Matie Voices

Dr Cedric de Coning

Alumnus of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

“My vision for the future (for EPON) is to use innovative methodologies to generate new knowledge and test new theories, with the aim of contributing to improving the effectiveness of peace operations especially in Africa.”

Peacekeeping, peacebuilding, prevention, mediation and conflict resolution are constant discussion points in today’s world. These are also the research areas of Cedric de Coning who is a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) in Oslo, Norway and a senior advisor for the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).

He focuses on the African Union and United Nations and on how multilateral organisations prevent, make and sustain peace. He recently co-edited a book on how peace operations are influenced by changes in the global order. He has a particular interest in using insights from complexity studies to bring new perspectives and approaches to the field of peace studies. Cedric is also engaged in policy support and advice and is co-authoring a new peace support operations doctrine for the African Union and helping the United Nations with the design and implementation of a Comprehensive Performance Assessment System for UN peacekeeping operations.

Cedric was born in Pretoria and grew up in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. He says he visited Stellenbosch in his matric year in 1982 as part of a rugby tour where he attended a workshop with Danie Craven. Studies at other institutions followed and his career took him around the world, but in 2006, he started his PhD at Stellenbosch University (SU) under the guidance of Prof Pierre du Toit (political science) and Prof Paul Cilliers (philosophy) for which he is very grateful. His study looked at what the peacebuilding field could learn from complexity studies.

He graduated in 2012 under the guidance of Dr Tanya de Villiers-Botha and Prof Barney Jordaan with a PhD in applied ethics from the
Department of Philosophy, but his connection with SU continues.

Currently he is in touch with researchers at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition and he collaborates with the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership (SIGLA), where he works with a number of researchers on peace and security issues in Africa. He is also a member of the Maties Alumni Hub in Norway. Although Cedric and his wife live in Norway, work and family bring them to the Western Cape annually.

Cedric explains that approximately 50% of people living in poverty by 2030 will live in a dozen failed states. “The conflicts in these countries generate the bulk of the world’s refugees and most of the humanitarian case load. If we are not able to manage or resolve these conflicts, we are unlikely to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. The internal community employs a range of instruments to try and improve this situation, and peace operations is one of the most prominent amongst them.

“If we can improve the impact that peace operations can have on preventing and reducing violent conflict, improving stability and sustaining sufficient peace for these countries to develop the institutions they need to become more resilient, then we can make a significant contribution to achieving the SDGs,” he adds.

Towards this aim, the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON) was established in 2017. This is a research network of more than 40 research institutes from China to Brazil, including SIGLA at SU. EPON undertakes research into specific peace operations, using a shared methodology, which enables them to compare case studies and identify emerging trends or draw lessons on specific topics, from the whole body of studies. “We are still strengthening the network and refining its methodology, but my vision for the future for EPON is to use the case studies and related data to establish a new dataset that will enable the network partners and the wider peace operations research community to use innovative methodologies to generate new knowledge and test new theories, with the aim of contributing to improving the effectiveness of peace operations, especially in Africa.”

Cedric’s career path has been exciting and he has travelled often. He started working for the Department of Foreign Affairs (now Department of International Relations and Cooperation – DIRCO) in 1988 and then did his compulsory national service in 1989 to 1990, in Potchefstroom and Pretoria. He returned to the Department of Foreign Affairs in mid-1990 as a trainee diplomat and was later sent to Washington DC from 1992 to 1994, where he had the privilege to help organise the visits of president FW de Klerk and then ANC president Nelson Mandela.

He was even a polling officer at an election centre in Jacksonville, Florida during the historic elections in 1994. In December 1994, he was sent to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to help open the first South African permanent mission at what was then the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), that transformed into the African Union we know today.

In 1997, Cedric decided to specialise in peacekeeping and conflict resolution, and joined a South African NGO and think tank, based in Durban. The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) was established by Vasu Gounden in 1992 and is rated as the top conflict resolution think tank in Africa.

He then managed a project funded by Norway dedicated to building African capacities in the areas of peacekeeping and conflict resolution, and this project brought him to Norway where he met his wife. They got married in 1998.

Cedric decided that he needed practical experience in peacekeeping, and in 1999, he worked with the United Nations as a UN volunteer for three months in East Timor. In 2001, he returned to this UN peacekeeping operation and worked there for a year. During that time, his family moved to Darwin, Australia, which served as the rear-base for the UN peacekeeping mission. They moved to Cape Town in 2002, and also spent a few months that year at the UN headquarters in New York, working for the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations. In 2006, they moved to Norway, where they are still situated today.

- By Elbie Els -