Where to Study Conflict Early Warning?

A number of readers have contacted me via blog comments or by email to ask where they might be able to pursue a post-graduate degree or certificate in conflict early warning. That is indeed a good question. I don’t know of any graduate program (or undergraduate, for that matter) that includes courses specifically on conflict early warning.

I would therefore suggest looking for graduate programs that have a strong focus on conflict analysis and risk assessments. I would also recommend looking for programs with courses on international security, human security, human rights, complex emergencies and causes of conflict. Courses on international institutions, decision making, humanitarian logistics, etc., would also be a plus.

In addition, it is important to venture beyond your own field, say political science, and to learn as much as possible about how other fields such as public health, environmental studies, disaster management, etc., approach the challenge of early warning and rapid response. To be sure, some of the most valuable insights I have gained over the years have been from those fields.

Taken together, these courses will allow you to write research papers that focus on various aspects of conflict early warning that are of interest to you. You’ll want to develop good analytical skills, both qualitative and quantitative, as well as research methodology skills. So find a program that has a strong track record in methodology and research design.

Now, I realize no one program will necessarily have all the above courses. So it’s up to you to find out which courses appeal to you in particular and which professors you’d specifically like to work with. Scholarships, stipends, etc., will also play an important role (if not be the overriding factor). Finally, it’s important to feel good about location and environment.

So that would be my advice on the academic end. But you don’t have to wait until graduate school to get started and remember also that practical experience is important. I would encourage you to read as much of the literature and material available online as possible (for as long as you’re still interested!).

To get you started, here are similar syllabi for seminars I have taught on disaster and conflict early warning/response: syllabus 1 and syllabus 2. Feel free to get in touch if you can’t find any of the readings online and I’ll try to see whether I can share an electronic/scanned copy. I would also recommend reading the posts (and comments) on this blog! If you find any other blog on conflict early warning, please let me know!

Finally on experience, get in touch with practitioners and other scholars in the field. Ask them specific and informed questions on issues or ideas you’re thinking about and ask them for advice on further reading or other individuals to get in touch with. Offer to volunteer on projects of interest to you and ask about the availability of internships or other short-term research assignments.

Use papers you are writing in class as a reason to get in touch with practitioners and scholars. Write papers on projects or issues they are currently working on. This serves two purposes: first, your papers would become directly relevant to the “real world”; and second, you’d be able to share your papers with practitioners who will most likely appreciate and read your work. This is a great way to network and  could open up professional opportunities for the future.

If you still have any specific questions on issues I may not have addressed, please always feel free to get in touch. My contact information can be found in the “Contact” link above. If I don’t answer within a week it’s usually because I’m traveling or under a tight deadline. In any case, please contact me again if you don’t here from the first time around, perseverance is a good skill in any field!


9 responses to “Where to Study Conflict Early Warning?

  1. interesting, useful syllabi. i’d suggest, for the second one, in addition to buchanan and the like, also looking at charles perrow’s two books: normal accidents (1999), and the next catastrophe (2007). onward.

  2. Are you familiar with OpenCourseWare? Movement to make high-quality educational resources available. Tufts actually has http://ocw.tufts.edu/ — you should see if you can get a conflict early warning class up there.

    • Hi Kevin, many thanks for the reference to OCW. I just emailed them to see whether they could take the Blackboard site for the course I taught and add it to their open courseware platform.

      Thanks again!

  3. On Mon, Jun 8, 2009 at 5:43 PM, Evan Hoffman wrote:

    Hi Patrick:

    Thanks for raising this topic here and for providing some additional guidance and ideas to those who want to learn more about EW-ER.

    For the last two years, I’ve taught a course on the prevention of deadly conflict (HSPB 610) for Royal Roads University (Victoria, British Columbia) where we focused exclusively on EW and ER. Both years I had the class produce early warning reports for Guinea and then use those reports later on in the course to design a customized ER intervention.

    The students greatly appreciated the practical, timely, and hands-on focus that I gave the course as I was able to draw upon a lot of practical examples from my own involvement with the International Peace and Prosperity Project (IPPP) in Guinea-Bissau (see http://www.ciian.org/projects1.shtml#gb). The fact that a coup occurred in Guinea part way through the course further reinforced the relevance of the concepts, theories, and tools that we were covering.

    For more info on the Royal Roads University course see http://www.royalroads.ca/RoyalRoads/Templates/Generic/full_one_column_7A.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID={8953F2CD-A5E9-4C39-87D3-6032E5534E35}&NRORIGINALURL=%2fprograms%2ffaculties-schools-centres%2ffaculty-social-applied-sciences%2fpeace-conflict-management%2fhmnscpb-ma%2fcurriculum.htm&NRCACHEHINT=NoModifyGuest#hspb_610

    Additionally, from 16-20 November, 2009 the Canadian international Institute of Applied Negotiation (CIIAN) in conjunction with the Institute for Dispute Resolution (IDR) at the University of Victoria will be delivering a workshop in Ottawa on the topic of preventing political violence. An intro to various EW systems will be included along with a framework for planning ER interventions.

    More info about the CIIAN-IDR course can be found on the last page of the attached newsletter.

    Best Regards,
    Evan Hoffman
    Executive Director

  4. Patrick I incorporate methodologies into all my courses – conflict management, resolution, analysis or development. For details see http://www.carleton.ca/~dcarment
    and http://www.carleton.ca/cifp

    My advice to students would be to find a programme with strengths in methodology – and secondarily focus on policy.

  5. This is a nice idea Patrick, and very thoughtful of you. I recommend that students look over the schools featured in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs by going to http://www.apsia.org/apsia/index.php This is a good way to start a search. Some places are not members that should be considered, however, such at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, my home institution. See kroc.nd.edu

    Those planning to pursue a PhD should pay particular attention to the faculty and focus on schools where there are a number of experts that work in the field in which you aspire to work. It is a bit difficult, however, to see where a fit will be for conflict early warning and early response since computer science, statistics, and social psychology are important components. So I recommend looking for a solid program that can be supported by other departments.

  6. Barasa E. Mangeni

    Hi Patrick,
    I really appreciate the wealth of information on EWER that you keep sharing with us online. I just thought that i should share with you that the National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Management (NSC) in Kenya has in the last one year been developing a people based EWER system with the help of the UNDP Country Office. This will be rolled out soon, possibly this month.
    I am sure it will be interesting at some point to know how this compares to other existing EWER models.

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