In addition to carrying that work into Sri Lanka, Nepal, Israel/Palestine, Colombia, and Guatemala, Arthur is renowned for his powerful lectures throughout the US and Europe and has held positions at elite universities and at the US Institute of Peace (USIP), in addition to serving as a consultant to the United Nations Research Institute in Social Development, UK Parliament, and the World Bank.
Serving as a Peace Scholar and Facilitator Dr. Paul Arthur holds a BA and MSSC from Queen’s University Belfast and a D.Litt. from the National University of Ireland. In addition to his varied and far-reaching research and teaching contributions, Arthur has played a significant role in bringing together political adversaries and thus been honored by numerous prestigious fellowships, including a Fulbright Fellowship at Stanford University in 2006-7. In addition to authoring five books and over seventy peer-reviewed articles, he brings extensive media experience to the table, including serving two years as an op-ed writer for the Irish Times and appearing regularly as a political analyst on Ulster Television.
These media contributions throughout the peace process in Northern Ireland-including contributions to the NY Times, and Britain’s Times, Guardian, and Observer-have brought him widespread acclaim and respect. His publications are not only powerful on the academic front, as many have said they led directly to solving conflict. Additionally, the Master’s Program he created at the University of Ulster has brought scores of overseas students who are able to draw on Arthur’s vast expertise to work toward peaceful solutions in conflict zones of their home countries.
Starting from a Positive: Moving Past Negative Peace
Norwegian scholar and founder of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Johan Galtung founded the discipline of Peace and Conflict Studies; he was the first to conceptualize peace building and study the root causes of conflict, as well as to examine a community’s ability to manage peace and work toward long-term conflict resolution. He also helped early scholars define structural violence and systematic ways a regime can oppress a people; he introduced the concept that an absence of violence was not necessarily a “positive peace.”
Arthur explains that traditional disciplines start from a security point of view, asking, “How do we protect ourselves?” In other words, we are beginning from a negative. In order to start from a positive place, we might instead ask ourselves, “How do we get a successful peace process going?” Then, we can look to the Middle East and South Africa, and we can study past conflicts in Ireland. Having moved into post-Cold War conflicts, we can now examine the “plethora of ethnic conflicts” occurring across the world, and we can “look at phases and the life cycle of these conflicts.”
Dr. Arthur further says that we can take the initial Diagnosis/Prognosis/Therapy prescription from Galtung and move into Analyze/Negotiate/Implement. As we explore the fractures where initially successful peace agreements began to break apart-where “what we disagree on becomes too difficult” to move to implementation of a peace plan-we can better understand why so many peaceful resolutions break down at some point or never move past a “negative peace,” where violence may appear to stop, yet long-term peaceful resolutions are not achieved. Arthur also stresses that we must ask ourselves, “How do you deal with memory-the memory of wounds? How do you move from a negative peace to a positive peace?”
The 1980s and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
In the 1980s, many influential leaders were recognizing that we Americans were skilled at making war but less so at creating and maintaining peace. Created by Congress in 1984, The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) focuses on preventing, resolving, or mitigating violent conflict around the world by engaging conflict zones and providing education and resources to people working toward peace. It is a nonpartisan, federally funded organization that brings together experts to counter violent extremism, develop tools for improving post-conflict settings still in chaos, and test approaches to effective peacebuilding and conflict prevention.
Leaders of the USIP are focused on using both traditional media and emerging technologies to work against violent conflict through preventing, tracking, and resolving. At the personal level during this same time, Arthur had lived through twenty years of conflict, and he wanted the opportunity to “get to opinion makers” and better interact with and influence people with the power to evince change. Thus, the move from “academic to practitioner” was a natural one for him.
He also notes one tremendous advantage of teaching a subject like Peace Studies: working with bright and passionate students who want to make a difference in the world. Another advantage to the field is the collaborative nature of Peace Studies scholarship, which creates an atmosphere of collegiality, which leads to better pedagogy, which in turn creates a better all-around educational experience for everyone involved.
While he is more focused on international Peace Studies as a discipline and in his classes, and he doesn’t typically deal with the “American stuff” as part of the official curriculum, certainly there are casual conversations that happen and parallels that may be drawn. He references Spotlight continued the Reagan and Tip O’Neill era, where you had powerful political figures who were ideologically opposed in almost every way yet still found a way to work together. “Political life was a lot less adversarial than it is now,” he adds. He questions if “raucous debate” is the way to move forward.
“Essentially, Peace Studies is about dealing with human relationships,” Arthur explains. “Peace Studies is about theory and practice.” In his own classes, he brings in work he has done, and he also invites many of the people involved in all sides of a conflict, so students have a firsthand experience to better relate to these stories. These educational experiences allow students to extrapolate wisdom from those encounters and come to their own conclusions.
Arthur adds that Peace Studies is a young discipline, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary. “For that reason, some people are suspicious of it as an academic subject,” he notes, imagining this would be a “kumbaya, make love not war” approach to education. Progress in the development of Peace Studies programs, Arthur believes, is seen in the “blossoming of more programs” and the quality of the students.
Maneuvering in a Space Among Extremists
As a Professor of English and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Chapman University, Richard Ruppel has been able to work closely with his esteemed and world-renowned colleague. He shares that he values Arthur’s “warmth, his humor, his wisdom, and his great talent for friendship.” Arthur’s former students echo those same praises.
A Senior Program Officer for Women, Peace and Security Programs at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, Jennifer Freeman is a former student of Arthur’s from University of Ulster. Freeman believes Arthur’s endearing persona of a “technologically challenged, absent-minded professor,” when meshed with his academic brilliance and intriguing firsthand knowledge of all the major players in Irish politics, offers a powerful, long-term impression on students. Freeman also praises his dry sense of humor, quick wit, and self-deprecating nature.
By earning the Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship to work on her master’s degree, Freeman could have studied anywhere in the world and with any number of professors; she explains, “I wanted to go someplace to learn from professors, not just textbooks. He had lived the conflict and been behind the scenes.”
Freeman recalls one of the experiences Arthur shared with his students: a time he was visiting a Manhattan hotel and not being treated with kindness and courtesy- that is, until he happened to bump into Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, in the hotel lobby. After Robinson greeted Arthur with a warm welcome, the hotel representatives were a bit more accommodating; he was upgraded to the Robinson Suite. Freeman vividly remembers a class that met in a basement, where Arthur brought a former member of the Loyalist paramilitary to meet with the students, an encounter Freeman is unlikely to forget. Yet, when she referenced that meeting with Arthur just recently, his response was, “I did that?” Obviously, for Arthur, it was just any other day.
Freeman remembers Arthur sharing with his students that he believes his “benevolently ignorant” approach-when working with people whom others considered extremists- allowed him the room to listen and learn, which also allowed the chance to work from within to procure change and work toward peace. Because he was not presenting himself as “the expert,” he was considered less threatening and therefore was able to “maneuver that space” even among those labeled as terrorists.
The Benefit of Personal Relationships
Jennifer Freeman shares, “One of the most important facets of peacebuilding which Paul highlighted was the human nature of conflict.” She explains that while such a statement may seem obvious, when you hear academic and policy discussions in the media or other academic institutions, the focus might stay on the engagement of the states, armed non-state actors, or even organizations.
She adds, “As knowledgeable as Paul was about the role of governments and international actors, he had the benefit of personal relationships with the individual people within those governments; armed, political or civil society movements; donors (to the conflict or supporting peace); and within the behemoth UN bureaucracies. Thus, conflict was distilled to its human core-individual personalities that are motivated to desperate actions; to courageous acts of peace; to halting and imperfect processes of reconciliation; to ongoing struggles for justice.”
Arthur also draws Freeman’s praise for his willingness to share stories from his formative years, growing up in Derry’s Bogside neighborhood a few miles from the campus. She notes, “He drew on his personal relationships with all of the major players in the Northern Ireland peace process; he related the honest, insightful, disastrous, or humorous exchanges from the worst time of the Troubles and through the halting process toward the Good Friday Agreement.”
Freeman is quick to add that these stories Arthur shares with students are a far cry from the “name dropping” some might be guilty of, especially when able to draw from such a well of experience; instead, he frequently makes jokes at his own expense and offers incredibly personal details from his life stories, always without revealing bias. She adds, “By offering us personal insights into the known and lesser known individuals, the conflict deepened beyond shallow black and white rhetoric to become a motley patchwork of grey. Thus, his students gained an invaluable skill in the field of peacebuilding: the ability to recognize the diverse human perspectives and experiences that drive conflict and can work toward peace.”
American student Lara Janson was a student of Arthur’s when she attended the University of Ulster in 2008 as a George J. Mitchell Scholar, studying in the master’s program on Peace and Conflict. She recalls her first day of class, when she was terribly excited to meet Arthur, having read much about his expertise and background.
She notes, “My classmates and I were struck by the astounding breadth of information covered in our first lecture.” Whether exploring the conflict in Northern Ireland specifically or the development of the field of Peace and Conflict Studies, his lectures are a “tour de force as he whips through a broad array of topics, sharing an unparalleled understanding of his field,” Janson explains. “But it is his witty, down-to- earth storytelling power and his ability to connect with his students that keep us all along for the ride, fully engaged and enthralled.”
Janson explains that Arthur helped shape her entire academic experience in memorable ways, as he has done with countless other students. She states that he has a brilliant mind and boundless wisdom yet is one of the most “down-to-earth professors” she has encountered in academia; she adds that he makes himself available to students in ways that few academics do, treating students of varying abilities and ages as though they are all on the same level. She notes, “In this sense, he creates an academic environment ripe for equitable, thoughtful, and peaceful dialogue about difficult topics that have caused great conflict both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.”
The Pedagogical Value of Charisma and Humility
Former student Eriko Takefuji considers it a great honor to have learned from Arthur, noting how convincing he is-whether in his lectures or sharing the words of other witnesses to conflicts-and how extraordinarily charismatic he is as well. She was particularly inspired by one of his lectures on Track Two dialogues during any peace process. She notes, “That is exactly one of the examples of what you can’t know unless you attend his lecture. Being a charismatic professor, at the same time Dr. Arthur is a person with a warm, big heart. As English is my second language, I was struggling with working on my MA dissertation. He understood the difficulties in front of me and walked through the long way with me until finished.”
Takefuji also shares a powerful memory of an event that happened just recently. A Japanese journalist was executed by the Islamic State, and she was both upset and terribly angry. Not