Peace Engineering and Innovation Initiative

The Peace Engineering & Innovation Initiative Speaker Series
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
November 8, 2019

Good morning consortium partners and fellow deans Shawn and Christos, and thank you University of New Mexico for hosting the forum we hope will foster a new paradigm for the 21st century student ... help incorporate peace engineering in your strategic planning … and create employment opportunities for the next generation.

Here at Drexel, we’ve been launching our program in Peace Engineering for just under three years now. We’re starting to see signs of a critical mass:

  • undergraduates are actively seeking out peace engineering courses and easily connecting the principles to their engineering work;
  • students are partnered in research projects with peacebuilders, communities and local agencies;
  • master’s students are earnestly pursuing the peace engineering degree – one of whom just returned from the Moria refugee camp in Greece as part of her fieldwork.

So, we have a cohort.

But challenges continue.

  • First challenge: defining peace engineering for those who don’t know what it is. Simply put, Peace Engineering is the application of science, engineering, and technology to promote and support peace. Most conflict revolves around access to resources—access to water, access to sanitation, access to food, access to opportunity and shared prosperity. Underlying Drexel’s program is the philosophy that a conflict is not a problem between two entities, but the result of social and technological systems interacting inefficiently. Who better to consider those systems than engineers? Where better to start than with those who will design the systems?
  • Second challenge: funding. You’re not raising money for something that everyone implicitly understands – it’s not a fighter jet. It’s a concept. You can see the social value of peacebuilding – but translating that to a market signal or to investment opportunities is challenging. Perhaps those of you gathered in New Mexico today will begin to find a way to address this issue.
  • Third challenge: expanding our impact, which we can only do by working collaboratively – locally and globally -- and learning from each other as we create an ecosystem of peace and inclusivity in our shared domains.
  • Fourth challenge: getting started. For motivation, I commend you to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint for peacebuilding comprised of 17 clear, forthright directives, such as … promote decent work, donate what you don’t use, support quality education for all, raise your voice against discrimination. Clear in direction, but perhaps difficult in execution. We need to get to the point where these goals are not goals – but reflexes.

And as the dean of a College that has already implemented a peace engineering program, I can assure you: what is needed most is resolve. That’s it. You build from there exactly the way you do anything worth doing … step by methodical step. You cross one item off the list, and you move on to the next.

Everyone at this conference is on the front line of influence. You understand that Peace Engineering is not a luxury. It’s not an elective. It’s essential work. At some point – with thanks to your grit and focus – this ethic will be seen as the only way forward.

At Drexel University, we are thrilled to be on the ground level of the peace engineering movement and delighted to be participating with all of you to build a new paradigm.

I wish you all the best of success at your gathering today. Thank you.