Natalia Mirovitskaia, a faculty member at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, presented her research at the Adam Curle Centenary Symposium: An Academic-Practitioner Dialogue on Peace in the 21st Century, organized by the University of Bradford (United Kingdom) on Sept. 4-6.

The symposium brought together peace thinkers, peace researchers and peace practitioners to commemorate the life of Adam Curle, renowned peace activist, one of the founders of the peace studies discipline and the founding chair of the first world university department dedicated to the study of peace and conflict.  

Mirovitskaia represented the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center, one of only six such centers in the world, which selects and trains fellows based on their ability to have a significant impact on world peace.

At the symposium, Mirovitskaia presented her paper on the challenges of designing conflict-sensitive education policies in fragile societies. In her paper, Mirovitskaia argued that, while education is often considered a panacea for many social ills, research suggests more nuanced linkages between education, economic prosperity and societal cohesion.

Government promotion of education, like other development strategies, often represents an area of contention. The process, structure, and content of education, and, above all, views on its purpose, have substantial economic, social, and political impacts. These include the relative positions of various groups, their economic roles and social mobility, the resultant salience of group identity and their relations with other groups and the government.

In most developing countries, according to the paper she presented, education systems face simultaneous challenges of providing basic education to marginalized groups, expanding learning opportunities to those who are out of school, and restructuring education to meet market demands for employable skills. The effects of education have been described as having “two faces,” constructive and destructive. In her paper and presentation, Mirovitskaia reflected on the best ways to introduce conflict sensitivity into the design of education policies in fragile societies and what can be done to tip the balance towards the constructive effects of education.

Mirovitskaia’s views are based on extensive experience researching issues of development and conflict. Most recently she has co-authored (with Bill Ascher) Development Strategies and Inter-Group Violence (Palgrave 2016), and co-edited Economic Development Strategies and the Evolution of Violence in Latin America (2012), Development Strategies, Identities, and Conflict in Asia (2013), and The Economic Roots of Conflict and Cooperation in Africa (2013). She is also co-editor of the Palgrave Macmillan series “Politics, Economics and Inclusive Development”, which explores the diverse experiences of individual nations and regions in their quest for more democratic, technically sound and sustainable development.

For Mirovitskaia, one of the most pleasant surprises at the Symposium was running into a friend from two decades ago. Irene Santiago, currently chair of the Philippine Government Panel Implementing the Bangsamoro Peace Accord, was the executive director of the historical NGO Forum on Women in China, which Mirovitskaia attended in 1995.

Run in parallel to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, the NGO Forum on Women is considered the largest international conference on women in history. Irene Santiago is also a faculty member at the Rotary Center at Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok).

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