Processes that foster peacefulness will be examined at numerous presentations during the biennial conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), which opens today at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Canada. The full program for the conference is available on the IPRA website.

The program features headliners, of course: people who are famed in the peace community for their stellar contributions, brilliant scholarship, and profound writings. Johan Galtung, for instance, whom the program refers to as the “father of peace research,” will be giving a speech on “Professionalism in Violence Prevention and Peace Building” on Saturday, July 1, at 9:00 a.m..

Important as Mr. Galtung and IPRA’s other “Special Presenters” may be, hundreds of meetings and over 400 additional speakers also deserve attention. Like the headliners, these people are working for peace and building cultures of peacefulness; they will be discussing an almost overwhelming array of topics.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the program is the focus on numerous countries and regions that are often ignored by the major Western media. On Saturday July 1 at 11:00, for example, the 15 panel sessions scheduled during that time slot include more than 50 speakers who will cover various subjects related to Rwanda, Kashmir, Cambodia, Romania, Sri Lanka, Siberia, Colombia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, West Papua, Poland, Nepal, Cyprus, and so on.

Some of the programs are highly imaginative. In the first space for commission sessions, this afternoon from 4:00 – 5:30, how could one pass up an imaginative panel organized by the Commission on Art and Peace titled “Music and Peace I?” Speakers will be covering “Music Journeys as a Tool for Dialogue and Track-Two Diplomacy;” “Music for Peace in the Middle East;” and “One Hundred Radio Programs for Peace.”

Unfortunately, with 13 other panel sessions being held during the same time slot this afternoon, a common occurrence for conferences such as this, choosing which program to attend will be difficult. In one room, for instance, the Nonviolence Commission will host a program on “Perspectives on Nonviolence Research Beyond Gandhi and Gene Sharp: Does More Need to Be Said?” Graham Kemp will lead off that panel with the intriguingly titled paper, “Was Gandhi a ‘Violent Pacifist’?” Kemp was the editor, along with Douglas P. Fry, of the book Keeping the Peace: Conflict Resolution and Peaceful Societies around the World, a 2004 volume featured on the Best Books page of this website.

In addition to six major plenary sessions, the program lists 20 different constituent commissions that have organized varying numbers of panel sessions. The names of the commissions suggest the types of programs they are putting on: the Ecology and Peace Commission, the Gender and Peace Commission, the Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Commission, the Peace Culture and Communications Commission, the Religion and Peace Commission, and so on. While there is no commission specifically focused on the study of peaceful societies, several sessions are highly relevant.

The Global Political Economy Commission will present a session at 11:00 on Friday morning, June 30, on “The Gift Economy as a Way to Peace.” Since gifting and sharing are important features of many societies—and not just peaceful ones—this should be a compelling program. The title of one presentation is “The Gift Paradigm;” another is “Ubuntu as Gift: African Civilization as Model (OR Gift Giving and Partnership).”

On Friday afternoon at 4:00, the Peace Education Commission will present a panel on “Transformative Learning” that will include a talk by Mary Lee Morrison and Michael True titled “Elise Boulding and the Early History of the International Peace Research Association.” Since Dr. Boulding is the Patron of this website, the presentation should be of interest.

The Peace Education Commission will also host a session on Saturday morning at 11:00 that should be rewarding. The session, titled “Building Bridges,” will include a talk on “How Coyas and Mapuches Raise their Children Peacefully,” an important topic for anyone interested in forming a peaceful society. Many societies, in addition to the ones featured in this website, raise their children to focus on peaceful strategies for coping with conflict.

This website will be represented at a Peace Education Commission panel near the end of the conference. On Sunday afternoon, July 2, at 4:00, the program “Linking Up” will include a paper that summarizes and evaluates the progress to date of the Peaceful Societies website. Titled “The Role of Websites in Creating Cultures of Peace: A Preliminary Assessment,” the paper is available in PDF format (95.8 KB) in this website. It also can be found from a link on the About This Website page.