Education for Peace plays an important part in the UN’s Culture of Peace Initiative
In this blog, I will make two proposals to illustrate my claim. The international community has acknowledged conflict as a major barrier to the fulfilment of the right to education.
UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Save the Children, and Oxfam all state that conflicts are fundamental obstacles to the achievement of quality Education For All (EFA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, education is also a fundamental human right which develops values, self-confidence, problem-solving abilities and critical thinking. Education can also contribute to peace through increasing life-skill opportunities and ensuring that the curriculum content promotes tolerance, justice and non-inflammatory language. The relationship between education and peace is profound; education has a critical role in building peace. Education, by its very nature, contributes to shaping and transforming society and therefore plays a key role in peace-building.
There are many challenges we are currently facing in this area. Firstly, lack of educational opportunities and the resulting limited later-life employment in some countries are core grievances that can lead to civil conflict. Similarly, grievances and tension can be caused by unmet expectations in the form of low progression ratios between different education levels, as well as following rapid expansions in secondary and tertiary education producing an over-capacity of highly educated youth for which there are limited employment opportunities.
The perception of inequality is a well-known grievance and root cause of conflict. As access to quality education is at a premium in many countries, denial of access or exclusion because of identity, religion, or geographical location is cited as a common contributory factor to conflict, according to UNESCO reports.
Special attention should be given to the content of curricula and textbooks particularly in conflict prone areas or countries at risk. While the inclusion of content that promotes positive values and eliminates inflammatory content is an evident and active conflict-prevention tool, curricula may contain elements that perpetuate intolerance and violence.
There has been a wide range of peace education programmes available that build on the points outlined above. It is suggested that the goals for peace education vary according to the level of tension or conflict in any one society at a given time. Objectives may range from imparting core behavioural skills and values to ensuring an understanding of human rights and preparing for active citizenship. The Inter-Agency Peace Education Programme (PEP) is an initiative that has had successful results in reconstruction situations in a range of contexts but particularly in East and West Africa. The PEP is designed for education managers of ministries dealing with both formal and non-formal education and for agencies which implement education activities on behalf of the government (UNESCO-INEE).
My first proposal is that the UN should undertake capacity development to raise awareness on strategies for conflict prevention and peacebuilding within educational institutions, governmental bodies and civil society.
To amplify, capacity development issues for conflict prevention should aim to improve individual skills, organisational procedures and institutional arrangements that contribute to mitigating the risk of conflict. In addition to training education actors in mediation, dialogue and negotiation techniques, it is important to develop comprehensive teacher training courses, in-service courses, and training of administrators and educational planners on conflict prevention measures. Capacity development must also be addressed to curriculum developers to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge necessary for the development of curricula that reflect principles of peacebuilding, tolerance and human rights. Establishing a specific team within the ministry of education to address such issues may also be necessary.
My second proposal is that the UN should integrate and strengthen the role of youth in the education system and community as active partners for conflict prevention and peace-building.
How can this be implemented? Education policy-makers and planners can benefit from the emerging thinking on how young people learn to adapt their education and training systems as part of the technological age, and thereby support young people as leaders and role models in society both within and outside school. Youth can be mobilised to contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities with different groups of students, acting as mentors and mediators to younger children and peers, participating in intra-community projects, especially in sensitive areas, and humanitarian and emergency aid, assuming electoral responsibilities, and managing cultural of peace centers.