Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre is run under the auspices of the Institute of International Affairs (IIA) at the University of Iceland. It is a collaborative effort of the City of Reykjavik and the University of Iceland, established in 2016. The Centre promotes interdisciplinary and international research in peace and conflict studies, enables informed policy making and provides a platform for discussion and education on peace and conflict.
The creation of Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre provides the Institute of International Affairs with the opportunity of expanding its research areas, which has led to a greater emphasis on the challenges now facing modern societies, such as climate change, human rights abuses, immigration and refugee issues, as well as rising nationalism and populism in the mainstream discourse. These new challenges aren't limited to defined states and borders. They are global and systematic, while their effect is felt on the individual level. That is why Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre focuses on non-conventional actors in its research and analysis, on peacebuilding “from below”, acknowledging gender and other social groups, understanding “the local” in peace processes, and sub/non-state actor roles as either spoilers or supporters of peace.
One of the main objectives of Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre is to assist the City of Reykjavík in formulating its own peace policy and to establish an even stronger position as a city of peace on the international arena, guided by human rights, democracy and international cooperation. Furthermore, Höfði works closely with the Centre for Small States Studies and the Centre for Arctic Studies, both of which are part of the Institute of International Affairs, applying an interdisciplinary approach in its research with an emphasis on research and knowledge transformation.
Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre focuses on renewed approaches in peace and conflict studies, on peacebuilding “from below”, acknowledging gender and other categories, understanding “the local” in peace processes, and sub/non-state actor roles as either spoilers or supporters of peace. It builds on unconventional and critical approaches to peace processes and draws on femininities, masculinities and intersectionality, allowing for improved understanding of conflicts in the current state of affairs.
Sub and non-state actors are increasingly relevant internationally, exemplified by sanctuary cities in the US, social movements like #metoo, various insurgencies in Afghanistan, IS in Iraq/Syria, or Maoist movements in India. This phenomenon emerges simultaneously with increased nationalism and extremism, where populist parties and politicians have gained in global prominence. Many of these actors represent “grassroot” movements, reflecting the political interests of people who have otherwise not felt represented by the state.
One of the goals of the Peace Centre is to promote education and knowledge about peaceful solutions to conflicts. Disarmament is one of the most important issues that the international system needs to address and a crucial factor when it comes to building peaceful relations between states for the future. Superpowers often have a stronger voice and more influence in the international system than small states. In the Arctic for example, small states face Russia, China and the United States competing for power. In order to work for peace, it is therefore important to build up knowledge in Iceland on how to prepare for, participate in and evaluate complex international negotiations as well as skills in mediation. With increased knowledge on disarmament and complex negotiation techniques, Iceland will be better equipped to influence this field on the international arena and secure its position in the international system.
Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre has made a name for itself by promoting social innovation in Iceland and providing individuals, non-governmental organizations and companies with a platform to utilize their own ingenuity and knowledge for the benefit of society. To further support this development, the Centre intends to place greater emphasis on research into the value of innovation for peace-building and how technology can be used for peace (PeaceTech).
In this context, it is interesting to explore how innovation can be used to solve the challenges facing the international community and how companies can contribute to a better society and promote peace by showing social responsibility. It is equally important to study the role of states, cities and international organizations when it comes to supporting social innovation and promoting the environmental and social responsibility of companies.
Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre also focuses on research on migration and its connection to peace and conflict. The aim of the Centre is to promote research and events that increase knowledge when it comes to the effects of migration on individuals, communities and the international system. Borders have a major impact on marginalized groups, women and young people fleeing difficult situations in search of a better life and new opportunities. Refugees are more exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, abduction and forced labor. Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre focuses on researching and discussing the situation of these groups, their agency and their role in promoting positive change. The Centre also wants to encourage in-depth research into the rise of nationalism and extremism in entrenched democracies and the subsequent hurtful discourse against asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees. It is important that the academic community and the City of Reykjavík work systematically against prejudice through education and informed discussion and use research to improve services for immigrants in Iceland.
Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre focuses on researching and analyzing the effects and extent of fake news and falsification of information on public debate. The focus is on the dissemination of information and the changes that have taken place in the media environment, where online and social media have become a very important source and platform for political information and communication. These changes are interesting in light of the strong gains for right‐leaning populist parties in national elections across Europe and, at the same time, increased nationalism and extremism on social media and in media coverage. In particular, the Centre emphasizes how trust in experts, the university community and traditional political forces is reflected in the public debate and the impact of the debate on marginalized groups in society.