Last weekend was once again the Day of Peace of Westphalia. We are taking this as an opportunity to present an exciting programme currently in the works: the Münster International Peace Research Initiative (MIPRI). Similar to WiRe, MIPRI aims to promote and bring together international junior researchers. But let’s return briefly to the Day of Peace of Westphalia. What does the day commemorate again?

What is celebrated on October 24th, the Day of Peace of Westphalia?

A very long time ago, on October 24, 1648, the Peace of Westphalia was officially signed in the cities of Münster and Osnabrück. The signing was a uniquely positive development for the people of Europe since the Treaty put an end to both the Eighty (!) and Thirty Years’ (!) war, bringing a thankful close to a brutal period of conflict over political power and religious supremacy that wreaked deadly havoc across Europe.

The Westphalian Peace Treaty was groundbreaking in the sense that it was one of the first peace treaties to be at least partially negotiated through diplomatic channels. In fact, some scholars claim that the signing of the Peace Treaty also marked the beginning of international law.

More than 350 years later, the importance of the Treaty’s signing in the Münster City Hall continues to be recognised as a part of the city’s identity. Known as the City of Westphalian Peace, Münster’s city slogan reads “Peace through dialogue”. 

Münster: A City and University commitment to Peace Research

By centering this approach to peace-keeping at the forefront of the city’s future, Münster strives to make use of its history in “assuming responsibility for today and tomorrow when it comes to developing new instruments and procedures for conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peacekeeping” (Stadt Münster, Peace of Westphalia). The University of Münster is also well suited to support further peace-building initiatives: already active since 2007, the Cluster of Excellence for Religion and Politics is one of the largest of its kind in Germany, focusing on the “complex relationship between religion and politics across eras and cultures” (Religion and Politics, Cluster of Excellence).

MIPRI ties in here: The initiative continues Münster’s legacy as an intellectual and geographic locale of peace-building since the signing of the Westphalian Peace Treaty. The MIPRI Peace Research Prize promotes future-oriented ideas in peace and conflict research from international junior scientists, supporting and uniting the scientific and societal potential for sustainable peace-building initiatives. 

But let’s find out more first-hand: We checked in with Dr Erik Tolen, the initiative’s coordinator, for a quick interview to learn more about the MIPRI project:

1. Erik, what is the aim of MIPRI?

MIPRI is an initiative from the University of Münster’s Welcome Centre (a division of the International Office) aiming to further position Münster as an intellectual and geographical locale for peace and conflict related research. We also want to advance top-notch international research cooperation with our international partners: PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo), University of California Berkeley, University of São Paulo and University of Hiroshima. The project is currently funded by the German Research Foundation. 

2. Why the focus on Münster in particular? 

Well, as you have mentioned above, Münster has a rich history in peace-building dating back to the singing of the Westphalian Peace Treaty. Connections between Münster and peace-building activities are widely recognized at regional, national, and international levels; every two years the Wirtschaftliche Gesellschaft für Westfalen und Lippe (WWL) awards the International Prize of the Peace of Westphalia, honoring personalities or representatives of states and groups who have shown particular commitment to European integration.

Besides the rich history of the city, the University of Münster, especially its Cluster of Excellence for Religion and Politics, also provides a strong foundation for excellent research opportunities, not only, but also in peace and conflict related research. In fact, the unique combination of the city’s history and peace tradition and excellent and innovative research at the university make Münster the perfect starting point for MIPRI.

3. How are you going to support international junior scientists?

MIPRI has a very exciting support offer for junior scientists: We will award several peace research prizes for international junior researchers!

Our future MIPRI prize winners will be two PhD students in the later stages of their studies and two postdoctoral candidates in the early/mid phase of their postdoc studies. The recipients are meant to use the prize money to realize their research ideas in conjunction with a WWU-based professor who can help guide the prize winners in their research endeavors. The awardees also have the possibility to present their research at the upcoming Münster Summit, proving an open podium for engaging with other scientists at the WWU as well as the local community on pressing topics in peace and conflict research fields.

MIPRI thus complements and supplements the prestigious International Peace of Westphalia Prize: while the latter is awarded biannually to persons who have rendered outstanding active services to Europe and peace, the Münster International Peace Research Prizes will be awarded to junior scientists for the completion of outstanding research ideas in overcoming conflicts and sustaining peace.

4. And when will you open the call for the Peace Research Prizes for junior scientists?

We expect to open the call for the Peace Research Prizes by Mid-November of 2021, with applications will be accepted until Mid-January. For non-applicants, of interest to the general public will be the Münster Summit, in a year from now. Planned for October 2022, this will be an exciting event revolving around themes of sustainability, peace and conflict, and other important interdisciplinary topics. MIPRI will of course be active and involved in the Summit!

5. How can we stay informed about the project?

MIPRI will be represented over a variety of social media platforms, the university Website, and we will also keep the WiRe community informed. Besides the Peace Research Prize, MIPRI is also building an interactive platform called the PeaceHUB. Here, we wanted to connect all the actors that are involved in the Peace and Research community at the local, national, and international levels. If all goes as planned, the PeaceHUB will go online in spring 2022. This resource will not be limited exclusively to researchers, but aims to serve as a platform for exchange, where non-experts can come into conversation with the researchers, making peace-building accessible to everyone interested. Keep an eye out for further announcements on social media and university channels for updates on the PeaceHUB as well as the Peace Research Prize.

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Works cited:

Stadt Münster, Peace of Westphalia: https://www.stadt-muenster.de/en/tourismus/peace-of-westphalia

Religion and Politics, Cluster of Excellence: https://www.uni-muenster.de/Religion-und-Politik/en/forschung/index.html 

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