“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences of peace must be contructed.” – UNESCO Constitution, 1945
It was in 1988 that suggestions from the School of Social Sciences (at USM) of venturing to peace studies emerged. This idea was triggered by the growing awareness of Malaysian scholars of the developments of peace studies and research in the first world countries like in Japan, Europe, and in the US. The promotion of peace is emphasized as a critical ingredient in nation building. In particular, the stability and economic well being of the Southeast Asian region has presented itself as a great challenge and whereas a peaceful and vibrant economic environment would become its important vision.
The foundations of peace studies at USM received much support from the Social Science Dean, Prof. Dr. Johan Saravanamuttu, USM Vice Chancellor Dato’ Musa Mohamad, and Prof. Peter Wallensteen of Uppssala University in Sweden. Prof. Wallensteen initiated the discussions on the peace problimatique and helped in the formation of a peace unit in the School of Social Sciences. As a result, the Research & Education for Peace (REPUSM) or “Unit Penyelidikan dan Pendidikan untuk Perdamaian (UPPP) was established in 1995. Dr. Latif Kamaluddin was appointed as its first coordinator. While in 1999, he was succeeded by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kamarulzaman Askandar who continues to serve as coordinator up to present. Giving birth to REPUSM is particularly momentous for USM as it becomes the pioneer in this field among institutions of higher learning in Malaysia.
Apart from the introduction of conflict resolution and peace studies courses at the School of Social Sciences, a postgraduate degree in Social Sciences is also offered but with research focus on conflict and peace studies. REPUSM continues to be involved in various peace research projects in collaboration with other universities abroad. Further, REPUSM reached a milestone when it founded the Southeast Asia Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN) in 2001 together with other university partners from the region. Since then, REPUSM serves as the regional coordinator of the SEACSN. The Network actively promotes peace and conflict studies among Southeast Asian academe, NGOs, government agencies, and the general public who are interested in contributing to peacebuilding in Southeast Asia. To sustain this important work, the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), through the SAREC, has strengthened the Network’s as its primary donor in its early stages.
On the other hand, although REPUSM is key in the coordination of the SEACSN activities, it has also evolved its own role as a catalyst in Malaysia. REPUSM maintains its networking with other Malaysian universities and relevant government agencies in the promotion of peace education programs. Within the USM community, it has introduced and organized the annual celebration of a “USM Peace Week” participated by students, staff, and guests from the various civil society groups. This event promotes discussion of conflict and peace issues relevant to Malaysians. It brings an increased awareness and education on the values of a lasting peace especially to the youth. Another notable development initiated by REPUSM is the setting up of a student’s peace club or the “KeDamai USM.” The peace club provides avenues for students to be more proactive in peace education and cultivating a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie among the youth. In December 2004 Peace Week, the “KeDamai USM” was instrumental in the organization of the activities.
As a contribution to peacebuilding, REPUSM is conscious of its role in peace education, peace and conflict studies and research, community development, and humanitarian efforts. It presents the ideas of building sustainable peace in Malaysia and its bigger neighborhood in the SEA region in activities that students and the rest of the academic community and civil society can participate in. Following the tradition of the UNESCO declaration, the REPUSM plants the seeds of peace in the hearts and minds of men and women.
We are a network of individuals and institutions dedicated to Peace & Conflict Resolution research and practice. Through this network, we provide venues for discussion and collaboration, like seminars, workshops, conferences, and an academic exchange programme. These activities are aimed at promoting greater research on conflict studies.As one of our projects, we conduct a conflict mapping exercise in which we identify potential and actual conflict hot spots in the region in order to create better conflict management techniques and mechanisms. The initial output of this project was presented in our recently concluded January 2004 SEACSN Conference held in Penang, Malaysia
We also wish to acknowledge our funding agency, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), through its Department of Research Cooperation (SAREC) whose invaluable support has established the network as an important resource in the field of peace education and conflict studies.
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