Coventry academic to receive top peace award in Washington

Professor Alpaslan Özerdem to receive International Peace Medal in recognition of his achievements and outstanding leadership

A senior academic in Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) is to be honoured with one of Nigeria’s foremost peace awards at a ceremony in the United States’ capital city later this month.

Alpaslan Özerdem, professor of peacebuilding and co-director of CTPSR, will receive the International Peace Medal of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) in recognition of his lifetime achievements and outstanding leadership in the field of peacebuilding. 

The accolade will be awarded at a ceremony at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) – just a few moments’ walk from the White House in Washington – during which Professor Özerdem will deliver a speech on the challenges of peacebuilding in a contemporary world. 

As part of the ceremony around the award, Professor Özerdem has also been invited to attend the 70th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York – a landmark meeting between heads of states and governments which is set to tackle issues around poverty, inequality and climate change beyond 2015.

Professor Özerdem was nominated to receive the medal by over 89,000 members of the PCN, which is an affiliate of UNESCO and whose commitment to peace and youth development has seen it granted special consultative status by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 

“To be awarded such an esteemed accolade by the Peace Corps of Nigeria gives me great pride and pleasure. It will be an honour to receive the medal at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.’

Professor Özerdem’s work has seen him engage extensively with communities in Nigeria in recent years to help with peacebuilding initiatives and the prevention of ethno-religious conflict in the country. 

Speaking about the award, Professor Özerdem – who is also involved with the organisation of the forthcoming RISING global peace forum in Coventry – said: “To be awarded such an esteemed accolade by the Peace Corps of Nigeria gives me great pride and pleasure. It will be an honour to receive the medal at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.

“In many ways the medal is a reflection of the achievement across all levels of peacebuilding activity in our Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, and of the world-leading work being carried out with different groups in many different countries. I hope it will serve to raise the profile of those efforts and to inspire more people to take on the challenge of preventing conflict and promoting peace. 

“The award is also an indication of the strong relationships that are being forged between the higher education sector in the UK and the international community, and underlines just how important it is to build bridges and exert a positive influence around the world for sustainable peacebuilding. Universities like Coventry, whose ambitions are to achieve genuine impact through research, are playing an increasingly prominent role in these kinds of dialogue.” 

The International Peace Medal award follows recent praise by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for a CTPSR research project led by Professor Özerdem into the role played by religious groups in preventing violent conflict. 

Archbishop Welby used a House of Lords debate to highlight the centre’s EPSRC-funded ‘Faith-based conflict prevention’ project – on which Professor Özerdem is collaborating with the Anglican Alliance, Coventry Cathedral and the Archbishop himself – as an effective way to promote peace and prevent conflict through non-military means.

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