The UPEACE Foundation Course provides a critical and concise introduction to the broad field of “Peace Studies” for students in ALL UPEACE programmes. It initially addresses key conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of the origins and development of peace studies as an interdisciplinary area within the fields of international relations and political economy. Based on a critical analysis of policies, strategies, institutions, organizations and movements, the course then examines a range of core issues, dimensions, perspectives and paradigms for understanding the root causes of conflicts and violence and constructive strategies to address them and build peace in contemporary global, international, regional, national and local contexts. The core concepts include militarization, disarmament and arms control; human rights violations and promotion; gender inequalities, gender-based violence and gender mainstreaming; structural violence, human security, development and globalization; environmental sustainability; corporate social responsibility; international law in conflict and peacebuilding; cultural and religious identities; media’s role in conflict and peacebuilding; strategies of nonviolence; and peace education. This Foundations course will be essential in catalyzing the awareness, understanding and motivation of UPEACE students in diverse academic programmes to relate, ground and intersect their specific areas of academic and practitioner interest with core theoretical, conceptual and analytical ideas in peace studies.

Poverty reduction and sustainable social and economic development remain an area of high priority for the international community for the years to come. The purpose is not only humanitarian - i.e. the reduction of the number of people living in poverty/extreme poverty - but it also responds to a broader concern to ensure the long-term economic and social sustainability and cohesion of the global economy. Between 2000 and 2015 the international community and the multilateral system engaged to attain the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight global targets mainly aiming at poverty reduction. The MDG agenda was successful in mobilizing international efforts in a more consistent manner and also partially achieved its targets (notably in the area of extreme poverty reduction) despite the global economic slowdown following the financial crisis in 2008-2009. A new, broader and more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals agenda was adopted in 2015 with 17 goals to be attained by 2030. The new SDG agenda will inevitably require a re-vamped effort to focus and allocate resources on international development cooperation. A “revitalized global partnership” is being promoted for the implementation of the goals and the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda has called for additional and more coherent development financing. A key requirement for development partners to make the case for increased development aid and funding is to demonstrate and enhance the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of development cooperation programmes. 

This course will explore the content, values and pedagogy of peace education as it is theorized and practiced internationally.  Using a Freirean pedagogical perspective, participants will apply the framework of education about, for and by peace to develop a clearer understanding of how peace education might be effectively implemented in their context. The discussion will include both the formal and informal education sectors, with a focus on the ability of education systems to promote either a culture of peace or a culture of violence. Participants will review research from the field to develop an understanding of the difficulties of evaluating peace education programs, and how those challenges can be faced. Course activities will focus on building an effective online learning community where participants learn from each other and challenge their own perspectives through in-depth dialogue and inquiry.   

Ever since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations has performed a pivotal function in a great variety of affairs, large or small, international and national. As such, the UN has played an incisive role in the lives of people around the world. Much of what the UN does is taken for granted and even goes unnoticed by the larger public, to the point that there has been expressed that ‘if the UN did not exist it would have to be invented’. At the same time, millions around the world look to the UN expecting it to address many of the enormous challenges faced by humankind. These complex dynamics are complemented by the fact that the UN is both reliant on what the member states want, while at the same time, being much more than the sum of its members. This course provides a comprehensive and rigorous introduction into the UN system, including its origins and history, its organisational framework and the functioning of various organs, agencies, bodies and programmes.  

Students will critically examine the most important areas of the UN mission including the key Charter principles, the pillars of international peace and security, economic and social progress, development and human rights as well as a growing list of priorities and initiatives (e.g., gender equality and  mainstreaming; eliminating gender-based violence; environmental protection; climate change; post-2015 development agenda; Global Education First Initiative; action to counter terrorism; R2P, etc.). 

In addition, the course offers a close scrutiny at some of the challenges the UN faces, and discusses also various proposals for its reform. Students will be encouraged to reflect on how UN priorities and initiatives can be constructively addressed in their respective fields and programmes of peace studies.