Last week, I attended a conference in Siena on the topic of how academia and diplomacy can work together in connection with international crises. The conference was arranged by the European Association of International Studies (AESI) and gave a clear message to students, scholars and the public of how universities, with their research, education and engaged students, can help contribute to peace, human rights, gender equality and sustainability in a rapidly changing world.
AESI organises seminars and conferences to facilitate discussions between the university world and international diplomacy. The former is considered to represent objectivity and unbiased research while the role of the latter is to stimulate dialogue and agreements between states and governments.
The issues discussed at the conference include how the EU despite all the problems can and must remain a peace-promoting actor, no matter what happens. The situation on the Mediterranean Sea and in the Middle East was also discussed. We talked about how universities can help diplomats reach an impact in politically difficult areas.
In my speech, I mentioned some of our University’s outstanding contributions of relevance within the framework of the conference, such as the V-Dem Institute, the QoG Institute and the Centre for Collective Action Research (CeCar).
I’m convinced that universities have a unique possibility to reach out and find feasible paths where diplomacy may not always be successful. It may be easier for us to achieve an impact through collaboration in research and education, which is necessary in order to be able to implement diplomatic solutions. Our obvious role is to contribute knowledge and correct information. But academia can serve as a door opener and improve the potential of diplomacy.
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