Missions today

Missions and missionaries – from “love doctrine” missions that have sent missionaries around the world to help people in need to those aimed at propagating conversion to Christianity – have always been situated at the boundaries between development and humanitarian aid and the promotion of other grand agendas.

Nowadays, UN and NATO peacekeeping and reconstruction missions have adopted the “3D approach” mixing diplomacy, development aid and defence. Labelled as conflict prevention and peacekeeping and reconstruction missions, they have been deployed by western coalition forces under the umbrellas of the UN and NATO. Now these missions are scaling up, occupying larger territories and reshuffling the role of the armed forces in society.

Nation-states such as Iraq and Afghanistan that have been subjected to international missions in the past decade have divided into constantly fluctuating safe and unsafe zones. These zones have replaced previous ordering concepts such as the battlefield and the civic realm, in an increasing process of militarisation of societies.

Mounting global unrest makes the Missions theme even more relevant. The Institute of Economics and Peace announced recently that the world as a whole has been growing incrementally less peaceful every year since 2007. Of the 162 countries covered in the IEP’s latest study, just 11 were uninvolved in conflict. A global trend away from unrest that had been visible since the end of the Second World War ended with the escalation of violence after 9/11 and the introduction of the War on Terror. Today, we are witnessing the emergence of ISIS from the ruins of Iraq and Syria and the waging of a vicious war in the Middle East. In response to the rise of ISIS and of global conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry, in The New York Times, announced the beginning of a new era of global coalitions calling for the increased use of political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force.

Missions will examine the large-scale international flow of war into the civic realm through a public discussion of the mechanisms and agendas behind these transitions, which include religion, migration, economy, war, peace and diplomacy. The programme of the day is constructed around these six topics. The seminar will navigate between scales and agendas in order to explore contemporary global missions – the institutional ones and the missionaries.

The seminar includes presentations by Erella Grassiani, a post doctorate researcher at the University of Amsterdam, on private armies; Joel van der Beek, economic researcher and strategist involved with Erasmus University Rotterdam, SIPRI and Economists for Peace and Security, on economics of war and peace; Nora Akawi, an architect based in Studio-X Amman and Columbia University, on migration in Jordan; Pelin Tan, a researcher and a writer based in Mardin, Turkey, on conflict and territorial politics and a representative of the Dutch Ministry of Defense.

The seminar is part of Drones and Honeycombs project and is organised in partnership with the Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST), DPR-Barcelona and Columbia University’s Studio-X.