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Josef Korbel School of International Studies

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Fifth Annual CENEX Highlights Nigerian Conflict with Boko Haram

By Brent Forgues, MA Candidate, Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration  

DENVER—April 17, 2015—More than 90 students participated in the fifth annual Crisis Engagement and Negotiation Exercise (CENEX) hosted by the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

Supervised almost entirely by students, the exercise simulates a global crisis projected two years in the future based on current events today. During the simulation, students strategize and make decisions according to their assigned teams, which typically embody groups ranging from concerned nations to humanitarian organizations. 

Lewis Griffith, lecturer and CENEX faculty adviser, said the exercise is meant to afford students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom and practice decision-making under duress. 

“CENEX is designed to put the Korbel student and invited guest into a time-sensitive information incomplete environment,” he said. “In other words: reality.”

Griffith said that CENEX tends to be far less scripted and structured when compared to other crisis simulations, which creates the possibility of a variety of outcomes during the exercise.

“So it’s a dynamic exercise designed to help students wrestle with the sheer number of variables and players,” he said. “That the best laid plans can be changed by the events of others, and that’s sort of its educational intent.”

This year’s CENEX revolved around the developing situation in Africa regarding Nigeria’s conflict with Boko Haram and its political and economic ramifications across the globe. In addition, other playable actors included the United States, Chad, Cameroon, a fictional oil company, international organizations, such as the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees and Doctors Without Borders, and for the first time, a media team that interviewed students at summit meetings during the exercise. 

Jessie Cochran, an MA candidate in International Development, said she participated in CENEX as a representative of the humanitarian NGO, Save the Children International. She said her organization’s main goal during the exercise was to gain access to refugees and internally displaced persons affected by the conflict, which meant negotiating with Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and even Boko Haram. 

Although Cochran said she didn’t have any previous experience with negotiations or formal diplomacy measures, she said the exercise allowed her to practice those skills, which will likely become useful in the future when she hopes to be working in the field of humanitarian assistance.

“Those of us who have participated in CENEX might be involved in these sorts of issues and negotiations in our careers,” she said. “So it was good practice.”

“It’s really fun, and I think you learn a lot, as well.”