Last week, Professor Ismail Rashid officially began his tenure as the African Peacebuilding Network’s Advisory Board chair. The following interview with Professor Ismail Rashid was conducted during an event on “Peacebuilding in Africa: Sustaining Inclusive Civil Society Engagement,” hosted by the APN in collaboration with Wilton Park and the African Leadership Centre (ALC), at Wiston House in West Sussex, England. Professor Ismail Rashid served as one of the panelists for the session on “Youth, Peace, and Security: Review and Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250,” and as the expert lead for the Mano River region during the session on “Moving Forward: Roles and Responsibilities.” The interview was conducted on March 21, 2017. It has been edited for length and clarity.
APN Team: Congratulations upon becoming the chair of the APN Advisory Board, and thank you for sitting down with us. First, what are your impressions of the conference? What do you think about having some APN grantees and alumni in attendance?
Prof. Ismail Rashid: I think it has been a stimulating and engaging process over the past three days. We saw a continuation in the discussion of some of the themes around African peacebuilding that we had discussed in the last two Wilton Park-ALC-APN meetings. But we also heard new ideas and analyses, especially since this time the theme revolved around the role of civil society in peacebuilding.
I was very pleased to hear the contributions of our APN grantees and alumni, especially to see how much their ideas have developed over time. They gave me the opportunity to reflect on what the APN does very well, which includes supporting research, and providing an environment for scholars to share their research findings with others.
I know how valued you are to our grantees as a mentor. Can you share your vision for the APN?
I find working with rising African scholars a mutually beneficial and transformative experience. I learn as much from our grantees as I hope they do from me. It is my hope that the APN would continue to be a leading light in the field of peacebuilding in Africa, and beyond; and that we would consolidate our very innovative grant programs, its mentorship for its grantees, and its support for networking and publishing opportunities. I would like to see our existing partnerships with African universities, research institutes, and African regional economic communities strengthened. Finally, I would like to see the APN become one of main knowledge hubs for innovative scholarship, policy ideas, and useful information on various topics relating to peacebuilding in Africa.
What challenges do you foresee in the coming years?
As the APN moves forward, we have to sustain the very high quality of the programs that the APN has provided for prospective applicants, grantees, and alumni. These include the proposal development workshops for developing their applications and developing their ideas. There are also specialized workshops that prepare grantees to go out to the field to conduct their research; and after their fieldwork, there are writing and dissemination workshops to help them prepare their research for publication. Overall, the workshops are intensive, rigorous, and expensive processes, and sustaining them at the level and quality that have been offered to previous grantees over the last four to five years will be a challenge.
Secondly, the APN has to increase its financial and human resources to support the ever-expanding number of high-quality applications that it receives annually. We have to work to create more opportunities for our grantees and alumni to build and expand their research networks, publication opportunities, and dissemination platforms. While the APN aims to support alumni in all of these areas, the needs always exceed the available resources.
Despite these challenges, the prospects of the APN remain bright; thanks to the indefatigable leadership of its Program Director, Dr. Obi, and his dynamic staff, its committed advisory board, and the strong backing of the SSRC and Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Thank you very much for your time, insight, and dedication to the APN, and best wishes for the rest of your term as Advisory Board Chair.
Professor Ismail Rashid grew up in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and has been teaching at Vassar College since 1998. He received a PhD in African History from McGill University, Canada. His primary teaching interests are modern African history, African diaspora and Pan-Africanism, and international relations. His wide-ranging research interests include subaltern resistance against colonialism, and conflicts, security and peacebuilding in contemporary Africa. Among his recent publications are West Africa’s Security Challenges (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004); The Paradoxes of History and Memory in Postcolonial Sierra Leone (Lexington Books, 2013), co-edited with Sylvia Ojukutu-Macauley; and The Ebola Epidemic in West Africa: Towards a Political Economy (Zed, forthcoming October 15, 2017, co-edited with Ibrahim Abdullah).