initiated communication with the ambassador of Uzekistan to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Muran Askarov, about the possibility of extending our PJST study abroad to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. We will be in discussion about this.
At the conferences and meetings in which I participated in Bishkek and Osh, I presented the plan to create a database that will collect and organize all feasible data regarding sustainable development and conflict transformation in regard to mountain communities, states, and regions. The plan is to build the world's premier database in this respect. It will be used by governments, multilateral organizations (e.g., the United Nations and European Union), scholars and students, NGOs and others. It will sustain the employment of several people and become a global tool of immense importance as soon as the funding is secured to launch it beyond a prototype. As to the prototype and start of the actual engineering architecture, these plans are underway in conjunction with the UVU departments of Computer Science, Digital Media Technology, and Information Systems and Technology, which are committed to crucial assistance in this regard.
In March 2013, our annual spring conference, the J. Bonner Ritchie Dialogue on Peace and Justice, focused on the relationship between climate change and violence. Direct, cultural, and structural violence were considered, including issues of poverty, inequality, sustainable development, migration, violent rebellion, and more. Our speakers included His Excellency Mr. Taliabek Kydyrov, the ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations; Dr. Tariq Banuri, former director of the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development; Dr. Christian Parenti of the School for International Training Graduate Institute, and author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence; Dr. Greg White, director of the Global Studies Center at Smith College and author of Climate Change and Migration: Security and Borders in a Warming World; and Dr. Michael Minch, director of Peace and Justice Studies at UVU.
In 2012 Drs. Michael Minch and Gaya Carlton took Peace and Justice Studies, and Nursing students to Haiti for the first UVU study abroad program there. We will return with UVU students in 2014 and every other year thereafter. This program focuses on sustainable development, and we meet with UN Programme and Agency heads, NGO officials, and others to interrogate both sustainable models and unsustainable models of development. We spend time in the mountains of the Central Plateau, (where development is often more productive and sustainable than in Port-au-Prince), most notably with the microfinance NGO Fonkoze and an NGO that focuses on water security, Haiti Outreach.
Since visiting with faculty, administrators, and others at OST, I have continued to work in partnership with faculty who are members of an interdisciplinary department that focuses on understanding the causes of the ethnopolitical violence in the Ferghana Valley. My role in partnership with these colleagues will be to bring conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and conflict prevention models and processes to the Ferghana in symbiotic collaboration with their work. This collaboration will develop in months and years ahead as I visit the Ferghana, including a considerable number of weeks I may spend there in sponsored by the Fulbright Specialist Program.
I am working with a colleague who teaches at the University of Shkoder and has solicited my help in building a peace and justice studies program there. It will be designed to connected to the Balkans generally, where the problematics of conflict and the need for sustainable development in conjunction with mountain geographies have been played out for generations, and indeed, centuries. The post-Soviet challenges thrust upon Central Asia are mirrored in numerous ways, in the Balkans. Conflict transformation work in the Balkans and in Central Asia, respectively, should, therefore, be mutually advantageous in both regions.
Director, Peace and Justice Studies
Professor of Political Philosophy and Peace Studies
1 April 2013