Several years ago, Pierre and Catherine Brunner visited the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica, and felt that Switzerland should also have a Peace Studies program. In 2009, they founded the World Peace Academy and invited Professor Dr. Dietrich Fischer to become the Academic Director.
The current Academic Director is Professor Laurent Goetschel whose distinguished career includes being Director of swisspeace and Professor of political science at the Europe Institute of the University of Basel. From 2003 to 2004 he also served as the political advisor to the Swiss minister for foreign affairs Micheline Calmy-Rey.
The Academy is a non-profit organization and is politically and religiously independent. Its stated goal is topromote a culture of peace through educational programmes. The organisation orients itself around "The International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence?", which was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations for the period 2000 - 2010.
In cooperation with the Advanced Study Centre of the University of Basel, The World Peace Academy offers a Master of Advanced Studies program in Peace and Conflict Transformation. The goal is to teach students from around the world the theoretical foundations of peace studies, practical skills in reconciliation, conflict transformation and peace building, and personal competencies for peace workers. The curriculum covers all aspects of peace-not only military, but also political, economic and cultural. Students come from every continent, many from conflict regions, and from many different academic disciplines. The visiting faculty members also come from around the world. This gives students a broad perspective. They can also experience life in a country that has long been at peace. Most of them work with NGOs [non-governmental organizations] for peace and development, some with international organizations, mediating conflicts and promoting development.
The Academy's staff are also called upon for advice regarding international issues. In the past Academy staff have had meetings with the head of the Federal Department for Peace, Human Security and Human Rights in Bern. The Academy also supports and publicizes World Peace Day, which is held on 21 September.
Former Academic Director Professor Dr. Dietrich Fischer believes that Swiss history offer some important lessons regarding peace. "After a battle in 1515, in which Swiss mercenaries fought on both sides, Switzerland decided to no longer participate in foreign wars, but to remain neutral and only to defend its borders," he explained. "Since then, Swiss neutrality has helped the country keep out of war, and history has confirmed people's belief that this was the best policy". He also remains optimistic about the future. "I believe that dictatorships will gradually disappear," he reasons. "In the past, dictators were able to keep their people in ignorance about what happens elsewhere, but the Internet makes this more and more difficult."
When courses are running, public seminars are held every Wednesday evening 18:15-19:45 at The World Peace Academy, Güterstrasse 81 in Basel. Admission is free and no registration is required. For speakers and topics, see www.world-peace-academy.ch.
Everyone is welcome.