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Norway as a peace-nation




Norway is often looked upon as the world’s peace-nation number one. Norway has through the 20th century contributed to make peace in unstable parts of the world. I have often wondered where this interest for peace-work comes from as peace-education as an academic discipline did not exist in Norway until 2002.  

When it all started is frequent discussed, but for the sake of argument I choose to say it all started with Fridtjof Hansen’s engagement in the League of Nations and the help he gave Russia, Armenia and Ukraine in the 1920s.

Norway as a nation was also active in the establishment of the UN in 1945, which resulted in Norway getting its first Secretary General in Trygve Lie. Furthermore we can mention, amongst numerous projects, the Strømmestiftelsen’s peace-work in Latin-America, Terje Rød-Larsen and his team in the Middle-East and finally Erik Solheim’s work in Sri Lanka. In addition we have many private persons and organizations who daily does and enormous effort in peace-work in different parts of the world. 

Today, Norway has many independent institutions which are engage in peace related research, as for example CMI, FAFO, NUPI, PRIO and the Nobel institute but only one learning institution who offer education in peace studies, namely the University of Tromsø. 

Internationally there are many universities who offer peace studies. One example is University of BradfordEngland which has one of the oldest institutes of peace studies, and is where I obtained my masters degree in 1999.

The peace studies at University of Bradford were established in 1973. It was members of the “Society of Friends”, better known in Norway as the Quakers, who took initiative and was met with enthusiasm from the university who in return offered the use of a building and other facilities from the university. Today the peace study institute is a standard British social science department with a staff of 53 all together. It runs a three-year Bachelor programme, two Master programmes and a doctoral programme and has a full publishing programme. In the academic year 2006/2007 the institute has 400 students from more than 40 countries from all the continents.

In 2005 the Guardian newspaper ranked the institute among the top ten Politics and International Relations departments in England.

The University of Branford’s best know alumni is probably Dr. Sa’eb Erakat who was the Deputy Head of the Palestinian Delegation at the Middle East Peace negotiations and who continues to be closely involved in the Middle East Peace Process.

John Hume came with this response in Oslo after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998: «Bradford‘s Centre for Conflict Resolution has a worldwide reputation for its research and practice in supporting peace processes in many of the world’s trouble spots».

The Centre at Bradford is one of seven that have been established by the Rotary Foundation at universities in Japan, Australia, Argentina, France the UK and the USA.

Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina; University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Paris, France; International Christian University, Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan; University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, United States of America (USA); and, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.

The last eight years many Norwegian students have found the path to Bradford and the universities peace studies.

In comparison Norway got its first peace centre connected to a university in 2002 who offers a master programme in peace studies.

It was first after UNESCOs declaration on an international decade for peace (2000-2010) and the UN Hague Appeal for Peace conference in 1999 had take place that the enthusiasm for peace studies got visible amongst students and staff at the University of Tromsø (UiT).

In 2000 the centre for  Environment and Development by Håkon Fottland arranged the conference “Higher Education for Peace”. This conference demonstrated a lack of research-based and integrated peace education, especially in Norway. Both, Tove Bull (prof. at UiT) and prof. Ole D Mjøs (chairman of the Nobel committee since 2003) worked towards realizing their dream of a peace centre and peace education at UiT. In 2002 their work was crowned with a grant from the Norwegian government which made it possible to start a master programme from the autumn 2002.


               By the Peace Centre University of Tromsø, the worlds most northern university.

As mentioned earlier I have often wondered where the enormous interest amongst Norwegian academics, institutions and private persons for peace research and peace-work and where it comes from as peace education was nearly non-existing until 2002.

This has led me to ask some questions, but I have not yet found all the answers.

         Why has not the environment around independent institutions like CMI, NUPI, FAFO and PRIO worked towards peace studies as an academic discipline at Norwegian universities?

         Why is the interest for peace research stronger at the independent institutions than at the universities social science departments?

         Is there a lack of acknowledgement of peace studies as an academic discipline at Norwegian universities?

         Have peace studies in Norway its origin originally in the NGO’s?

The questions are simple, but the answers are unfortunately not easy to find, but within the next few months I hope to get a bit closer!



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