The International Peace Information Service (IPIS vzw) is an independent research institute providing tailored information, analysis and capacity enhancement to support those actors who want to realize a vision of durable peace, sustainable development and the fulfillment of human rights.
Thoughout the years, IPIS has developed a geographic focus on sub-Saharan Africa and a thematic focus on natural resources, conflict motives of armed actors, business and human rights, and international arms transfers. Within this scope, IPIS strives to be a center of excellence on field based research.
In 1981, members of the Belgian peace movement founded the International Peace Information Service, known as IPIS. Within two years, IPIS gained the status of an officially accredited non-governmental organisation. The initiators believed in a very broad interpretation of the main themes of peace and security. This was expressed in a wide range of themes included in our library: democratisation, human rights, private sector actors, globalisation, development, political movements, etc.
After the Cold War, our attention shifted from Eastern and Central Europe to Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, we gradually evolved from a documentation centre into an ‘action research’ institute. The emergence of a multitude of dirty and forgotten conflicts on the African continent, and the accompanying information deficit around these conflicts, urged us to go into the field to gather firsthand data on arms flows, conflict financing, the plundering of resources and the involvement of private sector corporations. Our field research in often dangerous war zones resulted in several groundbreaking reports which met international recognition by, among others, the UN Security Council, several governments and international campaign organisations. (To view a list of our previous assignments, see: Assignments 2000-2011.)
To create a more clearly distinct profile for our organisation towards stakeholders and interested audiences, research activities are structured into three core themes: arms trade, the exploitation of natural resources and corporate social responsibility in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the arms trade and conflict related issues, we also devote much attention to post-conflict reconstruction, sustainable development, human rights and environmental issues.
The nature of IPIS’ research stands midway between a journalistic and an academic approach. With journalism we share a strong focus on the factual, as opposed to the rather theoretical line of approach of academic research. However, IPIS goes deeper and more thoroughly into its themes of research than is usual within the journalistic profession. By doing so, we come near to investigative journalism and its digging extending to sources outside the public domain.
Our gathering of information is a permanent activity and is done through consulting sources on the internet, studying academic and journalistic publications, analysing confidential documents, fieldwork and interviews within an extensive network of contacts built up over many years. That data stream is processed by our researchers and forms the basis of the research projects that we carry out for external clients.
Depending on our clients’ requirements, IPIS’ output consists of publishable reports or dossiers that are only intended for the client. In the latter case, it can be, for instance, a dossier serving as the basis of an NGO campaign, or one for a public authority to map out its policy options.
The analyses we provide in our dossiers are always accompanied by workable recommendations that have been submitted for review by legal and technical experts and by policy makers. These recommendations are addressed to all the stakeholders involved in the research topic. Besides dossiers and reports, we also compile courses, training modules, and give workshops and lectures.
IPIS often deals with sensitive information and in handling this we pursue deontological principles such as reliability, critical sense, impartiality and check & double-check.