By itself, a military approach to conflict and international security issues won't solve those problems, says Shelly Whitman.
That's a remarkable attitude coming from someone employed by Dalhousie's Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, which is funded primarily through the Department of National Defence, publishes the war machine-friendly Canadian Naval Review and hosts regular conferences on weaponry advances.
But Whitman is creating the Peace Praxis Institute within the Centre, designed to bring a wider perspective to foreign policy issues.
"This is the way forward," she says. "Everyone has to grasp the idea that you can't achieve development without achieving security, and you can't achieve security without achieving development."
Beyond talking to military people about long-term approaches to peace, the Peace Praxis Institute aims to bring together academics with people working on the ground to implement policy.
Its first project is the creation of a field guide on child soldiers to be used by peacekeeping forces and humanitarians working in war zones. This week, academic researchers meet with nine former child soldiers for an intensive two-day session.
"No one has asked them what they see from their perspective," says Whitman. "We'll be asking specifics about their training, how they survived, how children come up with strategies to avoid certain tasks and for survival."
That information will be used to write a draft of the manual, which will then be circulated through two humanitarian organizations working in Africa to be field tested. The feedback from people working in the field will make a more user-friendly and effective final edition.
Three of the former child soldiers will be giving public lectures this week (see Events listings on page 10 for details). Proceeds from the lectures will underwrite the costs of flying the six others to Halifax.