Summer School 2018
The highlight of the third – and for the time being last – period of the project “Academic Approaches to Peace-building and State-building in Yemen” was our summer school of ‘Recovery and Reconstruction beyond the Emergency’. From 24-29 July, we invited Yemeni and German doctoral and graduate students, practitioners, and researchers to a six-day summer school in Amman, Jordan. Against the backdrop of the ongoing war, the presentations and discussions of the 2018 summer school addressed the challenges involved in linking short-term relief and humanitarian assistance with long-term reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts already during armed conflict in Yemen.
The summer school started with freeze frames and story-telling exercises to get to know each other – especially to learn about our own positionality as academics as well as that of our colleagues. To introduce the summer school’s sessions on qualitative (interview) research methods, the researcher’s own positionality in the preparation of an interview was emphasized alongside aspects of anonymity, data protection, and the security of interviewees. Following a brief exercise in a “Not like that”-theatre play, interview techniques were practiced during our meetings with invited experts. On the one hand, we had academics and experts from Yemen and Germany who spoke about the current work of CSOs and the situation in the fields of water management, micro finance, traditional performative genres for negotiating social affairs in tribal communities and the role of women in informal peacebuilding-processes. On the other hand, we had experts from the World Bank, the UN Development Programme and UN Women who presented important facets of their work in and for Yemen. For the Q&A-session after the presentations, participants formed four groups corresponding to the four main sectors of peacebuilding: political framework, security, justice & reconciliation, and socio-economic well-being. Each of these groups will present their findings in a short essay that will also be published on this website.
The academic programme was complemented by a trip to the Amman Citadel and Roman theatre and completed by a delicious dinner in a Yemeni restaurant afterwards. Although there was no German restaurant, we did uncover a bakery selling German pastries and hope that we might invite our Yemeni friends to a dinner in Germany someday in a more peaceful future.
From 13-17 January, our first activity for the year 2018 in the framework of our project took place in Amman. We came together for a paper-writing workshop in order to work on policy briefs to be published in the framework of this project. The topics of these briefs center around the following issues: development versus humanitarian relief in times of conflict; the role of women in peacebuilding on the local level in Yemen; and the shrinking space for CSO activism in Yemen. Moreover, we used this workshop to prepare for our upcoming summer school in July or August of this year, which will take place under the broader topic of ‘recovery and reconstruction beyond emergency relief’.
On 25 November we concluded our activities of 2017 with a conference on “Academic Approaches to Peacebuilding and Statebuilding in Yemen” in Amman. In three panels our Yemeni colleagues as well as our German colleague Mareike Transfeld presented their works on women’s participation, children, youth, education and (mental) health as well as on culture, media and water in politics and peacebuilding to members of the international community working on Yemen, including the German Ambassador to Yemen, HE Hansjörg Haber. As the Ambassador noted in his opening remarks and is shown by the positive feedback of the audience this conference (as well as the project itself) was and is a rare opportunity of academic exchange with academics and scholars in Yemen. We are looking forward to continuing our cooperation in 2018!
Summer School 2017
From 18-22 August, our second summer school on “Academic Approaches to Peace-building and State-building in Yemen” took place in Amman. Yemeni and German doctoral and graduate students, activists and researchers came together to discuss issues relating to state-building in times of (violent) conflict, our own roles in research and a range of topics relating to the conflict in Yemen. Even though the airport in Sana’a remains closed nearly all our participants from Yemen were able to join us in Amman. Everyone appreciated the long and dangerous way they took to the airport in Aden in order to be part of this summer school, especially given the fact that one Yemeni student was unable to participate because he was kidnapped two days prior to the beginning of their journey.
We started our summer school with small presentations, freeze frames and story-telling exercises that served the get to know one another and to learn about our own positionality and that of our colleagues as academics. We also discussed experiences with conflict in our own lives as well as gaps in the dissemination and reception of academic output worldwide. The introduction slots were completed with group work in which we presented and discussed about our ongoing or finished research projects, methodologies used and problems encountered. A main focus of our summer school was placed on group work that served to identify, discuss and elaborate on the benefits and pitfalls of supporting local governance institutions in times of (violent) conflict, amongst others through a writing exercise that will lead to a publication in the framework of this project. This program was complemented by theatrical enactments of experiences with local governance as well as presentations on Yemen focusing on mental health issues, waste management, the performance of local councils, the governance of water and gender-related issues, security sector reform and education.
From 09-13 April 2017, the researchers involved in this project came together for a joint workshop in Amman. This five-day workshop served two purposes: Firstly, to prepare the upcoming summer school on ‘academic approaches to peace-building and state-building in Yemen’, which was planned for the second half of August 2017. Amongst others, it was decided that this summer school would seek to further our academic knowledge on addressing local governance in times of conflict, respective fields of practice as well as approaches and challenges to peace-building and state-building (in Yemen) and to jointly develop our skills pertaining to critical academic analysis and positioning as much as to understanding and accepting differences and to expressing one’s own interests. Secondly, the researchers involved also underwent training in alternative methods of teaching to broaden the scope of their own teaching methodologies. This training was provided by Hamida Sarah Behr, who works at the Faculty of Education at the University of Hamburg.
From 04-08 December, our final activity for 2016 in the framework of our project “Academic Approaches to Peace-building (in Yemen)” took place in Amman. We came together for a conference turned paper-writing workshop in order to work on policy briefs to be published in the framework of this project. The topics of these briefs will center around the following issues: gender equality, water and peacebuilding in Yemen; international intervention and the failure of the Yemeni peacebuilding process; posttraumatic stress disorder among Yemeni children as a consequence of the war; inclusion of peacebuilding in corporate social responsibility; the exploitation of Yemen’s oil wealth by the elite; and investigating the failure of the transitional justice process in Yemen.
Summer School 2016
From 07-12 September, we hosted a Summer School on “Academic Approaches to Peace-building (in Yemen)” in Amman. Yemeni and German doctoral and graduate students, activists and researchers came together for six days of extensive and lively discussions that were marked by tears as well as laughter, but most importantly mutual respect and understanding. Due to the closure of Sanaa Airport, several colleagues and graduate students of GDRSC were unfortunately unable to join. We were thus particularly grateful to Yemeni colleagues and students based in Amman for their willingness to join us in our program and awed by the personal risks two male students from GDRSC took by traveling from Sanaa to Say’un in Hadhramawt to fly from there to Amman to join us as well as by the determination of colleagues and students in Sanaa to be involved in our exercises from afar.
The topics of our Summer School addressed questions of international (academic) approaches to peace-building and concepts of the nation-state. An important theme of the entire Summer School was the question of positionality and how we as (future) scholars approach the question of peace and peace-building in our research and writing. In the framework of story-telling exercises, freeze frames and theatrical enactments, writing exercises, presentations and discussions, we approached our title theme from many different aspects. Particularly valuable were the presentations of Yemeni colleagues involved in (peace-building) initiatives for Yemen in and outside the country as well as the frankness of the German Ambassador, Andreas Kindl, in a Q&A session on September 06.
From 11-12 May 2016, the researchers involved in this project came together for a kick-off workshop in Amman. This two-day workshop served to get to know one another better and to familiarize ourselves with the professional interests of the other academics, particularly also with view to the writing of papers in the framework of this project. Moreover, we agreed on joint objectives for the project in general and the upcoming summer school specifically. Amongst others, we hope that by providing evidence-based research and valid recommendations on peace-building issues, we can contribute not only to peace-building in Yemen as such, but also to enhancing awareness of policy-makers about the complexity and interconnectedness of these matters. For the upcoming summer school, the structure for which we planned as well, we hope to not only contribute to enhancing the knowledge of our German and Yemeni participants about peace-building theories, fields of practice and approaches in Yemen, but also to provide them with skills pertaining to critical academic analysis and positioning as much as to understanding and accepting differences and to expressing their own interests.
We are particularly grateful to the German-Jordanian University for providing us with a room for our meeting and to the DAAD Information Center Amman for logistical assistance in the preparation and implementation of the workshop.