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Provost’s Lecture with Michael van Walt van Praag


Editor’s Note: This lecture has been postponed to a later date.

The Importance of History in Peacemaking

Michael van Walt van Praag is a visiting professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is an international lawyer specializing in intrastate conflict resolution, has served as advisor and consultant to numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations in peace talks in regions ranging from Chechnya to Papua New Guinea, and is currently Executive President of Kreddha, an international, non-governmental organization for the prevention and resolution of violent intrastate conflicts which he founded in 1999. The author of two books on the current status of Tibet and two on conflict resolution, Michael van Walt van Praag has held visiting teaching and research positions at Stanford, UCLA, Indiana, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the Golden Gate University School of Law. He is now engaged in work on the causes of conflicts and obstacles to their resolution, focusing in particular on the ways in which history is perceived and mobilized by the antagonistic parties. This is an area in which historians, political theorists and international lawyers can find a common ground for reflection and research, since the political use and abuse of history is so relevant to understanding and promoting the resolution of present conflicts.

Abstract: History can be an important factor in conflicts and an obstacle in peace processes. This is especially true for intrastate conflicts, in particular identity related ones. Peace processes and therefore negotiations deal with a wide array of issues, ranging from the conclusion of cease-fires and their maintenance to the distribution of political power, territorial and administrative divisions, boundaries, and exploitation of natural resources. Michael van Walt van Praag will discuss how perceptions of history affect both the substance and process in peace negotiations and why it is important to seriously address them. Whether history is invoked explicitly or not in negotiations, the parties’ perceptions of history is a fundament on which many base their sense of entitlement, build their claims and expectations and develop their positions. He will discuss the above, drawing examples also from his own experience as a third-party mediator and as an advisor in peace processes in Asia, Africa, the South Pacific and the Caucasus.

This Provost’s Lecture will be held on Wednesday, March 5, from 4 pm to 6 pm in the Charles B. Wang Center Theater.

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