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Conflict studies institute launched

By Michael McHugh

Former Northern Ireland arms decommissioning inspector Martti Ahtisaari will officially launch a new conflict studies institute at Queen's University Belfast today.

The ex-president of Finland has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on helping end violence around the world. In 2000 he surveyed IRA arms dumps for the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) as part of the peace process.

The Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen's will allow researchers and political activists from different parts of the world to connect.

Mr Ahtisaari said: "In order to really understand the nature of conflicts, we need to invest in thorough, high-quality research and analysis. I'm pleased to witness this taking place now here in Queen's University Belfast.

"Conflict studies have to be approached in a multidisciplinary manner and the fact that the Institute has decided to focus on challenges of social justice proves (to) us that the direction is right."

Next month the Institute will host a lecture by author, academic and former politician Michael Ignatieff, who has written extensively on nationalism and peacekeeping.

Other leading academics at the Institute include Professor John D Brewer, an authority on peace processes and the role of religion, Professor Peter Shirlow, an expert on ex-combatants and how society views them, Dr Cathal McCall, who is part of an international consortium examining post-Cold War European border issues, Dr Neil Jarman, who is well-known for his work on all aspects of conflict research in Northern Ireland and recently appointed research fellows exploring the Cyprus conflict and the Occupy movement, the Israel-Palestine situation and the role of civil society in building peace.

The Institute is led by Professor Hastings Donnan, an expert on border areas which have experienced conflict.

"No university in the UK or Ireland can claim to be a more appropriate place in which to establish an Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice. These are significant issues in Northern Ireland every single day," he said.

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