AC4 profile in Nature
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Conflict and Peace Studies at Columbia University
I see the function of the [conflict and peace community at Columbia University] as developing the theory, research and practice which will help people, groups and nations to cooperate effectively in dealing with the problems they face, and manage their inevitable conflicts constructively so they avoid such destructive consequences as humiliation, injustice, severe losses, violence and war. This work, if done well and communicated widely, will foster more harmonious, peaceful, just and effective cooperation in dealing with the problems people face at all levels of human life from the interpersonal to the global.
The field of conflict resolution has a rich 75 year-old history of scholarship supported by rigorous, systematic research. It first emerged as a mature discipline after World War II, led by the seminal works of William James, Kurt Lewin, Mary Parker Follett, Anatole Rappaport, Kenneth Boulding, and Morton Deutsch. In 1970, Deutsch came to Columbia University, where he conducted most of his groundbreaking research on constructive conflict and justice, and where in 1986 he founded the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR), an innovative center committed to developing knowledge and practice to promote constructive conflict resolution, effective cooperation, and social justice.
Deutsch, one of the world’s most eminent psychologists and peace scholars, trained several generations of the field’s most productive and influential academic leaders in conflict resolution. These individuals include Barbara Bunker, Peter T. Coleman, Michele Fine, David Johnson, Ken Kressel, Roy Lewicki, Susan Opotow, and Jeff Rubin.
Columbia has been home to many other outstanding peace and conflict scholars such as Andrea Bartoli, Joel Brockner, Aldo Civico, Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Robert Jervis, Robert Krause, Elizabeth A. Lindenmayer, and Betty Reardon. In working across multiple disciplines, these scholars have allowed Columbia University to become a central hub of activity for work pertaining to conflict resolution theory, research, education, and practice.
AC4‘s Launch in 2009
The study of perplexing problems such as protracted conflict, climate change, and sustainable peace requires an approach to research that moves beyond traditionally siloed disciplines, and brings them together in a manner that reflects the complexity of the problems we seek to understand and rectify. However, today, there is little collaborative interdisciplinary work being conducted in the areas of peace, conflict, violence prevention, and sustainability. AC4 was born out of the idea that creating sustainable peace and fostering constructive conflict resolution require the expertise of many disciplines and areas of practice, along with the merging of top-down policy approaches with the bottom-up knowledge generated through the lived experience of communities and practitioners.
In 2009, Peter T. Coleman, Beth Fisher-Yoshida, and Andrea Bartoli, launched the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4), along with the Masters of Science Program in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (NECR) at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies.
The consortium was established to act as a coordinating agent to facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration between existing institutes, centers, scholars, and practitioners at Columbia University. The primary objective of AC4 is to bring together people and institutions from a variety of disciplines to tackle complex problems with increasingly integrated understandings, methodologies, and solutions.
With increased staff and capacity, AC4 now conducts research, holds roundtable discussions and workshops, provides fellowships for innovative graduate research, and releases blogs and publications. AC4 has grown beyond its original iteration, adding four signature research initiatives to its roster, acknowledging that intersectional perspectives must be prioritized in order for sustainable peace to be achieved:
Environment, Peace and Sustainability
Women, Peace and Security
Youth, Peace and Security
Complexity, Peace and Sustainability
AC4 is housed at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, a multidisciplinary research institute aimed at addressing complex global problems. AC4’s focus on the study of peace, conflict, violence, and sustainability falls solidly within the central concerns and objectives of the Earth Institute.
Today, the consortium, along with its partners and affiliates, continues to contribute to the growth of theory, research, practice and education in conflict resolution.