Hivos International

Marije Balt: Hivos Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia Gives Voices to Different Perspectives

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*Marije Balt (MB) is Adjunct Professor at the Department of International Relations, Webster University, Leiden, the Netherlands and director of Spring Factor Research & Consultancy. She is a former diplomat and was team leader of the Stabilisation and Peace Building Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands.

Hivos: How and when did you come to know about Hivos’ Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia?

MB: When my students indicated they wanted to know more about Iraq and the upcoming intervention on ISIS I started looking for experts who could give a guest lecture on this topic. As I am subscribed to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace publications, I saw the article by Kawa Hassan entitled Islamic State is a Consequence not a Cause of the Current Catastrophe, which mentioned that as well as being a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut he also works for Hivos Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia. This was a great coincidence as I was not aware that we had such experts in The Hague.

Hivos: What is your assessment of the impact and relevance of our publications?

MB: The impact and relevance for myself as adjunct professor of International Security at Webster University and our students is substantial. For example, students used and quoted Kawa Hassan’s article in their final papers.

Hivos: Which publication in particular did you use in your work, how and why? What is the target group?

MB: The target group is (mainly American) students and academic instructors. I distributed the short article Islamic State is a consequence, not a cause of the current catastrophe for students to read before the guest lecture by Kawa Hassan, so they knew what positions to expect. During the lecture Kawa Hassan also handed out copies of Hivos’ special bulletin Roots and Futures of Al Qaida Offshoots in Syria by Fidaa Itani, which students used and quoted in their final papers.

Hivos: What would be your advice for the programme in order to further improve its impact and outreach?

MB: I think the outreach of the programme is great! I asked Kawa Hassan at very short notice at a very busy time to give the lecture and he agreed to it. It was an insightful lecture for the students as they had never heard such critical perspective on the crisis in the Middle East before. This is unique and should be cherished; there is a worrying tendency towards uniformity and non-critical approaches towards foreign and security policies, especially those of the Western world. This is where Hivos Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia carves out a clear niche: giving voices to different perspectives! We need this in policy and academic circles. I think the publications are visible and accessible if published through authoritative channels such as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The mailing list is also a good way to stay up to date, also on events where knowledge is shared.

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