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Insights from IPRA Conference in Trinidad & Tobago

Community building among the peace associations around the world

From 17 to 21 May 2023, the 29th conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) took place in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Peace researchers, activists, artists and practitioners from all around the world came together to explore the theme “Rooted Futures: Visions of Peace & Justice”. The program of the IPRA conference featured a combination of workshops, panels and discussions, allowing participants to engage in (re)learning and open conversations about peace research on multiple fronts. In addition to academic panel discussions and round tables, the program included yoga sessions, healing circles and arts-based workshops, enriching the overall experience.  

Meeri Tiensuu and Ilaria Tucci from Tampere University were facilitating their workshop "Reflecting through arts-based collective practices: integration as existential and societal process" for the Homeward project, funded by the KONE Foundation. In the workshop, participants were invited to interact and to share their own narratives, thoughts and understandings through arts-based methods. The aim was to provide a chance for collective reflection on human interaction as an intersection of peace, solidarity and social imagination of belonging and co-existence.

Homeward workshop (photo by Ilaria Tucci)

About fifteen people with rich and diverse backgrounds participated in the workshop and shared their visions about home, and their personal encounters of diversity. The workshop was closed with empathetic collective exercise reflecting in each other's understandings of home and co-existence in the form of poems or short monologues. As facilitators, Meeri and Ilaria felt surprisingly enriched by the experience, especially for the unexpected and beautiful outcomes in terms of people’s engagement and participation. Something to bring back home and reflect on their way back to Finland.  

The closing ceremony of the conference was hosted by the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP). Established in 1982, FACRP is a community based non-governmental organisation dedicated to safeguarding the environment from the dangers of forest fires caused by human activities.  The organisation was initiated by local community members who united their efforts to eliminate the recurring risk of forest fires in the Fondes Amandes watershed. Over the years, FACRP has evolved into a highly resilient, innovative and prosperous ecological initiative in the Caribbean, and is widely recognized as a model of sustainable community development in the region.  

FACRP (photo by Ilaria Tucci)Immersed in the heart of the rain forest, the closing ceremony was a poetic summary of the conference week in Trinidad and Tobago – not only about peace research but also about practices, visions and lived experiences of individuals, communities and indigenous knowledges. At FACRP premises, the conference participants came together to witness what community(ies) can be, mean and bring for us today. The ceremony was facilitated by Akilah Jaramogi, the Founder and Director of FACRP, alongside her team. It featured captivating strorytelling and performances by John Stollmeyer, Eintou Pearl Springer and Christo Adonis, showcasing diverse methods of community building and emphasizing the interplay between ancestral knowledge, present wisdom and future aspirations. One of the most touching moments was when poet Eintou Pearl Springer captivated the audience with her story, accompanied by the resonating beats of drums. This intergenerational exchange shared the merging of past, present and future as the drummer happened to be the poet’s own grandson.  

Finally, the last day of the conference was devoted to the election of the general co-secretaries. Matt Meyer (USA) was confirmed for another two years, and Marìa Teresa Muñoz (Argentina) was elected for the upcoming four years. Also, the new council members were designed, and three of them are EuPRA former or current board members. They are Anush Petrosyan, Bram J. De Smet and Unto Vesa. Meeri Tiensuu was also nominated for the IPRA council. Ilaria Tucci, as President of EuPRA, was nomited to serve as an ex-officio council member.  

What is next?

For the first time after many years, the representatives of all the five regional peace associations (EuPRA, PJSA, CLAIP, AfPREA, AAPRA) had the chance to meet in person and discuss future plans. It was unanimously agreed that regional associations should support each other in coordinating the conferences’ calendars and in providing help in terms of sharing information, as call for papers and programs. Also new cooperation within publication practices was discussed with some promising outcomes. Last, but not least, indigenous wisdom, minority rights and vulnerable positions were at the core of the collective discussion during the conference days. 

EuPRA is ready to continue the journey in supporting more connections among peace practitioners and scholars. EuPRA is also committed in including indigenous people and marginalised voices in its work, while creating a platform of co-creation, exchange of knowledges and supporting each other in the everyday work towards peace and justice.  

We encourage peace scholars, activists, artists and practitioners to share and subscribe to the newsletter in order to receive the latest updates of the association. Additionally, we warmly invite everyone to become an active member of our European Peace Research community.