The International Day of Peace, celebrated on 21 September each year, is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace among all nations and peoples. To mark the occasion, we interviewed Chevening Alumnus Dr Joseph Peter Ochogwu (2004) who studied an MA in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. Joseph now works at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja, Nigeria, and shares his experience working toward a more peaceful world.

Why did you decide to study Peace Studies?

Nigeria and the entire continent of Africa suffer frequent and recurrent violent conflicts making poverty endemic and development always in reverse. The missing link in the prevalence of violent conflicts in Nigeria and Africa is the absence of resolution and its protracted nature. The specific expertise to analyze conflict issues and provide science-based response was grossly inadequate in the country as most practitioners and scholars come into the peace-field with personal and disciplinary biases. Studying Peace Studies at the University of Bradford was to expose me to the rigours of relevant academic and professional skills in the field of conflict prevention, management, and resolution. The study in Bradford exposed me to the methodological, theoretical, and practical nuances of peace and conflict studies.

Describe your current role. How did studying Peace Studies, and in the UK more broadly, contribute to your career?

My current role at the Institute entails peace and conflict research, training, and advocacy towards providing relevant policy advice for the government of Nigeria and other stakeholders. I take a lead position in promoting methodological approaches to conflict mitigation activities and programme management strategies that promote peace-building, conflict transformation, resolution, policy analysis, and national development. Currently, I am involved in the peacebuilding efforts in the north east of Nigeria by training of local stakeholders on community peacebuilding, and training of volunteers on the reporting mechanism for children and armed conflict. Equally, I was part of the team that carried out the strategic conflict assessment of the north east zone of Nigeria. Most of the programmes are funded by the UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP, and the DFID’s Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP).

Joseph with fellow Chevening Scholar, James Pukuma, who has worked with UNICEF in Adamawa State in north east Nigeria for ten years.

Studying Peace studies in Bradford, UK provided me the right disciplinary orientation and equipped me with the academic and research skills to effectively carry out my work with confidence and expertise. At the Institute and in-country, I direct the formulation of arbitration linkages, dialogue, and negotiations in conflict and post-conflict communities in a cross-cutting manner. The knowledge and exposure gained from Bradford enabled me to carry out short-term consultancy services with international development institutions. I participate in security sector reforms at the national, regional, and international levels. Also, I’m involved in parliamentary institution-building, democratisation process, electoral reform, and election observation with in-country experiences in Nigeria. I provide senior level peace-building and conflict advisories, as well as technical assistances on conflict prevention, management, and resolution approaches in Nigeria and within the West Africa region. These were all possible courtesy of my experience as a Chevening Scholar at the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, United Kingdom from 2004 to 2005.

What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years in this area?

In the next five years, my work will focus on the north east of Nigeria where the Boko Haram terrorist group created one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world. I will be providing research, training, and advocacy services to local communities and development partners that will help in the rebuilding of the region. My major intervention areas are on research and documentation, reconciliation, confidence building for affected persons, and providing livelihood skill support in the north east of Nigeria.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a career in this area, what would it be?

A career in peace studies will provide you with a life of fulfilment as you are working to mend broken inter-personal and inter-group relationships. You are contributing to the development of humanity with your acquired skills, and building your nation and the world in general. It is just the right career to work in a challenging environment and make a positive difference.

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