GPSSS Summer School 2024: “A wonderful and unique experience!”

Peace and Security
Brussels -
July 2024

From 21 to 30 June 2024, the Global Governance Institute -in cooperation with the Belgian Royal Military Academy- co-organised the 6th edition of the Annual Summer School on Global Peace, Security and Strategic Studies (GPSSS) in Brussels. 20 competitively selected participants from Europe, North America, the Middle East and South Asia were once again convening in Brussels to follow an intensive ten day training course with senior policy-makers from, inter alia, the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, civil society organisations and renowned scholars. Participants included civil servants from various ministries, peacebuilders, representatives from the private sector as well as undergraduate and graduate students, making it once again a highly stimulating mix of learners and trainers.

Laying theoretical foundations and engaging with practitioners

The summer school once again kicked off with an intensive “two days deep dive” into the theories and core concepts of the academic disciplines of International Relations, Security Studies and Peace Studies and examined commonalities and core differences. These intensive foundation sessions allowed the participants with differing backgrounds to start from a common theoretical and conceptual base line, which turned out to be very useful for the remaining in-depth policy discussions. As every year, the first day also included a practitioner keynote lecture and discussion session with Dr. Rory Keane, Head of the United Nations Liaison Office for Peace and Security (UNLOPS) in Brussels. A veteran expert on UN peacekeeping, peacebuilding and the relations between the UN, NATO and European Union, Rory provided participants with in-depth insights into issues such as the breakdown of trust in global politics, UN Security Council reform, the future of UN peacekeeping and opportunities for a new ‘pact for the future’ in the context of the Summit for the Future in September 2024. Participants not only received first hand insights into the inner workings of the UN in peace and security, but also advice on careers within the UN system.

Exploring Brussels from unique angles, delving into mediation skills

On Sunday, participants had the choice of two social activities: either participating in the annual Brussels Urban Trail Run (a 13.8km run through some of Brussels landmark buildings and quarters, including a segment that led us through the City Hall of Brussels with a great view across Grand Place from the balcony) or a walking tour and a visit to the European House of History. In the afternoon, participants engaged in an in-depth training and skills lab on mediation and conflict resolution, guided by GGI Senior Fellow and UN peacekeeper Silke Rusch, who trained the group based on her wide-ranging experience in UN peace operations in, inter alia, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Silke is also the author of a core study for the UN on “Coordination of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration initiatives with transitional justice efforts in the context of sustaining peace” (2023) and trained participants through a hands-on simulation on some of the key insights.

European and Global Implications of the Russian-Ukrainian War

On Monday, students delved into some of the European and Global ramifications of the Russia-Ukraine war, with an engaging lecture by Tony van der Togt from Clingendael (providing a deep historical and geopolitical analysis on ‘Russia, Eastern Europe and Wider Implications for European and Global Security’, including lessons from his own times as a diplomat and recent policy advice discussions and simulations) and a content-rich session on “European and Global Energy Security” delivered by GGI Senior Fellow and Director of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt Professor Andreas Goldthau. Both sessions went way beyond the scheduled time, as both lecturers responded to a plethora of insightful questions from the participants. After lunch, Chris Case, a senior intelligence analyst for Hybrid Threats and Emerging and Disruptive Technologies assessments at NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) provided an excellent session on NATO’s Role in European and Global Security, including past, current and future challenges for the Alliance. The beginning of the week was rounded off with after-work drinks on GGI’s Roof Terrace, the infamous “GGI Mingle-Bingo” and the celebration of Elvira’s 22nd birthday!

Three intensive days at the Royal Military Academy and Open Air Dinner

From Tuesday to Thursday, the GPSSS crowd moved to the Belgian Royal Military Academy to receive high-level briefings, lectures and training sessions by our summer school partners from the military. Major Koen Troch kicked off the day with two foundation sessions on Strategic Studies and Crisis Management, followed by in-depth sessions on geopolitics and applied issues of geopolitics and strategy by Colonel Peter Philipsen,  Chair of World Politics at the Royal Military Academy. Participants appreciated the hands-on perspectives from an operational and strategic military perspective and how to contrast, compare and bring together these views with the previously learned peace studies approach. On Tuesday evening, the GPSSS open air dinner and took place in the bustling Guinguette Maurice in the Parc du Cinquantenaire, where participants and lecturers continued their conversations deep into the summer night over their BBQ food. Rumour has it that a couple of freshly served ice-cold Belgian beers were also part of the equation.

Wednesday was dedicated to intensive seminars, round-table discussions and “on the ground” insights on lessons learned from major contemporary wars, including the Russia-Ukraine war, the Israel-Hamas war as well as implications for the future of warfare, protection of civilians and international humanitarian law. The sessions were chaired by  and Col. Peter Philipsen. The day was rounded off with a hands on session led by Captain Vincent Joassin, who focused on ‘Military and Non-Traditional Security Threats, including Disinformation’.

On Thursday, the final packed training day at the RMA kicked off with an insightful and energetic lecture by Dr. Elena Lazarou, Acting Head of the External Policies Unit of the European Parliamentary Research Service at the European Parliament. A highly knowledgeable expert and scholar, Elena provided participants with invaluable insights into the “The European Union's Approaches to Global Peace and Security”.

Emerging Technologies and Global Security

The rest of the day was dedicated to the themes and topics of “technology and global security”, kicked off by Colonel Christof Tatschl, GGI’s Board Member and Deputy Director of the CIS and Cyber Directorate of the Austrian General Staff and the chief capability planner for CIS, Cyber, EW and InfoOps. Christof provided a comprehensive session on the ins and outs of the opportunities, risks and threats of cybersecurity as well as potential governance approaches. This was followed by two hands-on sessions on technology and global security (including issues ranging from AI and robotics to drones and other emerging technology) delivered by Lin Slapakova, from the RAND Corporation.

Institutional Visits and In-depth Simulation

Friday was dedicated to study visits to the European Parliament and NATO’s headquarters, where participants received extensive briefings and the opportunity for in-depth Q&A sessions on some of the core challenges faced by the European and Transatlantic institutions in the fields of peace, security and global governance.

From Friday afternoon to Sunday lunch-time, participants returned to the GGI base for some intensive negotiation sessions of the final and summative GPSSS Simulation led by GGI’s Managing Director and active learning specialist Silviu Piros. Adopting the alter egos of the next G20 Summit, participants had to work through 300 pages of policy issues, negotiation positions and risk analyses related to future challenges, to refine and negotiate their respective country’s positions to come to a final leaders’ declaration. The intensity of the simulation led to many late-night coffees and preparatory sessions at GGI, but also reinforced the already strong bonds between the participants, who have developed some wonderful friendships throughout the 10 days.

Intensive, Comprehensive and Rewarding

At the end of the summer school and during the award of the Certificates of Completion, participants were both clearly ready for some sleep, but also -in their own words- extremely happy.

Luna Poos, an MA student from Antwerp, for example wrote about her “sincere gratitude to both RMA and GGI for their warm hospitality, the invaluable insights, and networking possibilities” and mentioned her “fellow participants, who made this experience truly unforgettable”.

Similarly, Pauline Flamant reflected that “over the past ten days in Brussels, I had the privilege of attending lectures from engaging guest speakers representing various organizations such as the United Nations, the EU and NATO. We also had the opportunity to enjoy guided tours of the European Parliament and NATO Headquarters. The program was truly enriching as I deepened my understanding of global governance, the role of the UN in maintaining peace and security, geopolitics, AI and cybersecurity, ongoing warfighting, global energy security, international mediation, counterinsurgency, and military crisis management. The Summer School concluded with an extensive G20 simulation, allowing us to practice our discussion, negotiation, and diplomatic skills.  It was amazing to meet passionate individuals from all over the world!”

Zafar Ali, a civil servant and peacebuilder from Pakistan commented, “Thank you so much. Really grateful for your kindness, engagement, thoughtfulness and time. It was such a unique experience attending GGI and visiting important places such as the EU parliament, the European History Museum and NATO headquarters. I have gained a lot from this programme, and it is such a memorable experience. Your approach to teaching made learning very interesting”.

Anonymous feedback in the after-course evaluations included “This whole experience has been so incredibly educating and fun. The lectures, the people, the outside program (excursions, dinner, etc.) were in great balance. Thank you!”

Silviu Piros, Managing Director of the Global Governance Institute, commented: “The GPSSS Summer School has been, as always, the highlight of the year for us. To see so many engaged, intelligent and truly motivated come together to reflect deeply not only about some of the most pressing challenges, but also concrete solutions for global peace, security and global governance is always heart-warming. Our sincere thanks to all the fantastic lecturers and trainers and our partners from the RMA – it has once again been a wonderful partnership and great learning experience!”