Capital, Politics and Pedagogy: The Case of Education Inside the United Nations (2017)

Working Paper #13

Kevin Kester (Queens’ College, University of Cambridge and Endicott College of International Studies, Woosong University, Daejeon, Korea)

The UN is often questioned about its ongoing relevance and involvement in contemporary matters of peace and security, but its involvement in and provision of higher education for peace for the 21st century is rarely examined. This working paper investigates the use of higher education as a peacebuilding tool within the UN apparatus, looking at the issue from three different angles. First, I briefly describe the work that the UN universities are engaged in: their historical origins and operations today. Second, I examine the objective qualifications that UN officials / academics possess that presumably enable their admission into the UN and work in the institution. I examine this generally across UN agencies and then specifically in regard to faculty in one UN university. Third, I share commentary from scholars I interviewed in the pilot study in Ethiopia and Somaliland and at the UN university to corroborate and challenge the results of the qualifications review, and to elaborate on the education that the UN promotes. Findings of the study point toward social reproduction through peace capital in the UN, and UN university. Such results raise skepticism and challenge orthodox assumptions of the UN and international peace education as contributing to social transformation. On the contrary, my study exposes the ways in which the unintended consequences of the field reproduce social inequality. This contrasts sharply with the transformation touted in other academic literature (Clarke-Habibi, 2005; Felice, Karako & Wisler, 2015).