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Peace Studies in the Benelux Countries

This survey will focus on peace research and peace studies in Belgium and the Netherlands. For the third Benelux country--Luxembourg--no peace-studies institutions were encountered during the preparation of this article. Nor do there seem to be any institutions concerned with international relations. This can be explained in part by the absence of any system of higher education in the country.

The Belgian and Dutch approaches to peace studies differ from one another.


Belgium has three language-communities: the German, the French, and the Dutch/Flemish. Independent peace research institutes are mainly located in the Flemish-speaking and French-speaking communities, but there is a lack of co-operation between the independent bodies in the different language-areas.

We shall begin by looking at peace research organizations. On the Flemish side, there is the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), which was founded in Antwerp in 1980. Its director is Mark Heirman, and he supervises a staff of five. The goals of the organization are to collect objective information about peace-related issues and disseminate this as widely as possible. It has an extensive library that is open to the public. Although the IPIS has considerable standing in Belgium, it is sometimes accused of being too closely bound up with the Flemish Pax Christi movement, with which it shares a building.

On the French-speaking side, there is the Brussels-based Groupe de recherche et d'information sur la Paix (GRIP). The director, Bernard Adams, oversees a staff of four permanent workers. The main activity of GRIP, which was founded in 1978, is the study of all problems relating to peace, defence, and disarmament, and the provision of information about these. It has a well-organized library, open to the public. It is a prolific publisher: its periodical Notes et documents appears twelve times a year, and GRIP-Informations four times a year. It also publishes a yearbook and numerous studies on specialized subjects. Although concerned with peace research, GRIP tends to focus on arms-related issues.

Peace research at Belgian universities is small-scale and restricted in scope.

Such research takes place on an individual basis in small departments at different universities, and is therefore highly fragmented. Co-operation between French and Flemish research is also very limited. Four Belgian universities will be mentioned here.

The Flemish Free University of Brussels (FUB--Vrije Universiteit Brussel) has had a centre for polemology since 1972. Its director is Professor Gustaaf Geeraerts, who holds a chair in international relations and therefore mostly concentrates on issues in this field. The centre publishes two occasional series: the `POLE' papers, and the interdisciplinaire periodiek. The FUB offers a number of peace-related seminars, but there is no fixed programme of study.

The Vrije Universiteit's French-speaking counterpart--the Université Libre de Bruxelles--carries out research into peace and the prevention of war. Investigation into the history and development of the peace movement in general is conducted on an individual basis by Nadine Lubelski-Bernard. There is also a Centre des relations internationales et stratégiques, which is headed by Eric Remacle.

The Catholic University of Leuven houses a Centre for Peace Research, founded in 1983 as part of the department of political science and currently headed by Professor Luc Reychler. He oversees the publication, in Dutch and English, of the Cahiers van het Centruum voor Vredesonderzoek.

The last of the four universities at which peace-related issues are studied is the Université de Notre Dame de la Paix in Namur. It provides courses on, carries out research into, and disseminates information about: non-violence, North-South issues, peace education, human rights, and defence and security. It does not, however, offer a fixed peace-research programme. Its publication UP Information appears four times a year.

None of the four universities mentioned offers a complete programme of peace studies. There are, however, two professors who deserve special mention for their individual peace research. These are: Professor Filip Reyntjes of the University of Antwerp, whose main interests are, in fact, Africa and international relations; and Professor Rudy Doom of the University of Ghent, who is currently designing a conflict-prediction model which will make it possible for intervention to take place before violent escalation occurs.

Although there are many Belgian researchers working on peace-related issues, it seems they do not publish very much in international journals. Belgium itself does not publish any journal either.

With regard to the lack of co-operation between the two language-communities: I was told that this was not due to the language barrier, but to a difference of focus--the French, it is said, are more interested in European issues, as related to the European Union and its institutions, while the Flemish prefer Belgian-oriented topics. The language problem is therefore not seen as a hurdle. Nevertheless, as a foreigner, one cannot help but be aware of the great divide between the language communities. The lack of co-operation at the research level merely reinforces this feeling. And yet no Belgian institute exists to look into the language issue, though some academics--Chris de Schouwer at the Flemish FUB, and Els de Witte, the rector of the same institution--have studied it on an individual basis. Despite the fact that, within Belgium itself, this issue is not acknowledged as a problem, the University of Ulster has made it a fixed part of its peace-studies curriculum.

In conclusion, it can be said that peace research in Belgium is small-scale, highly fragmented, and uncoordinated. Although the different organizations put out a number of publications, ranging from single articles to comprehensive studies, there is no national academic periodical. Nor do Belgian peace researchers seem to publish much in international periodicals.

In 1990, the former director of the Flemish FUB's Institute of Polemology, Johan Niezing, working with J.-P. Zanders, carried out a feasibility study into the possibility of creating an inter-university institute for the study of international relations and peace-related issues, thus concentrating the different efforts. The authors concluded that, despite the fact that the study itself was conducted at the behest of the government, no institute set up by the government could guarantee to pursue an independent policy.

The Netherlands

Whereas the Belgian peace-research community is uncoordinated and fragmented, its Dutch counterpart is highly structured.

The Netherlands has two research organizations worthy of particular mention. The first is the PIOOM--Interdisciplinary Research Programme on Root Causes of Human Rights Violations--whose research is aimed at helping reduce the number of human-rights violations throughout the world. The PIOOM is an independent, non-profit-making research institute. It was set up in 1988 as part of the Centre for the Study of Social Conflicts at Leiden University. Under the direction of its founder, J. D. Backer, it is currently running seven research projects and is also a prolific publisher.

The second major research-organization in this area in the Netherlands is Clingendael, the Dutch institute for international relations. It was set up in 1983 at the Clingendael estate in The Hague, and it aims to raise the standard of research into international relations in the Netherlands. As well as opportunities for scientific research, it offers courses and seminars and provides information. It is the publisher of the authoritative monthly Internationale Spectator.

Six universities in the the Netherlands conduct research into peace-related issues. However, the polemological institutes that flourished during the seventies and eighties have gradually disappeared. The Free University of Amsterdam (FUA), for example, had a thriving Polemological Centre at that time, but this now no longer exists. The Interfaculty Study Group on Peace and Security also broke up when its former director, Professor Egbert Boeker, was made rector of the Free University of Amsterdam. Hennie van der Graaf, who was attached to the FUA, left for the Technical University of Eindhoven, taking with him the Inter-University Network for Studies on Technology Assessment in Defence.

The highly respected Polemological Institute at the University of Groningen was also wound up at the beginning of the nineties. Its last director, Professor Hylke Tromp, now holds the chair in international and environmental security at the faculty of law in Groningen. When asked whether the chair focused primarily on peace research or on international relations, Professor Tromp dismissed the question as irrelevant, saying that he regarded the distinction as entailing a `pointless contradiction'. The quarterly Transaktie, formerly produced by the Polemological Centre in Groningen, is now published by the University of Leiden.

The third university at which peace-related research is still conducted is the oldest in the country--the University of Leiden, which has a centre and an institute dealing with peace-related issues. The Leiden Centre for the Study of Social Conflicts (Leiden Centrum voor Onderzoek van Matschappelijke Tegenstellingen: COMT) focuses on empirical research into the nature and social effects of various kinds of conflict, with a view to developing a general theory of conflict. The university's Institute for International Studies is headed by Dr Philip Everts.

The Catholic University of Nijmegen--the fourth university engaging in peace-related research--has a Centre for Peace Studies. The centre, founded in 1976 and currently directed by Dr Leon Wecke, publishes the Yearbook Peace and Security, but it too does not as yet offer a fixed programme of peace studies. The aims of the centre are to conduct scientific research on, and provide documentation about, problems of peace and war, and also to provide the scientific backing for action aimed at bringing about the kinds of societal change that foster peace. It publishes two periodicals: an Educational Review, which appears six times a year, and the Cahier, which is published quarterly.

A chair in the theory of peace education has been established at the faculty of social sciences at the University of Utrecht, and a yearly seminar on peace education is conducted there by Professor Lennart Vriens.

The last of the Dutch universities conducting peace-related research is the Technical University of Twente. Its director, Dr W. A. Smit, heads a centre for studies on science and society, which investigates the relationship between technology, war, and peace and offers a number of related teaching-programmes.

All the Dutch universities engaged in peace-related research collaborate actively with one or more of the other academic centres in the country. This ensures coherence in peace research. Despite the fact that many of them are involved in peace-related studies, the Dutch universities still do not offer a complete programme of peace studies.

In conclusion: Belgium and the Netherlands both publish a lot of material about peace-related issues, but whereas Belgian authors seem to operate mostly on a small scale, Dutch peace-research has its own periodical--the Internationale Spectator. Although this focuses mainly on international relations, peace issues are often covered as well. As regards the educational curriculum, neither country offers comprehensive programmes of study.

The three Benelux countries differ widely in their approach to peace studies: in Luxembourg, such studies do not exist; in Belgium, they are highly fragmented; and in the Netherlands, there is a high degree of co-operation on the two levels of independent and academic research, resulting in a well-integrated treatment of the subject.

Jilda Mercx

Contacts: Belgium: IPIS, attn. M. Heirman, Italilei 98a, 2000 Antwerp, Tel.: +32 3 225 00 22, Fax: +32 3 225 07 99; GRIP, attn. B. Adams, 33 rue van Hoorde, 1030 Brussels, Tel.: +32 2 241 84 20; Polemological Centre FUB, attn. Prof. G. Geeraerts, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Tel.: +32 2 629 22 28, Fax: +32 2 629 22 82, e-mail:; Groupe de Polémologie FUB, attn. Mme N. Lubelski-Bernard, 44 av. Jeanne, 1050 Brussels, Tel.: +32 2 642 33 26; CUL-CVO, attn. Prof. L. Reychler, Dept. of Political Science, Van Evenstraat 2b, 3000 Leuven, Tel.: +32 16 28 32 41; Université Notre Dame de la Paix, attn. L. Heymans, bvd. du Nord 4, 5000 Namur, Tel: +32 81 22 61 02, Fax.: +32 81 23 18 82. The Netherlands: PIOOM, c/o LISWO, attn. Mr A. Smit, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, Tel.: +31 71 527 38 61, Fax: +31 71 527 37 88; NIIB Clingendael, attn. Prof. A. van Staden, Clingendael 7, Postbus 93080, 2597 VH The Hague, Tel.: +31 70 324 53 84, Fax: +31 70 328 20 02; University of Gronignen, Faculty of Law, attn. Prof. H. W. Tromp, Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 26, Postbus 716, 9700 AS Groningen, Tel.: +31 50 363 56 50, Fax: +31 50 363 72 50, e-mail: h.w.; Eindhoven University of Technology, attn. Mr H. J. van der Graaf w+s 093, Postbus 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, Tel./Fax: +31 40 247 34 85; COMT, attn. Dr A. Kobben, Hooigracht 15, 2313 KM Leiden, Postbus 9500, 2300 RA Leiden, Tel.: +31 71 514 83 33; IIS, attn. Dr P. Everts, P. N. van Eyckhof 3, 2311 BV Leiden, Tel.: +31 71 527 22 28; CUN-Studiecentrum voor Vredesvraagstukken, attn. L. Wecke, Thomas van Aquinostraat 5, Postbus 9108, 6500 HK Nijmegen, Tel.: +31 24 361 56 87, Fax: +31 24 361 18 39; University of Utrecht, Faculty of Social Sciences, attn. Prof. L. Vriens, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht, Tel.: +31 30 253 47 56, Fax: +31 30 253 23 52, e-mail:; CSSS, attn. Dr W. Smit, Postbus 217, 7500 AE Enschede, Tel.: +31 53 489 33 53.

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