Michael van Walt van Praag to Discuss History’s Place in Conflict Resolution in Lecture at Institute for Advanced Study

The first Chechen War

PRESS CONTACT:  Katherine Belyi, (609) 951-4406

Michael van Walt van Praag, Visiting Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, has served as mediator and as an adviser to negotiating parties in peace talks worldwide. He has worked on conflicts in the South Pacific, the Caucasus, Asia and East and West Africa. He is now investigating obstacles to conflict resolution, in particular clashing interpretations of history. On Wednesday, March 6, Van Walt will present a public lecture drawing on his research and experience, “When Truth Gets in the Way: Addressing Multiple Realities in Intrastate Conflicts,” at 4:30 p.m. in Wolfensohn Hall on the Institute campus.


Most violent conflicts today are fought within states, and many are related to identity. They are, therefore, inextricably linked to how people perceive their history. How political leaders view and use history and historical narratives, often as the foundation for their claims, has a great impact on negotiations and can hold a peace process hostage. In this lecture, Van Walt offers a mediator’s perspective on ways to examine historical events and historiography in order to facilitate a change in the way negotiators relate to the other party’s history, as well as to their own. In so doing, he will also consider the relation of modern international law and the nation-state concept to today’s conflicts.

Van Walt, an international lawyer specializing in intrastate conflict resolution, is Executive President of Kreddha, an international nongovernmental organization he founded in 1999 to support the prevention and resolution of violent intrastate conflicts. He is also Legal Advisor to the Dalai Lama, a position he has held since 1984. In addition to numerous other advisory roles, he served as General Secretary of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization from 1991–98. He has held visiting teaching and research positions at Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Indiana; Jawaharlal Nehru University; and the Golden Gate University School of Law. He is the author of Mobilizing Knowledge for Post-Conflict Development and Development at the Local Level (RAWOO, The Hague, 2000) and The Status of Tibet: History, Rights and Prospects in International Law (Westview Press, 1987). In 2011, Van Walt began a three-year Visiting Professorship in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study.

For further information about the lecture, which is free and open to the public, call (609) 734-8175, or visit the Institute website, www.ias.edu.

About the Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The Institute exists to encourage and support curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities—the original, often speculative thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world. Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by a permanent Faculty of approximately 30, and it ensures the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.

The Institute, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 6,000 former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Thirty-three Nobel Laureates and 41 out of 56 Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute.