The best relationships start as friendships: The powerhouse partnership of the Kroc Institute and PRIO

Author: Lisa Gallagher

What began as a professional friendship nearly 30 years ago has blossomed into a full-fledged academic partnership that spans the globe, many time zones, and several institutions.

Professor Laurie Nathan, who directs the Mediation Program at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, first met fellow researcher Kristian Berg Harpviken in 1995 in the context of a PRIO research project on regional security. Known for his research in peacebuilding, Harpviken has long been associated with the Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), as a research professor and its director for eight years.

“We connected with each other on personal grounds. There was a lot of warmth and compatibility,” says Nathan.

Over the years, their shared interests and respect for one another’s work prompted Nathan and Harpviken to co-lead workshops in Oslo and participate on the advisory board for a PRIO project on the Ethics of International Mediation. Most recently, Nathan spent the fall 2022 semester on sabbatical at PRIO, where he focused on his research, finalizing three forthcoming articles and writing a proposal for his next book.

“Our professional relationship is synergistic and mutually reinforcing,” says Nathan. “It’s fabulous that there’s no competitiveness between the two institutions. The organizational partnership is refreshing, productive and prestigious.”

Up next is the third iteration of the annual five-day Ph.D. course in international mediation, co-hosted by the Kroc Institute and PRIO. Nathan designs and leads the course, which will take place in Oslo on June 12-16 and combines theory, policy perspectives, practitioner inputs and skills development. Senior Norwegian mediators and scholars, including Jørgen Jensehaugen, senior researcher at PRIO, will share their analysis of concrete peace processes. 

Applications are open until March 26, 2023. More information can be found here.

The success of Nathan and Harpviken’s partnership has created a ripple effect within both institutions, enabling other faculty and researchers from the Kroc Institute to collaborate with PRIO on projects ranging from the Colombian Peace Agreement, to women, peace and security, to mediation and Afghanistan. Book chapter contributions, public lectures and seminar collaborations – all are examples of how the partnership between the two institutions continues to evolve.

“My experience working with Kroc has been absolutely excellent,” Harpviken says. “Not only because of the knowledge, but it’s also been the sort of relationship where you know that people do what they say they will do. You work on the assumption that you work for the same purpose, and there is mutual trust in that.”

Prio Kroc Madhav

For Madhav Joshi, research professor and associate director of the Peace Accords Matrix at the Kroc Institute, the relationship began in 2018 when he was approached by PRIO’s Håvard Mokleiv Nygård to give a public lecture on the implementation of the Colombian Peace Accords. Joshi was joined by Jason Quinn, associate professor of the Peace Accords Matrix, and Dag Nylander, Norwegian mediator for the Havana Process. At the same time, Joshi was collaborating with Louise Olsson, research director and senior researcher at PRIO.

“With Louise’s expertise on gender issues and in women, peace and security, and my expertise on monitoring and implementation, we collaborated very nicely,” says Joshi. 

Since then, Joshi and Olsson have worked on several joint papers and blog posts, and have participated in multiple public events together. They continue to expand their research focus, which now includes the topics of Afghanistan and political violence. 

Nathan and Harpviken have also come together on the topic of mediation and Afghanistan. The two joined Aref Dostyar, senior advisor to the Kroc Institute’s Afghanistan Program on Peace and Development, in the Feb. 21 virtual panel, “Renewing the UN’s Mandate for Afghanistan Under the Taliban: Reflections and Recommendations.” 

“Shining a spotlight on mandate discussions is important and a good vehicle for taking on some of the most difficult principled discussions in a constructive manner,” says Harpviken.

“We were very happy to partner on this panel and would love to do more of them, on Afghanistan as well as other issues.”

Founded in 1959, PRIO is an independent research institution known for its effective synergy of basic and policy-relevant research. In addition to such research, PRIO conducts graduate training and is engaged in the promotion of peace through conflict resolution, dialogue and reconciliation, public information and policymaking activities.