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Education for Peacebuilding: Empirical Findings and Insights
Violent conflict presents one of the greatest threats to human development. Nearly half of the more than 1.4 billion population living in fragile and conflict affected states are below the age of 201. However, recent reports indicate that equitable and relevant education is one critical way to build young people's capacities and strengthen social cohesion to mitigate the negative effects of violent conflict on young women and men’s lives.
To explore the evidence and insights around education for peacebuilding, the Washington Network on Children & Armed Conflict (WNCAC) recently convened an online webinar with experts and practitioners. The panelists analyzed research findings from more than a dozen countries under UNICEF’s Peacebuilding, Education, and Advocacy Programme (PBEA or Learning for Peace). Additionally, they explored practical insights from Search for Common Ground’s (Search) education programs for peacebuilding, including Rainbow for Hopein Lebanon and Mozaik in Macedonia.
Strengthened social cohesion (both vertical and horizontal) and strengthened individual capacities were key results of the Learning for Peace programme, which supported interventions in 14 countries mainly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Anna Azaryeva Valente, child protection specialist atUNICEF, discussed these findings from the PBEA - Learning for Peacereport and shared some of the key lessons learned around education for peacebuilding programming. Co-Director of theResearch Consortium on Education and Peacebuilding, Dr. Mieke Lopes Cardozo from the University of Amsterdam, added empirical insights from a study she led in Pakistan, Myanmar, South Africa, and Uganda onyouth agency and the role of formal and non-formal education in peacebuilding2. Youth respondents in the study expressed widespread disillusion and disaffection with formal education. Dr. Lopes Cardozo emphasized the importance of including youth’s voices in policy and programming, in order to ensure post-conflict societies, education systems, and programs respond to youth needs (socio-cultural and political, as well as economic/livelihoods). Saji Prelis, moderator of this event and Children & Youth program director at Search, pointed out that the United Nations Security Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security presents a framework for the international community and governments to acknowledge, invest, and engage its youth populations, especially in fragile or conflict settings as an urgent democratic opportunity.
Both panelists highlighted the role that education can play in mitigating conflict, and the need to understand, and frame, youth in more nuanced ways that better reflect the many dimensions of a large, heterogeneous population. One important takeaway, that both panelists noted, is that education is not a panacea for peace, and can cause harm through reproducing existing or new inequalities and tensions in divided societies. Dr. Lopes Cardozo elaborated: “Education can play a very important role if it is supporting the positive face of education, but it needs to be embedded in a broader process of peacebuilding.”
The second half of the discussion focused on the practical application of education for peacebuilding programs in Macedonia and Lebanon.Mozaik is an interethnic, bilingual pre-school program that has been active since 1998 in Macedonia, and became institutionalized as part of the national education system in 2012. Vilma Venkovska Milcev is the director of the Centre for Common Ground in Macedonia and developed the Mozaik curriculum. She explained that the success of the program is rooted in its bilingual and child-centered approach, which allows for children to collaborate and communicate at young ages to build trust across ethnicities.
Bertha Missyadi, an education specialist at Search for Common Ground- Lebanon, saw similar results in bringing together Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian children through English language classes, sports, and arts activities atRainbow of Hope, an after-school program in Lebanon. While Mozaik was created for 3-6 year olds and Rainbow of Hope works with 6-11 year olds, both practitioners speak to the transformative power that education programs have on an individual and communal level. By creating space to explore the “other,” children, teachers, and parents challenge stereotypes and build friendships that continue beyond the program.
The webinar ended with an engaging question and answer portion, which brought to light key lessons and recommendations for implementing and investing in education for peacebuilding programs:
● Comprehensive and Ongoing Conflict Analysis - Conflicts are contextual and multi-layered. As the PBEA findings show, it is beneficial to perform a broader conflict analysis that is inclusive of the political, economic, and social climate as well as youth’s experiences and opinions to reveal and address the root causes of conflict.
● Holistic Approach - Practitioners should design programs to strengthen vertical social cohesion between the State and its people, horizontal social cohesion to build positive relationships between groups, and individual capacity to leverage youth agency in terms of economic empowerment, political representation, socio-cultural recognition and reconciliation. It is also important to work through formal and non-formal channels to simultaneously institutionalize programs and build transformative resilience for peace and social ties.
● Qualitative Research and Participatory Methods - Youth identities are diverse, making it crucial to incorporate youth’s voices into programming. Using methods that bring youth’s experiences to the forefront allow for increased representation, empowerment, and agency.
● Education Can Do Harm - Education is not a panacea. When implemented narrowly, education can harm rather than improve relationships. Practitioners should integrate education programs into broader peacebuilding initiatives, to ensure they transform existing injustices.
● Teacher and Parent Support - Programs should adequately compensate and properly train teachers in conflict resolution skills as well as provide them with psychosocial support. In addition, programs need to include spaces for parent engagement and learning through opportunities like parent’s councils or parent meetings, ensuring meaningful representation of marginalised parental voices in such bodies.
The Washington Network on Children and Armed Conflict (WNCAC) is an informal network initiated in July 2004 bySearch for Common Ground and theDisplaced Children and Orphans Fund of USAIDwith the broad aim of improving the protection of children affected by armed conflict. Topics addressed include such issues and areas of practice as child protection, education, psychosocial interventions in emergencies, child soldiers, separated children, humanitarian relief, post-conflict development, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.
Blog prepared by Ashley Law, intern at Search for Common Ground’s Children & Youth division.
- 1. http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/development/states-...
- 2. In collaboration with the University of Ulster and the University of Sussex, and research teams in the four countries.