IPRA-PEC at 50: Making the Most of Maturity

Editor’s Note: The responses below from Matt Meyer, Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), and Candice Carter, Peace Education Commission (PEC) convener,  refer to the previously published reflections of Magnus Haavlesrud and Betty Reardon on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the PEC of IPRA. Two of the co-founders of the PEC, Betty and Magnus reflected on the commission’s historical roots while also looking to the future by examining the existential threats to human and planetary survival that now challenge peace education and the possibilities of the PEC and its role in taking up the challenge.  The 50th anniversary of the PEC will be celebrated at the upcoming IPRA 2023 Conference that will take place in Trinidad & Tobago from May 17-21, 2023.

A response to Magnus and Betty
from Matt Meyer, IPRA Secretary General

If PEC emerged as a space fifty years ago to help raise consciousness and concrete action to build movements based on practicalities of “a just peace,” then surely the need is as great as ever to delve deep into the processes and educational products which will meet the moment of 21st century consciousness.

For humans of the 21st century, 50 years is still considered pretty young. The breakneck speeds of wifi, internet, social media and something called “5G” suggest, however, that even a decade can feel like an eternity to the youth, and this dynamic likely predates the current era. Nevertheless, some periods are more privileged than others, and in 1973 when IPRA’s Peace Education Commission was founded as the field of peace studies was in its youth and sub-category of peace education in its infancy, the world was still in the throes of one of its most storied moments of the recent past. The so-called “Sixties”—that historic epoch which took place roughly from the late 1950’s through till the late 1970’s—has been referenced by so many books that full libraries can easily be stuffed with nothing else. More than one academic professional journal focuses on little else than re-examining this time period. Without taking too much time to reflect from a historian’s perspective why such a super-focus might conceal and obscure more than it reveals, for this note in celebration of PEC’s 50th birthday, one need simply note that the Commission was formed during a vibrant time of upheaval and debate. That many projects initiated at that time have ceased to exist and PEC continues to be strong is the most important thing for us, in 2023 and beyond.

Our elders Magnus and Betty have outlined both the means of sustaining a structure designed to meet our political-educational goals, as well as the questions we need to ponder in order to go forward and grow. My addition here is mainly to support their suggestions, perhaps adding this commentary to help spark the new dialogues we must have.

First, some key words ring out in reading their review: the founding of PEC included a deep realization of the fact that solidarity must be a central part of whatever we build, and that fierce loyalty to one another enables us to challenge each other and grow at the same time. It is no coincidence that Paulo Freire’s work on critical pedagogy, so new at time, was understood to be central when confronting the ongoing imperial goals of the US in southeast Asia. The Vietnamese resistance and early socialist nation-state provide perhaps one of the last great examples of progressive statehood writ large.

What effects, then, do the changes in national liberation and anti-colonial/neocolonial struggle mean for our peace education and peace research fields? If national liberation is less significant than before, to what degree have we or must we look at non-state experiments in sovereign self-determination and justice—from the radical feminists of Rojava to the indigenous revolutionaries of the Zapatistas and from Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela, etc.?

The word “ecology” can be found as part of the early PEC, and Betty and Magnus note that concerns about our current climate crisis must be part of our dialogues today. But what of the all-too-siloed environmental movement, with so little attention paid to climate change in the global south? A recent International Peace Bureau webinar tried to rectify that by spotlighting conflict and climate perspectives from African perspectives. IPB’s recently elected African Council member, Liberian-based Tyson Smith Berry, led a workshop on the same during weeks of a Pan African peace-building process Global South. What are we as a global community doing to learn about and from these colleagues?

This harkens to early PEC documents regarding the relationships between the Centre and the Periphery, which at the time also closely referenced national liberation movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as focal points. What now—with different Centre imperial weaknesses, sub-imperial emergences, neo-fascist movement gains, and widely divergent opinions on the role of China as mediating super-power—of the notions of “delinking” and building new people’s structures outside of oppressive, violent systemic norms?

These might be questions also considered by other IPRA Commissions, but as PEC emerged and continues as a strong space for systemic evaluations and the subsequent popular education of the same, it seems to me that PEC becomes again a leading place for these dialogues. Indeed, it seems to me that these are the very basis of the “libratory ethos” of dialogical challenges to the dominant modes of thinking which Betty and Magnus articulate.

Research, education, and action are the indelible pillars that give our field the strength to withstand enormous changes and lose, and yet maintain relevance over the long haul. Without the wisdom gained from the interconnections of those three, both theory and practice fall flat.

If PEC emerged as a space fifty years ago to help raise consciousness and concrete action to build movements based on practicalities of “a just peace,” then surely the need is as great as ever to delve deep into the processes and educational products which will meet the moment of 21st century consciousness. The younger class of peace educators, which very much include IPRA 2023 Trinidad conference co-coordinator Hakim Williams, seem well suited to tackle the complexities of the moment. A mature PEC at fifty enables us to come together not simply across geographies, academic disciplines, and ideologies, but across real multi-generational knowledge bases. We will never know what inspiring directions incoming PEC Commission convener Olga from Russia would have taken us, had COVID-19 not silenced her voice at the end of 2021, shortly before her country was plunged into war. We can and must however redouble our efforts to reimagine our work from all perspectives and strategies, unable to rest on the past laurels (real or imagined).

Finally, we must never give space to the idea that Peace Education, even at the earliest of grade levels, is any less essential to our overall field of peace studies and research. Research, education, and action are the indelible pillars that give our field the strength to withstand enormous changes and lose, and yet maintain relevance over the long haul. Without the wisdom gained from the interconnections of those three, both theory and practice fall flat. Let us prepare for dialogues and debates in Trinidad, as Magnus and Betty have implored and guided us—and let us plan and prepare for a PEC Centennial which will look better than our current circumstances.

A response to Magnus and Betty
from Candice C. Carter, IPRA PEC Convener

The PEC has remained purposeful throughout the half-century of its existence. In addition to advancing knowledge from research and information-sharing, it has enabled cross-cultural and distant connections in peace education.

The Peace Education Commission (PEC) of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) has continued during the half-century of its existence as a fortifying as well as dynamic section of the IPRA. Its members and leaders have expanded the knowledge of peace education and continually updated the PEC Bylaws. Subsequent to the founding of the PEC, its leaders have facilitated inclusive decision-making, in accordance with the stipulations of the initial PEC Bylaws, while they promoted the PEC’s Mission. The PEC has remained purposeful throughout the half-century of its existence. In addition to advancing knowledge from research and information-sharing, it has enabled cross-cultural and distant connections in peace education. All the while, it has served as an international research organization in which new and continuing inquiry on and reporting about peace education continues, despite the sometimes daunting challenges of that work. In that accomplishment, the PEC has been a source of inspiration for, as well as a community in, the work of and research on peace education. I remain inspired by the PEC’s founders and greatly appreciate their commitment to as well as ongoing support for peace education, the PEC, and the related initiatives of its members.

Join the Campaign & help us #SpreadPeaceEd!
Please send me emails:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top