Zones of Peace During Times of War

Pushpa Iyer, Assistant Professor, Monterey Institute of International Studies

For millennia, citizens of war-torn regions have sought refuge from violence, establishing protective safe havens—on a mountaintop, amid a forest, in a temple—that would shield the most vulnerable from the ravages of armed conflict.

During the past few decades, though, the notion of conflict-free areas established during and after wartime has gained added currency with the widespread creation of so-called “zones of peace.” This was the subject of Pushpa Iyer’s lecture, “Hate, Harmony, and Homo sapiens: Zones of Peace amidst War,” which took place on a recent autumn afternoon at Middlebury’s Rohatyn Center for International Affairs. An assistant professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Iyer was visiting Middlebury as this fall’s featured speaker for Global Vision, Global Reach: The Middlebury-Monterey Lecture Series.

As a graduate student at George Mason University in 2002, Iyer joined a research group at the school’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution that was studying local zones of peace in various countries in civil conflict. Out of this research came a series of case studies that developed a framework for how to examine different types of peace zones.

As she explained in her lecture, zones can be geographical (a literal zone with set boundaries), temporal (a cease fire during a specific time), and personal (segments of society—women and children, for example—are protected). The zones can be created during war, during a peace process, or tied to peace building goals after a peace agreement has been reached.

In her research, Iyer has found that the most effective—and therefore lasting—zones of peace have been those established with community buy-in (as opposed to imposition by outside parties); when the community, including warring factions, are responsible for establishing and promoting sanctions; and when the goals of the zones are incremental and built into a peace process.

Iyer’s entire lecture, as well as a question and answer session can be viewed here.

Her research papers addressing zones of peace can be found here.

The Middlebury-Monterey Lecture Series was established in 2009 as a means of promoting shared expertise and education through the exchange of faculty speakers.

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