Playing football in Ghana
Playing football in Ghana
6 December 2010

Playing Djembe and football with some Ghanaian friends was an enjoyable part of Charles Hunt's recent research trip to West Africa.

His research, however, focuses on a more serious side to life in West Africa.

Charles, a PhD student on an Australian Federal Police scholarship at UQ, is devising new approaches to monitoring and evaluating the impact of public security and justice sector reform in UN peace operations.

Part of this research brought Charles to Liberia where he interviewed government ministers, UN peacekeepers and local community members including ex-combatants, traditional elders and women's groups, about their experiences with the UN and their perceptions of the evolving rule of law.

"Because of the sensitive nature of the topic - the concept of success and failure in peace operations - I had to use some cross cultural adroitness when discussing my research with local people," Mr Hunt said.

It was these close links with the local community which motivated Mr Hunt to establish a new initiative highlighting the importance of academic freedom and opportunities for education in Liberia.

Mr Hunt was approached by UN Mission Security Sector Reform Advisor and Visiting Professor at the University of Liberia, Professor Rory Keane, to find ways to assist local students struggling to access academic texts on contemporary debates in international relations.

"This really struck a chord with me. Education in Liberia, like across much of Africa, is very important to developing future capacity in society," he said.

"My experience in Liberia highlighted that students did not have access to the materials we see as key texts.

"I decided there was an opportunity to get involved and contribute in some way, starting small by sending unwanted text books and initiating online activities such as exchanging ideas with Liberian students - like an 'academics without borders' movement."

Mr Hunt, who is studying in the School of Political Science and International Studies and the Institute of Social Science Research, is no stranger to West Africa, having previously worked as a Research Associate at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, in Accra, Ghana.

Currently he is a Senior Researcher on a project assessing peace and capacity-building operations funded by the Australian Federal Police and Program Leader (Protection) at the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

For more information about how you can get involved with "Academics without borders" contact

Media: Naomi Smith