African Peacebuilding Network Writing and Dissemination Training Workshop II

December 11–13, 2017 | Rabat, Morocco

The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in collaboration with the African Institute for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation (AIPECT) organized the African Peacebuilding Network Writing and Dissemination Training Workshop. The three-day event took place from 11th to 13th of December 2017 in Rabat, the Kingdom of Morocco.

The workshop brought together the 2017 cohort of APN grantees made up of 16 researchers and practitioners from eleven African countries, five resource persons and lecturers from Nigeria, Canada, and the United States. The workshop afforded the grantees with the opportunity to present their research findings in the form of draft manuscripts to their peers as well as mentors, receive feedback on their manuscripts, network with each other, mentors, AIPECT colleagues and practitioners in Morocco’s leading research and policy institutions. Apart from the plenary lectures and one-one-one working sessions during the workshop, participants also visited places of interest in Rabat, including the parliament, National Human Rights Council-Morocco (CNDH-Maroc), and the Rabita Mohammadia des Oulemas, the Hassan Tower, and the tomb of Mohammed V.

The opening session of the workshop features two speeches deliver by special guests, Mr. Mohamed Ayat, a special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Cooperation with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Mr. Phinith Chanthalangsy, the head of the Social and Human Sciences at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) office for the Maghreb in Rabat. Welcome remarks were also made by Dr. Cyril Obi the Program Director for APN-SSRC, and Dr. Mohamed Gain, President of AIPECT.

Dr. Thomas Tieku, an associate professor of political science at King’s University College, Western University in Ontario, delivered the first lecture at the workshop on the topic ‘’Perspectives to Peacebuilding in Africa: An Overview.’’ His lecture made strong references on the political situation in Africa as well as highlighting the main sources of conflict and factors hindering the peace and stability of the continent. Dr. Tieku spoke to the link between inequitable distribution of natural resources, and  ineffective governance and violent conflict. He also emphasized the need to promote peacebuilding by inculcating values of peace into the minds of African citizens. He also suggested giving equal opportunities to all citizens without discrimination as a way of promoting peace and good governance.

The second lecture was delivered by Professor Mohammed Ahmed Gain, president of AIPECT on the topic of “African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the challenge of Peace and Security in North Africa.” Mr. Gain introduced APSA as an AU framework for promoting and institutionalizing peace in Africa, and then focused his presentation on the extent to which APSA was operational in North Africa and the neighboring Sahel region of West Africa. His presentation drew attention to the relationship between  regional peace and security and peacebuilding in Africa. The lecture was followed by interventions from the audience during the question and answer session.

After lunch and coffee break intervals, a third lecture was given by Dr. Yolande Bouka on ‘’Transforming Research Findings into Policy Inputs: Things to Note When writing for a Policy Audience’’.

She identified the various forms of writing for policy audiences, and strongly emphasized the importance of knowing the policy audience and issues well, connecting policy advice to existing literature, while maintaining high ethical standards, independence and commitment to taking their time in order to have the desired impact through their policy-related writing.  

The presentation was followed with a question and answer session, after which Yolande made some suggestions on how to create and maintain a good relationship with their targeted policy-makers, including effective lobbying and negotiating skills.

The lecture was followed by the first meeting of the small workshop working groups during which participants presented and received feedback on their draft manuscripts.

The second day of the workshop Dr. Rhuks Ako, a fellow in the Institute for Oil, Gas, Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (OGEES) at Afe Babalola University, Nigeria gave a presentation on “Understanding the Gaps in Natural Resource-Conflict Nexus in African Peacebuilding.”

He elucidated on the importance of linking local resource conflicts to global issues, and explored the main theoretical approaches to resource conflict. According to Dr. Ako, major drivers of respurce conflict include inequitable distribution of our natural resources; and environmental injustices. To prevent such conflict, he called on participants to have a better understanding of the gaps between governance, politics and access to natural resources.

Dr. Ako’s presentation was followed by the audience’s interventions on this topic shedding more light on to the main points.

The next lecture was by Dr. Amy Niang, a senior lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the University of The Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and a member of APN advisory board. She spoke to the topic,  ‘’Strategies for Disseminating Research Findings through Peer-reviewed Journals.’’ Her presentation dwelled on the issue of writing for journals as a field of practice, noting the Dos and Don’ts; the norms and rules, as well as the aspect of philosophy and ideologies of academic writing. She also described the  fundamental principles of writing, taking into consideration the need for awareness about the skills needed for academic writing, locating interventions in existing literature and debates,  while urging participants to choose the right and appropriate medium to disseminate their research findings. Dr. Niang also emphasized the need to build a strong and effective social networking system, and develop  efficient ways of tapping/accessing information from the right source.

Her lecture like earlier presentations was followed by the audience’s interventions on the topic.

The workshop then broke up into working sessions featuring “One-on-One consultations’’ where mentors gave feedback and advice to members of their groups. When the sessions ended, participants went as a group to visit some national institutions in Morocco. All the participants attended a plenary session of the House of the Senate, and later met Mr. Mohamed Belekbir, the president of the Institute of Research on Values of Rabita Mohammedia of Scholars.

The first lecture on the third day of the workshop was delivered by Dr. Duncan Omanga who currently serves as the Head of Department of Publishing and Media Studies at Moi University in Kenya. His presentation was on ‘’Disseminating Research Findings through New and Social Media and Web-Based Platforms: What Works Best, Why and How?’’

He started his talk by emphasizing the importance of scholars’ engaging their audiences directly and in  more creative and interactive ways. He urged participants to fully explore the opportunities provided by social media platforms (Twitter, Blogs, researchgate, academia.edu, etc.) as ways of disseminating and making their research more visible and impactful.

Dr. Omanga among others, recommended starting out as a guest blogger, and developing certain soft skills (listening approach) so that one can get to familiarize oneself with the platforms, and how everything works. Engaging in academic writing is one effective way that can engage key audiences on certain topics that will be beneficial to the new blogger.

Many questions followed his presentation as participants were eager to learn more about the pros and cons of using new and social media to promote their work.

The lecture was followed by a roundtable on ’Writing on African Peacebuilding: Reflections on Personal Experiences’’. It featured Dr. Ismail Rashid a professor of history at Vassar College, New York, and was moderated by Ms. Jihad Balghzal from Prometheus Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.

Dr. Ismail reflected on his personal experience back in the early internet days, a group that allowed scholars to publish and showcase their work. Coming from a former Ebola affected country Sierra Leon, Dr. Ismail shared some of his work with the audience centered on the effective research done on his motherland all geared towards constricting the impact of Ebola in Africa.

He described Ebola as a Neoliberal crisis noting that it has caused a lot of controversy and many unanswered questions.

He also shared his thoughts on the characteristics of an ideal book, saying that having different kinds of conceptual framework relating to different readers to catch their attention is a way forward to engage their audiences.  

The roundtable was followed by a plenary report-back session during which a representative of each working group shared their experience of the workshop with all participants. Professor Gain followed these presentations with a brief recapitulation of the three-day experience, followed by DR. Obi’s closing remarks and vote of thanks. He left the participants with a thoughtful advice to take up responsibilities and be a helping hand to the upcoming young writers and researchers to grow into their desired career paths.

AIPECT has mobilized all the necessary logistics to make the workshop successful. The staff of the institute spared no effort to ensure an easy going for the workshop. National media were also invited to cover the event and the visits to the parliament. In addition, APN’s partner has carried out all the agreed tasks related to printing work, the venue arrangements, and all other undertakings to facilitate the work of lecturers and resource persons. Equally important, AIPECT has planned a program of visits to different institutions for the participants to know more about the host country.

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