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Class allows for policy contribution

Laura Vilim | Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Notre Dame undergraduate and graduate students will have the unique opportunity to conduct significant research and contribute policy recommendations on counter-terrorism for the United Nations this spring as part of a new seminar designed by Kroc Institute Fellow and political science professor George Lopez.The research seminar, entitled “Assessing the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Efforts,” has its roots in a project on U.N. Sanctions and Security that was written by Lopez and David Cortright. Cortright is the president of the Forth Freedom Forum, an organization devoted to exploring options for the nonviolent resolution of international conflicts. As a result of this project, the two men were asked by several governments to examine the efforts of the recently created U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), with which the Kroc Institute has been involved since the program’s inception. The report was commissioned by the Danish Foreign Ministry, which awarded Lopez and his team funds for the project after he first presented his research design in Copenhagen. He then began to plan ways for Notre Dame students to become involved in the project.”[I asked] what benefits are in this for ND?” Lopez said. First among the benefits is that the majority of this research will be conducted by the 21 students chosen to be part of the seminar. Students were selected to participate based on their interest in the areas of political science and international affairs, as well as on their resumes and grade point averages. In order to ensure that the decisions the students make are viable options for enhancing the policies of the CTC, the seminar is divided into two main parts. First, each student will participate in collective reading and briefing sessions that will serve to bring every member to an equal level of understanding concerning the broad issues of the CTC’s work. Next, each student will choose a specific topic to examine extensively with the help of one of the research directors, including Lopez and Cortright. “In this way, students will get to research topics that are interesting to them,” Lopez said.The specific themes and queries of the project cover a wide range of counter-terrorism issues, including how to approach countries that refuse to comply with the CTC, success stories of the CTC’s ability to lock down terrorist funds, an examination of how individuals and organizations are placed on the terrorist list, and an assessment of the human rights dimension of the CTC.When the research is complete, every participant will assess and critique the individual elements of the final project report. Then Notre Dame and the Forth Freedom Forum will present their findings to the Danish government and an organization known as the International Peace Academy. From there, parts of the project or the project in its entirety will be presented to the Spanish government – the chair of the CTC, which can then introduce it to the Security Council of the U.N. Stephanie Ahern, a first year graduate student who majored in international relations, said she decided to apply for this seminar after receiving an e-mail from Lopez describing the project.”[The project] seemed to be a unique opportunity to combine theory and practice for a real-world, timely project,” Ahern said. “My interest in studying political science is to help make a difference, and this seemed like an opportunity to do just that.”Ahern plans to do specific research on the European Union’s requirements for new states to be in compliance with the CTC before they can become members, a decision she made after concentrating her undergraduate studies on Western Europe and developing an interest in learning more about the region. Lopez believes that one of the greatest aspects of the seminar is that participants like Ahern will gain a deeper understanding of how research in a classroom setting can be linked to real life issues.”This is a fairly unique on-campus experience that is as close to working for a think tank as you can get.” Lopez said. “It is relevant and dynamically interactive. The questions are a moving target.”Ahern agrees that it is the real life experience of doing research that could have serious implications on U.N. policy that makes this seminar so unique.”It places an exceptional importance on completing this work as thoroughly as possible to make our world safer,” Ahern said.