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Conflict and peace in 2019 – Sir Stephen O’Brien; Hamish de Bretton Gordon; Dr Devon Curtis

January 23, 2019 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm


This is the launch event in the Cambridge Initiative for Making and Sustaining Peace Lent term speaker series. The speaker series examines the major challenges and possible policy options for humanitarian intervention and conflict prevention. In this first event two leading practitioners – Sir Stephen O’Brien and Hamish de Bretton Gordon will explore the ongoing conflicts and protracted humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan among others and peace building efforts across the Globe. Various academic commentators say the World has never been more peaceful. However, a glance at any newspaper, TV station or United Nations report would suggest otherwise. Millions of civilians have been killed or displaced from their homes by conflicts and forced into poverty and refugee status.

Can we identify conflicts before they occur? What are the key drivers of conflict? Are our current international institutions and International Humanitarian Law out-of-date and how can multi-lateral humanitarian intervention be improved? There are new actors on the international humanitarian and development arena such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China. How can European / US leaders work with these new actors to bring about sustainable peace and effective development. These are some of the issues that will be discussed by these leading decisions makers and practitioners.

The event is chaired by Dr Devon Curtis – a leading academic in peace, security and development studies at the University of Cambridge.

The Cambridge Initiative for Making and Sustaining Peace is a multi-disciplinary network of Cambridge academics who support international peace-making efforts. Current initiatives relate to peace negotiations, education initiatives, inter-faith dialogue, post-conflict stabilisation, and the politics and psychology of conflict.

Due to demand please register at:

The Rt. Hon. Sir Stephen O’Brien KBE is a British businessman, politician, diplomat, industrialist and lawyer who completed his term as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator in late 2017, and is currently non-executive director and Vice-Chairman of Savannah Petroleum PLC and an international business consultant. Born in Tanzania, Sir Stephen was educated in Kenya and the UK, where he attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. He was elected to Parliament as a Conservative member in 1999, and became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development in 2010. In 2012, he was appointed the Prime Minister’s Envoy and UK Special Representative to the Sahel, working for peace in the region. Throughout this time, Sir Stephen has been a leading advocate for global health. In 2004 he founded, and then served as first chairman, of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases. He has also been Co-founder/Chairman of the Malaria Consortium, Vice-President/Director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and is Chair of the Innovative Vector Control Consortium, and Global Advocate for the UN/WHO’s inter-agency Roll Back Malaria Partnership. He was appointed to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Privy Council in 2013. In 2015, Sir Stephen was appointed UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, leading the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In this role, he argued powerfully for compliance and accountability under international humanitarian law, unimpeded access to people in need and the necessary US$23 billion funds, under the transformative Agenda for Humanity developed under his leadership. His responsibilities included oversight of all UN humanitarian operations globally, and leadership of coordination mechanisms between UN agencies and other partners. In recognition of his achievements in humanitarian and development work, Sir Stephen was awarded a Knighthood (KBE) in June 2017.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE
Director CBRN, Avon Protection, Chemical Biological Radiological & Nuclear (CBRN) Counter Terrorist Expert
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is Director CBRN at Avon Protection, the global market leader in respiratory protection system technology specializing primarily in Military and Law Enforcement. He is also a director of the NGO ‘Doctors Under Fire’ and an advisor to the Syrian Medical charity UOSSM. Hamish is a commissioned reserve officer in the Army’s Staff Corp as senior advisor & mentor to the MOD on CBRN.

Hamish served 23 years in the British Army including service as Commanding Officer of the UK CBRN Regiment and NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion. His operational deployments included the 1st Gulf War, Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (multiple tours) and Afghanistan (2 tours) and has been in Syria & Iraq frequently in the last 4 years. This considerable experience in the field places Hamish as one of the world’s leading and most current experts in chemical and biological counter terrorism and warfare, and in 2005 he was appointed an OBE for his exceptional performance.

Hamish joined Avon in 2014 from SecureBio Ltd which he founded 6 years ago. He has worked with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq to decontaminate Halabja, and has most recently provided guidance to civilians, UK Government and the international community on safety round chemical weapon use in Syria and Iraq. Hamish has worked in Syria during the current conflict advising UK based charity Syria Relief and UOSSM on treating the victims of chemical weapons attacks and collation of evidence. He advises the Peshmerga on CBRN matters and trained them on a number of occasions to counter the ISIL chemical attacks in N Iraq. Hamish is probably the leading expert on ISIL CBRN capabilities and plans and was ‘gassed’ by them near Mosul in April 2016. He also travels regularly to the US, Iraq and other Middle and Far Eastern countries advising on CBRN Counter Terrorism.

Today Hamish gives advice to UK Government agencies and is a senior MOD advisor on CBRN and Syria, and is frequently seen on global news channels providing expert commentary, and writes in UK, Middle East and US news journals and newspapers.

Chair: Dr Devon Curtis is a University Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Emmanuel College. Her main research interests and publications deal with power-sharing and governance arrangements following conflict, UN peacebuilding, non-state armed movements in Africa, and critical perspectives on conflict, peacebuilding, and development. Her field research concentrates on the Great Lakes region of Africa, especially Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Previously, Devon worked for the Canadian government and the United Nations Staff College, and she has been a consultant for the UK Department for International Development, the Overseas Development Institute, and a Visiting Senior Advisor to the International Peace Institute. She has had fellowships at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, and at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University.


January 23, 2019
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Categories:


Emmanuel College – Queens Building