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In pursuit of peace with Dr Abiodun Williams

From the archives: IB World magazine regularly highlights graduates of the IB Diploma Programme. Dr Abiodun Williams, Pearson College, United World College (UWC) in Canada, was featured in March 2014.


Dr Abiodun Williams grew up in an environment where the value of education was constantly emphasized; but it was the IB’s simple conviction that “what binds us together is stronger than what divides us,” that helped inspire his ambitious career path and led him to become the first President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

“Growing up, I was always surrounded by great books, which provided a window to the wider world,” Sierra Leone-born and United States citizen Abi says. “This contributed, in no small part, to my desire to become a university professor and to work with the United Nations, an organization I had always admired.”

Having served as Director of Strategic Planning for UN Secretaries-General Ban Kimoon and Kofi Annan, and spending time as Associate Dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington DC, Abi says he feels very fortunate to have fulfilled his dreams.”

abiodun ib world

The IB set scholar and peacekeeper Dr Abiodun Williams on a road he hopes will see an end to war.

“I was inspired by my parents’ belief that with blessings come a responsibility to help others,” he says. This value has stayed with Abi, influencing his work on international relations in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones, including Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Afghanistan.

Abi recognized the importance of having an international perspective from a young age and his time studying the IB Diploma Programme at Pearson College, United World College (UWC), Canada, reinforced this. He says his lasting impression of Pearson is of the profound sense of community and idealism, which was encouraged as soon as he entered the school gates.

“The Diploma Programme was a rigorous and stimulating course, one that fired my imagination,” he says. It also heightened his love of English Language and Literature, which he went on to read for his Master of Arts degree at Edinburgh University. He later attained a doctorate in International Relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. In his current role with the Institute for Global Justice, Abi is continuing his life’s work in the fields of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and conflict management, and combining this with academia by conducting policy-relevant research, to facilitate knowledge sharing across the globe.

He emphasizes the crucial role that education has in mitigating the risk of conflict and achieving sustainable peace, especially in countries blighted by instability. At last year’s IB Africa, Middle East and Europe (IBAEM) Regional Conference, Abi told delegates that stemming the tide of conflict begins with the individual in a classroom, but the knowledge gained here pays dividends to groups and communities around the world.

This is a subject close to Abi’s heart and is something that he has published widely on over the years, winning several awards in the process, including the Dr Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University and the Constantine E. Maguire Medal from Georgetown University.

Education is the most powerful weapon we have to change the world

“I often draw on my personal experience of UWC to sustain the belief that people from a wide variety of backgrounds can work together and live together in peace,” he says. Despite global recognition, Abi says his most memorable moment from his extensive career is meeting the late Nelson Mandela at the UN, in 2001.

“At the UN that day, he exhibited his characteristic optimism that a more peaceful world was well within our grasp,” Abi explains. “This is a sentiment that has remained with me to this day and one that convinces me that the legacy of Nelson Mandela is not one we can allow to be consigned to the past, but one we must take forward in the future.”

Abi believes education is the key perpetuating this belief. “In the next 10 years, global challenges will only become more complex and daunting,” he says. “Education is the most powerful weapon we have to change the world.”


This story originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of IB World magazine. Are you an IB graduate? Join the IB Alumni Network by visiting www.ibo.org/alumni.

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