American Univesity of Beirut

IFI collaboration with the International Panel on Exiting Violence

​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,​​

The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at AUB partnered with the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (FMSH) in organizing a three-day international conference on the International Panel on Exiting Violence (IPEV). The conference presented work done over two years and recommendations made by the ten working groups of the IPEV to academics, policymakers, and an international audience. Panel discussions allowed for a debate and analysis of different approaches for exiting violence including de-radicalization, peace-building, transitional justice, reconciliation, and state-building. 

“The humanities and social sciences have by no means exhausted the attempts to conceptualize violence and go further than the non-scientific definitions of daily life or found in the media. This type of endeavor demands discussion and we shall engage therein,” said Michel Wieviorka, IPEV co-director and president of FMSH in Paris who called at the opening of the conference for violence analysis and its transformation into a research field. 

With the objective of producing a report with recommendations for political and social decision-makers, IPEV brings together a multidisciplinary community of international researchers and specialists in fields that include anthropology, sociology, political science, philosophy, history, psychology, and psychiatry. It approaches the topic of violence from the standpoint of exiting or moving on from violence, as well as mitigating and avoiding it. 

“We can be sure that one day this region will exit violence; we have to understand the underpinnings of violence as well as how to exit it,” said AUB President Fadlo Khuri. 
“Considering Lebanon’s experience since the civil war, the country has stayed away from violence … it is vital to note that it has developed its own mechanisms, and these are worth studying. The subject needs to be taught in history classes and philosophy classes, it needs to be taught in civil society.”

Dr. Tarek Mitri, director of IFI, gave a recount of the region’s history and emphasized in his speech the need to differentiate between ending massive cruelty and exiting violence. “As an institute, whose primary mission is to facilitate exchanges and dialogue between knowledge producers and policy-makers, we are most attentive to the relevance of academic research to public life,” he said. “It is an enormous and manifold task to strive towards exiting violence, in our region more than anywhere else. Much of the relevance of this international conference, and any international initiative, depends on its significance in a local and regional context. Holding the International Panel’s restitution exercise here in Beirut speaks to this relevance.”

Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) Mohamed Ali Al Hakim spoke in his keynote speech about research and impact of IPEV on the various aspects of exiting violence and rebuilding social fabrics within several Arab countries, drawing parallels to efforts by the United Nations. “Violence has been at the core of UN concerns since WWII,” he said. “Under the action plan of the UN the diff organizations, national, regional bodies have played a key role, as ESCWA hosts and leads technical dialogue on the regional and national levels, developing dialogue platforms to address conflict and implementing early signals in alerting violence and counter violence.” 
“If we really want to exit violence, we need to understand that, just like violence, extremism is often a symptom of a problem rather than a root of a problem,” said Former Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, representing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. “I strongly believe that there are great opportunities to our region and to the world in restoring moderation, restoring the proper thinking of problem solving, and in turn restoring stability and peace to the Arab world, and to the world at large.”

United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator to Lebanon Philippe Lazzarini emphasized in his keynote speech that prevention should be prioritized. 

“The Middle East and North Africa region is the region that has witnessed most conflict,” said Lazzarini who emphasized the role of sustainable development. “Prevention must be sustained in order to keep intact a peaceful society. Prevention should be national led. Whether before or after violence, effective prevention is key.”

The third keynote speaker was Rubina Abu Zeinab, national coordinator for preventing violent extremism at the Office of the President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon. Abu Zeinab presented the national strategy for the prevention of violent extremism, highlighting the strategy, collaborations, and challenges faced. 

The strategy’s basic pillars and definitions of violent extremism and prevention were finalized and endorsed by the Council of Ministers, lead by Prime Minister Hariri, making Lebanon one of the first countries in the Middle East to adopt such a strategy.
“We wanted to come up with a Lebanese definition for violent extremism in order to clearly identify the challenge in front of us,” said Abu Zeinab. “It is important to understand communities and their trust in their institutions and confidence in their future, their perception of risk, and their experiences of exposure to violence.” 

An evaluation session took place where the IPEV steering committee and International Advisory Board commented on the work of the working groups. Three plenary sessions were held on the second day, allowing discussions among experts in the field and leaders of the IPEV working groups around the issues of the project and the results. On the third day, restitution sessions were held during which the IPEV working groups presented their analyses and recommendations to political and social decision-makers, and NGOs on exiting violence. Following the debates and recommendations presented at this international conference, an official report will be published at FMSH in November 2018.

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