Invitation to Participate: Survey Exploring Networked Impact of Peace/Conflict-Focused International Education Programs

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Boston are conducting a study on the networks formed through peace/conflict-focused international education and study abroad programs, and the impact that these networks have in fostering peace. If you direct (or work/teach in) such a program, or have in the past, they ask for your assistance in filling out an online survey.

Students from San Vicente del Caguan. Fundacion Escuelas de Paz is conducting peace education training with more than 80 educators in the formerly FARC controlled area.

Reflections from a Peace Educator on the Possibility of Peace in Colombia

Amada Benavides de Perez is President of Fundación Escuelas de Paz, a peace education NGO in Colombia. She attended the September 26 signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC. She and colleagues have been working tirelessly developing and training networks of formal and non-formal networks for decades, contributing to the foundational peacebuilding work making the possibility of the agreement possible. In the coming months, Fundacion Escuelas de Paz will be coordinating peace education efforts in territories formerly controlled by the FARC.

In this message, Amada offers her reflections on a turbulent week that began with hope, only to collide with confusion and exasperation. We stand in solidarity with Amada, the peace educators and the citizens of Colombia for their continued courage in pursuit of peace through education.

Panelists (L-R) Patrick Fine, FHI 360 CEO; Angela Kearney UNICEF Pakistan Representative; Yasmin Haque, UNICEF Deputy Director of Emergency Programmes; Henk-Jan Brinkman UN Peacebuilding Support Office Chief of Policy Planning and Application. (Photo: UNICEF)

Forging a Peaceful Future: Four Years of UNICEF’s Learning for Peace Programme

The UNICEF Learning for Peace Programme, launched in 2012 with the support of the Government of the Netherlands, helped promote peace through education in 14 conflict-affected countries: Burundi, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, State of Palestine, Uganda, and Yemen.

A peace march through Balboa Park, San Diego, California, 2003 to protest the Iraq War seven days before it began. (Photo: Patty Mooney, Crystal Pyramid Productions)

The Need for a Conclave of Associations and Groups in Our Field

Professionals doing very similar peace work but participating in different groups are typically not connected and the lack of linkages or even communication between various organizations and their members present complications and roadblocks to advancing important social and policy change. In an era of limited funding coupled with the difficultly of finding time to participate in professional associations, would not the entire field benefit from knowing more about each other’s work, and thereby, find commonality that could advance practice, research, education, and policy outcomes?

Training Report: “Education for Peace – Developing Competences for Peace Education in the Youth Field”

The European Intercultural Forum e. V. just finalised the narrative report of their 1st training course in the frame of the Training Programme “Education for Peace – Developing Competences for Peace Education in the Youth Field” (Misaktsieli, Georgia – April 10-18, 2016)

Teachers: Agents of Peace Building in the Conflict Zones

Dr. Swaleha Sindhi suggests that in conflict-affected situations education is about more than service delivery; it is a means of socialization and identity development through the transmission of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes across generations. Education may therefore be a way of contributing to conflict transformation and building peace.

A Yemeni girl walks past soldiers on her way to school during the conflict (Photo: Human Rights Watch)

Education as a tool for building sustainable peace

In his “Agenda for Humanity” vision for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set forth five core responsibilities of global leaders to end human suffering and recognize our common humanity. It is clear that we can achieve none of the five core responsibilities without education – but for now let’s focus on education’s impact on core responsibility number one: to “Prevent and End Conflict.”

A World at School has been joined by a number of leading education organizations in recent months in highlighting the ways in which the right to education is threatened during emergencies, conflicts and protracted crises. Education is one of the first things sacrificed in an emergency – it is under-prioritized and under-funded. In 2015 alone, 80 million children and adolescents had their education disrupted due to crises and disasters, yet only 1.4% of all humanitarian aid went to education. Another side of the coin, however, reveals that education is not merely another casualty of emergencies but has the potential to be a very powerful tool for building sustainable peace and preventing future violence.

When extremism stalks the students: Educational solutions to India’s conflict zones

Perhaps the most telling effect of violent extremism is the disruption of education, from primary to college level. A recent report released by the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace, entitled ‘India’s youth speak out about higher education’, consolidates the opinions of over 6,000 students from all over the country. Students from conflict affected regions frequently brought up early experiences that affected their ability to succeed in – or even get admitted to – college. These students said they had not been able to attend primary school for years at a time, leaving them unprepared for the rigors of higher education. This trend was borne out by our survey. Approximately 12.4% of survey respondents attributed their lack of enrollment in higher education to “social unrest at their native place”.

A peace education class for 16-year-old Syrian refugees run by International Alert's partners in Lebanon. (Image: International Alert)

Syria, Five Years On: Building Peace in the Midst of War

Can you really build peace in the middle of a war? It certainly seems at best a counter-intuitive, bad use of time and money. Or does it actually make a lot more sense than any other course of action? The author, Harriet Lamb of International Alert, visited NGOs working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon to do ‘peace education’, a project funded by the British government. Think of this as part citizenship classes for children whose citizenship has been blown to smithereens, part the fun of a Saturday drama class, part therapy for kids who have been through hell – and are still living it. It was a deeply touching experience.

The Case of Education for Peace in Mexico

(2013 – Transcend Media Service) At the national level an overarching program to prevent violence has been designed and enacted in Mexico. It is a bold proposal, grounded in a legitimate peace philosophy –one in which peace is constructed through the satisfaction of basic human needs- and is well equipped in scope and with enough budget and personnel to achieve transcending results by construction of peace infrastructures and the buildup of a mediation-dialogue-conciliation culture that had been floating in the air for some years but is now becoming a very concrete way of life not only in scholarly circles but also in civil society and government.

This top-down approach is then linked with efforts bottom-up from the ground level in the different regions. The State of Mexico –a region of the country- is a formidable example of how peace education can be better served by summing up efforts in all directions from NGOs to government to individual commitments. Under the overarching umbrella of a project called Programa para una Convivencia Escolar Armónica (Program for a Harmonious Coexistence in School) thousands of school teachers, parents and tens of thousands of students are getting acquainted not only with strategies on how to deal with bullying but also on a wide range of conflict transformation techniques for everyday conflicts in all domestic contexts.

Graffiti shows the presence of guerrillas in the Nasa area. (Photo: Demotix/Joana Toro)

Post-conflict in Colombia: From Havana to the classrooms

Negotiations between the state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the possibility of signing an agreement – and, thus, of opening a post-conflict era – have made many of us in Colombia dream of a new country. To accomplish this dream, much hope has often been placed in education. But when it comes to proposing a clear path for education in the post-conflict era, more questions than answer arise. How can education contribute to the negotiated settlement of the conflict and to achieving a stable and lasting peace in Colombia?

Fundación Mi Sangre works with young people who have grown up in the midst of the Colombian armed conflict. Image credit: Fundación Mi Sangre.

Dreaming of the future in Colombia

In September 2015 FARC and the government declared that by March 2016 a final agreement would be signed, and that 60 days later FARC would have demobilised. With an end in sight, for the first time many Colombians are now beginning to ask themselves: what will life be like if this threat does not exist? For most, the answer is hard to find. Fundación Mi Sangre (FMS), a Colombian NGO working to transform children and youth into agents for change in the construction of peace, has long observed the importance of this question and addressed it through their Peace Education methodology. For FMS the conflict has blocked children and young people’s ability to imagine and dream the potential that their lives hold. Multi-generational violence has limited the opportunities of Colombians for so long that many have stopped dreaming of a time when their country will be at peace. This can result in children and young people choosing a path of illegality, feeding into rather than working to stop the cycle of violence. For this reason a key step to building sustainable peace in Colombia will be a cultural shift in which people redevelop their identities as individuals and as a society in peace. Dreaming and imagining hold a great power to unlock social transformations for long term change.

While some young recruits yawn and struggle to follow during a "class" on the peace process, older FARC rebels listen more closely and take notes (AFP Photo/Luis Acosta)

In jungle camps, Colombia rebels take peace lessons

In their secret jungle camps, Colombia’s Marxist rebels used to learn how to fight. Now their leaders are trying to teach them how not to. They still carry the rifles and machetes they have used for half a century in their war against the Colombian government. But now troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are sitting down for classes on how life will be once they lay down their weapons.
Thousands of miles away at talks hosted by Cuba, their commanders are negotiating a peace accord they hope to sign with Bogota in March. Meanwhile, here in the jungle, FARC soldier Tomas, 37, is acting as an instructor, explaining to his fellow recruits what is at stake.

(Image by E-International Relations Photo Unit)

Refugees as Contributors to Peace

Refugees have only too frequently been viewed as passive recipients of outcomes that are negotiated in distant arenas of power. They have throughout history only rarely been consulted or represented in peace processes, and peace-building initiatives have often marginalized them. Disregarding refugees’ interests may be outright destructive to peace processes – where opportunities for political participation are not guaranteed, refugees in exile risk becoming detrimentally politicized or militarized. Peace education programs for refugees in exile could enhance prospects of reconciliation and conflict resolution upon return. For example, returnees will be better equipped to reconcile with former community members and mediate conflicts during fragile post-conflict and reintegration processes. Indeed, on several occasions, UNHCR’s Executive Committee has emphasized education for peace and the promotion of a culture of peace.

A soldier and a street trader in Bogota, Colombia

UN and Colombia launch post-conflict fund: peace education a priority

The fund will focus in particular on supporting conflict-affected areas in the lead up to and aftermath of possible peace agreements between the government and the country’s largest rebel group following almost 52 years of armed conflict. The fund will support initiatives to improve access to justice, local government capacity, the management of social conflicts and the promotion of education for peace, focusing on the most conflict-affected areas.

Summer Institute on Conflict Transformation across Borders in Ecuador: Call for Applications (due March 21)

The McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies of the University of Massachusetts-Boston, FLACSO-Ecuador, and the Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict (CEMPROC) are pleased to announce the second annual Summer Institute on Conflict Transformation Across Borders will take place from June 5-24, 2016 in Quito, Ecuador at FLACSO, with graduate-level credit issued by UMass Boston. The program will focus on conflict and peace in border regions.

The journal: Nonviolent Change (NCJ)

The journal Nonviolent Change (NCJ), in its 31st year, is an open access online practical journal on getting to peace and the barriers to doing so at the community through the international level. NCJ carries articles; opinion pieces (“dialoguing”); news and analysis of world, regional, country and environmental events, and of peace justice and environmental organization activities; a calendar of “Upcoming Events”; reviews; media notes; and announcements.

Now Accepting Applications for the Rotary Peace Fellowship

The Rotary Foundation is now accepting applications for the fully-funded Rotary Peace Fellowship. The fellowship provides academic and practical training to prepare scholars for leadership roles in solving today’s global challenges. Up to 100 fellows are selected globally every year to earn either a master’s degree or a professional development certificate in peace and conflict studies at one of six Rotary Peace Centers at leading universities in Australia, England, Japan, the United States, Sweden and Thailand.