The School

The Engaging Conflict Summer School is a comprehensive learning experience that combines inputs and lectures by subject matter experts and practitioners with participatory activities in an informal, yet challenging environment.

The Summer School is structured around two intensive weeks, from Monday to Friday. 


Theoretical and Conceptual Approaches to Conflict and Violence

This module is designed to examine the various approaches that have been developed to understand conflict in its different forms with a particular focus on contemporary research on the causes, effects and dynamics of intrastate conflicts and civil wars. The module also provides an opportunity to examine emerging approaches to conflict and to look at the extent to which theory is evolving to keep up with rapid changes in different conflict environments.

• Féron 1: Introductive remarks and the role of ethnicity and religion in conflict

• Féron 2: Territory and conflicts: from local to transnational approaches

• Féron 3: Socio-economic dimensions of conflicts

• Féron 4: Gender and conflicts

• Féron 5: Conflict prevention and early warning

The Challenges of Peacebuilding

The module is designed to provide a comprehensive and critical overview of the international community’s efforts over the past two decades to bring “lasting peace and stability” to societies affected by war and protracted conflict.

• Berdal 1: The UN's peacebuilding record, 1990 to 2020: issues and challenges

• Berdal 2:  The political economy of reconstruction: violence and order in ‘post-conflict societies'

Climate change and fragility: exploring the links, learning to respond

This session will provide an introduction to the links between climate change, fragility and conflict, and share some of the tools, approaches and emerging lesson learned on how to address climate-related fragility risks by linking climate change adaptation and peacebuilding.  After challenging each other in a short ‘Climate quiz’, the participants will be introduced to the concept of climate-related fragility risks, drawing on those identified in the report “10 Insights on Climate Impacts and Peace”, a recent assessment report prepared by adelphi and the Potsdam Institute of climate impact research. To give participants a better sense of how climate-related fragility risks can play out in specific contexts, the case of the Lake Chad region will also be presented, based on the findings of the report “Shoring up Stability – Addressing Climate and Fragility Risks in the Lake Chad Region”. The participants will then be divided into groups and tasked with identifying three countries or regions that might emerge as climate-fragility hotspots, assessing possible criteria and indicators for their identification, and start thinking of how the UN system could respond to climate-related fragility risks. The groups will then present key insights from their work and discuss them with the other participants and the trainers in the plenary session. Indicative questions to address will be: Where are climate-fragility hotspots, and by what criteria can they be identified? How are they relevant, and what can the UN system do to address climate-related fragility risks there?

In 2003 the EU celebrated the fact that the world was more peaceful than it had ever been but that was before ISIS, and Ukraine. 

Peace is a work in progress. War is one of the most resilient human activities; it is has evolutionary possibilities that have still to be realised; it has not yet reached an evolutionary dead end.

• Coker 1: Why war can’t be eliminated

Mainstreaming climate security into UN peace building work: challenges and opportunities, a practitioners' perspective


Learning Portfolio Manager, UNSSC


Environmental Advisor to Somalia, UN Environment Programme


Gender, Climate and Security Advisor, UN Environment Programme


Programme Policy Officer, Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation, World Food Programme


People and Peacebuilding

People are often ‘written out’ of peacebuilding. Programmes and initiatives aimed at peace are often top-down, remote and template-style. This module looks at how and why people have been marginalized in many approaches to peacebuilding. It also examines the very real capacity for people to engage in reconciliation and peacemaking. The module will engage with theories and concepts, and draw on multiple examples from around the world.

• Mac Ginty 1: Technocracy and peacebuilding

• Mac Ginty 2: Everyday peacebuilding

A Political Sociology of Civil Wars

International Relations (IR) and Political Science predominantly analyse civil wars from a positivist perspective: rebels are commonly viewed as strategic actors engaged in rational contestations over power with the state. This module proposes an alternative analytic: political sociology. The first session revisits contemporary debates on the internal politics of armed groups and rebel governance by honing into the social fabric of armed groups, the social contexts within which they operate, and the social orders that emerge in protracted armed conflicts. The second session deploys this perspective on one of the world’s longest ongoing civil wars: the decades-long ethnic conflict in Myanmar and the armed politics that have emerged in the country’s borderlands. Curiously, Myanmar’s civil war is not only one of the longest ongoing armed conflicts in the world. It has also been largely ignored in the study of civil war. The third session consequently deploys a sociological perspective on knowledge production itself. It asks a) why some conflicts have informed our imaginaries of conflict while others have literally fallen off the radar, b) how this uneven empirical landscape of knowing and ignorance shapes our conceptual outlook in conflict studies, and c) how attending to the empirical silences by way of area studies insights can help to disrupt established paradigms.

• Brenner 1: Civil war: a political sociology perspective

• Brenner 2: Rebel politics: the case of Myanmar

Security Challenges of the 21st Century

This module explores major security challenges we face in the twenty-first century, examining their evolution and the various approaches that have been taken to understand their causes, effects, and by extension, their solutions. Each session draws on original field research, including interviews with former rebel combatants and current gang-members in cities around the world.  In the session “Urbanisation and Violence” we begin by placing violence in the context of recent unprecedented urban growth. It explores how cities are increasingly sites of contestation in both contemporary civil wars and so-called ‘criminal insurgencies,’ and considers how the blurring of conflict and crime may shape future security and development challenges. Finally, our concluding session looks to another major global challenge that currently dominates the security and development agenda: the threat presented by infectious diseases. We look at the various ways pandemics have been framed as security threats, learning from cases ranging from HIV/AIDS to COVID-19 to help us better understand their actual effects and assess the effectiveness of responses taken across the world.

• Mitton 1: Urbanisation and violence 

• Mitton 2: Infectious diseases as a security threat

SIPRI's Multilateral Peace Operations data: the practise, opportunities and challenges

Working in peace and conflict: practical tools to support peace and minimize harm

In this module we apply the theories we have learnt on conflict analysis and peacebuilding to the context in which aid interventions take place. Our starting point is that of conflict sensitivity and do no harm. The module provides an introduction to Conflict Sensitivity (using examples from Myanmar and Colombia), followed by a case study in which the participants get to collaborate in applying conflict sensitivity to a real aid intervention.