Civic education and peacebuilding: Examples from Iraq and Sudan

Civic Education and Peacebuilding: Examples from Iraq and Sudan

Citation: Levine, D. H., & Bishai, L. S. (2010). Civic education and peacebuilding: Examples from Iraq and Sudan (Special Report No. 254). United States Institute of Peace.

About the Report

Between 2006 and 2010, the United States Institute of Peace developed several civic education programs for Iraq and Sudan as part of broader efforts to promote postconflict stability and development and help prevent a return to violence. This report describes those programs after first examining the conceptual bases for civic education and how they differ from and overlap with human rights. It also discusses various challenges civic education programs face in post-conflict environments and suggests several ways to overcome these challenges, as illustrated in the cases of Iraq and Sudan.


• Civic education provides a positive framework for collective civic identity. As such, it can be a stabilizing factor in societies suffering from violent conflict and its aftermath.
• The emphasis of civic education on public participation in governance overlaps with human rights, but the two fields have distinct and separate conceptual bases.
• Postconflict environments create several severe challenges for educators. Some of these challenges are particularly difficult for civic education programs and must be addressed as such programs are developed.
• Classroom techniques are a crucial part of civic education because they impart skills as well as knowledge; both are necessary features of successful civic participation.
• USIP experiences with civic education programming in Iraq and Sudan illustrate the challenges and rewards of developing effective, sustainable models of civic education in areas recovering from violence. Such programs require local engagement, flexibility, patience, and long-term commitment.

In both theory and practice, citizenship and civic rights are important components of civic education, particularly in building peaceful national institutions in areas affected by violent conflict. Though there are differences between human and civic rights, educators in these two complementary fields have similar goals, such as employing interactive classroom techniques, and face similar challenges, such as dealing with specific problems that arise from conflict. The cases of civic education programming in Iraq and Sudan illustrate how differently civic education can manifest in different conflict contexts and what types of challenges can occur in developing effective programs.

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