IPRA-PEC – Projecting a Next Phase: Reflections on Its Roots, Processes and Purposes

“Reviewing PEC’s Past to Project its Preferred Future”

In observation of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Peace Education Commission (PEC) of the International Peace Research Association, two of its founding members reflect on its roots as they look to its future.  Magnus Haavlesrud and Betty Reardon (also founding members of the Global Campaign for Peace Education) invite current members to reflect on the present and the existential threats to human and planetary survival that now challenge peace education to project a significantly revised future for PEC and its role in taking up the challenge…

A Message to Present Members of the Peace Education Commission (PEC) of IPRA From Magnus Haavelsrud and Betty A. Reardon, Founding Members

Introduction: Setting a Course for PEC’s Future

The 2023 Trinidad General Conference is an appropriate venue in which to observe the 50th anniversary of the Peace Education Commission of the International Peace Research Association, to review its goals and methods and to set a course for its future. The foundation was laid in Bled, Yugoslavia at the 1972 General Conference when Saul Mendlovitz, Christoph Wulf and Betty Reardon proposed it to the IPRA Council which set up a Peace Education Committee with Christoph Wulf as chair. The Commission was officially founded in 1974 at the IPRA General Conference in Varanasi, India where Magnus Haavelsrud was elected PEC’s first Executive Secretary. From its inception PEC was conceptually clear, normatively guided and structured its organization for normative consistency in fulfilling its purposes.  Its founding documents, its strategy and bylaws are appended to this essay.

Circumstances and Contexts of PEC’s Beginnings

From the beginning, PEC was purposeful and systematic, and more than a biennial gathering of peace educators. The young PEC was a vital learning community whose members had a strong sense of solidarity, a profound commitment to making education a significant instrument for peace, a fierce loyalty to each other and a shared vision of a transformed world that they had commonly conceived. It was focused, purposeful and intentionally organized as can be seen in “A Global Strategy for Communication and Consciousness Raising in Various Local Settings” developed in 1975 at IPRA’s Summer School in Västerhaninge, near Stockholm, Sweden.

The conceptual and communal cohesion of PEC’s early days were the consequence of these IPRA Summer Schools which provided, over several consecutive years, a venue for intensive exchanges and formative learning as members from all world regions grappled with the commonalities and differences of professional contexts, perspectives and problem priorities. Working through and learning from these differences and engaging in analysis of commonalities enabled PEC as a learning community to produce “A Global Strategy…,” influenced by the structural analyses of peace research and the critical pedagogy, newly introduced by Paolo Freire. The document, a product of a fully participatory and open process, articulates a purpose well worth reviewing today to assess not only the relevance of its substance, but to understand the importance of process and context to determining and articulating common purposes.

In those early days, following the end of the Vietnam War, in the midst of neo-colonial struggles, peace researchers and peace educators, becoming awakened to the structural violence of the world system, began to learn from each other, building a common body of learning. Those common learnings became the foundation of peace education as it developed over the last third of the 20th century through liberation struggles, the Cold War, the rise of the anti-nuclear movement and their waning. That foundation remained relevant until the first years of the 21st century challenged it with the “War on Terror.”

Throughout its first decades, members of the PEC learning community brought this foundation to their involvement in landmark events and developments in the field, continuing to learn from all available sources, as its members provided conceptual frameworks and guiding values to the work of others in the field. Among the events and programs influenced by PEC members were: the First World Conference of the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction in 1974; UNESCO’s World Conference on Disarmament Education in 1980; the founding of the first graduate program in peace education at Teachers College Columbia University and the first International Institute on Peace Education in 1982: a UNESCO project in producing a Handbook on Disarmament Education; and The Global Campaign for Peace Education, established in 2000, among others.

PEC has also been a significant influence on IPRA itself, having introduced to the association gender and ecology as essential substance for peace research. Issues raised by an emerging women and peace movement were addressed within PEC until they were assumed by a separate IPRA commission. It has been the most consistently organized and purposeful of all the commissions. It is the only commission to be governed by bylaws drafted at its founding, guided by the common purpose and shared vision of global strategy, and the only one to publish its own journal.

These events and developments were parallel to on-going collaborative efforts among members that produced a body of literature on the theory and practice of the field that facilitated its worldwide development and dissemination. While specifics of the field varied from region to region and country to country, those developments in which PEC members were involved continued to be infused by the vision of the Global Strategy. In recognition of these achievements, IPRA was awarded the 1989 UNESCO Prize for peace education.

All of this developmental history culminated in the founding in 2004 of the Journal of Peace Education more or less simultaneously with the emergence of the challenges of a new historic context.[1] The journal is evidence of a firmly established field, but it could also become the medium for what we believe to be the need for a new vision, purpose and strategy that responds to the peace challenges of the mid decades of the 21st century. For these reasons we encourage close attention to reviewing PEC’s founding statement of purpose with a view to the formulation of one for its next phase. The work of PEC has been seminal in the evolution of the contemporary fields of peace knowledge; and we believe it can play a similar role in the present and future.

“A Global Strategy for Communication and Consciousness Raising in Various Local Settings”:  A Statement of Founding Purposes

A reflection the emerging structural analyses that peace research was then brining to a growing awareness of the injustices of global economic and political structures, “A Global Strategy…” is also a statement of anti-imperialism. It was based on a belief that peace education must be formed to the particular types of violence integral to those structures as they are manifest in the various locales in which it is practiced. With a view toward learning to transcend and transform those forms of violence, the strategy asserts a pedagogical preference for dialogue (i.e. “communication”) and for challenging dominant modes of thinking (i.e. “consciousness raising.”) These assertions reinforce PEC’s predilection toward contextual design and practice, recognizing the integral relationship between the local and the global in its context. and embracing critical dialogic reflection as the preferred pedagogy.

The strategy is intended to strengthen the formation of a peaceful movement towards a new reality based on values of a just peace. Communication and consciousness raising in this movement relates to all parts of the world system, thus it is global.   Participation of all parts of the system is necessary for achieving changes towards peace values through the development of a new reality.  Strengthening links and cooperation among all parts of the world system, such as that which characterized the young PEC was held to promise a greater impact. We believe it is imperative that PEC continue to involve members from diverse contexts and all world regions on such consideration of education´s role in the transformation of the global systems and structures that still deprive and oppress too many.

In 1974, the purpose of peace learning was seen as the transformation of contextual conditions that cause direct, structural and cultural violence. Learning peace, the drafters believed, is not limited to critical reflection. It requires the experiential learning of action toward the desired transformation. Actions should be judged on their potential to change both structures and cultures – at various levels from persons and communities to the macro structures that comprise the world system.

We have learned that peace learning supports and initiates developments towards more peace (i.e. less violence) and evidence of this may be found in all places and times, ranging from individual experiences in everyday life to movements at the global level. The cultural voice of education, we now argue, is therefore of political relevance to illuminate the need for transformation of problematic – sometimes violent – contextual conditions. When problematic circumstances prevail, pedagogic activity may respond by adapting to the status quo – or resist it with the intention of change. If such resistance is not possible within formal education, it is always possible, as historical experience has demonstrated (to varying degrees of difficulty – and danger) in informal and/or non-formal education. Clearly, PEC’s founders recognized that the integrity of peace education is directly related to the moral courage of its practitioners. This we learned from our colleagues “on the ground” in non-formal programs confronting structural oppression as actually experienced. Education in developments towards nonviolent conflict transformation, liberating and democratic learning in opposition to oppressive political authorities, is a different challenge from education provided by the dominant powers of societies.

Within such a libratory ethos there is need for agreed orders of procedures to assure normative consistency and effective, focused action. The Bylaws were our attempt to establish such guidelines for the organization of the Commission.

The Bylaws of PEC:  Assuring that the Process Serves the Purpose

PEC’s founders agreed that the continuity and effectiveness of our common work must be assured by clearly stated guidelines for governance of the endeavors of our diverse group bound together by our common purpose. Toward this end Bylaws were adopted that – although fallen from practice – are still in force. We structured them within the larger structure of IPRA, hoping to assure that education would remain an integral part of the Association’s mission.

Believing that the interest of developing present and future peace building and peace learning requires participation of all parts of the present world system, the Bylaws are meant to ensure such participation and may still serve as a tool towards this purpose.

Conclusions and Suggestions for Projecting PEC’s Future

With a view toward honoring the efforts of the late PEC Executive Secretary, Olga Vorkunova, who saw the possibility of a vital future for the field; assuming that PEC’s membership continues to be a diverse community of peace educators representing all world regions; and with  hope that members will work together in such a manner as to effectively advance the substance and practice of peace education, we offer the following suggestions for consideration by both the general membership of IPRA and the present members of PEC.

Re Bylaws: Establishing Procedures to Achieve Purposes

At the next IPRA General Conference in Trinidad-Tobago elections of Executive Secretary, Executive Committee and Council as prescribed in the appended Bylaws may take place. As the Bylaws do not stipulate how nominations are made, we suggest that the present Executive Secretary of PEC in cooperation with the Secretary General invite the membership of PEC and IPRA to nominate candidates for the various positions in PEC. Additional nominations may be made at the administrative meeting of the General Conference, followed by elections. We also suggest that the 2022 General Conference of IPRA invite the new PEC leadership to submit a proposal to the next General Conference of IPRA on updating the Bylaws on

  1. how nominations are to be made
  2. including the agreement with Taylor and Francis on PEC sponsorship of the Journal of Peace Education
  3. any other changes in the Bylaws of PEC.

Re: Strategy: Setting a New Course within a Vision for Change of the Present Reality

We believe that PEC’s present and ongoing mission would be well served by a review of its purposes within the context of today’s peace problematic. We suggest that time be given in the upcoming Commission sessions for reflection and discussion of the following contextual queries:

How do the existential planetary threats of climate catastrophe and nuclear holocaust affect our respective local contexts?  Do these fundamental problems manifest in particular forms of violence that should be addressed by peace education?

How has the “War on Terror,” the rise of authoritarianism and the backlash against the human rights of women and the marginalized affected the problematic of positive peace?

In what ways should international standards promulgated in the last 20 years such as UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, The Paris Accords on Climate and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons be integrated into a statement of purpose and the actual practice of peace education?

In what ways should the growing role of international civil society in confronting the existential threats and working to overcome the multiple and increasing problems of war, climate change, deprivation, oppression, displacement and the refugee crises and multiple human rights violations be addressed in defining the context of peace education and setting goals for that area of the field referred to as global citizenship education?

How should changes in context affect the use and relevance of the foundations of peace education?  What current realms of peace research might be useful in assessment of the relevance of the foundations?

A drafting committee might be set up to summarize the responses to these queries or similar ones to propose a new strategy or statement of purpose for PEC. Yours is the task of setting the future for the unique global learning community that is IPRA’s Peace Education Commission.

We wish you the best as you take up the challenge.

Magnus Haavelsrud
Betty Reardon
September, 2022

Appendix 1: A Global Strategy of Communication and Consciousness Raising in Various Local Settings[2]


Our purpose is to help change world reality, recognizing ourselves as subjects whose vocation it is to change reality, i.e., the exploitative system in which we are all partaking. This purpose, however, puts us in a dilemma, for we must find ways in which to survive in a system while at the same time asking to transform it. In this regard we must accept and reject at the same time. Our purpose is to find a strategy for action in which the right balance is struck between acceptance and rejection.

The characteristics of the new world system we have in mind when deciding on the strategy include the following: participation in decision making at all levels; social justice, i.e. the realization of human rights; elimination of violence, both direct and structural; ecological balance; and economic well-being. We believe that these values can only be achieved in a world in which political power is decentralized to people in their real contexts, so that each grouping of people should become economically and culturally self-reliant and politically independent.

The following strategy, then, purports to be a global strategy for communicators located in the four major categories of the present imperialistic system. These categories are:

  1. The centre of the industrialized nation
  2. The periphery of the industrialized nation
  3. The centre of the non-industrialized nation
  4. The periphery of the non-industrialized nation.

It assumes different degrees of overt acceptance and rejection of the system, which is to be changed, and it assumes that individuals in each of the four categories have a task to fulfill in breaking down the system and creating a new one. It assumes also, however, that everybody involved in the strategy, regardless of overt acceptance and rejection, covertly feels that his/her loyalty is to the poor and oppressed and to the new world order, and not to the present exploitative system.

General strategy

A general strategy of consciousness raising in the present world should comprise a set of simultaneous and complementary actions taking place in all areas of the structure of imperialism. In some but not necessarily all cases, these actions will be linked by direct cooperation between one area and another. This requires that we identify potential points of linkage and established criteria for complementarity.

As specific diagnosis must be made of the following factors for each area: substructures and processes to be changed; the potential agents of change; obvious and potential obstacles to change. This diagnosis must include the psychological as well as the structural aspects of societies concerned.

In addition to this diagnosis an analysis has to be made of the most appropriate processes for conscientization and the most effective channels of communication. These should be determined mainly by the specific content of the message, the substance of the action, and the values and perceptions of those whom we want to engage or reach.

Five ground rules of the general strategy are as follows.

First, action should be of a wide variety, so as to take advantage of every opportunity, and to provide for a flexible approach capable of adapting to changes in specific circumstances, for example change of government, economic trauma, natural catastrophe, etc. The communication process should not be centralized. The plan should be in all possible directions, inputs should come from all areas and single-source dependency should be avoided, in order to lessen the risk of repression and cultural imperialism. In other words, the mechanics and processes should be not only as effective as possible but also consistent with the goal-value attuned to a “global movement,” not “world organization”.

Second, each person in the communication project should think of herself as an agent of change, and also as a resource and potential model of the new values. How can we make ourselves more effective agents? How can our lives demonstrate the desirability and viability of the new value system? These are crucial questions for strategy planning. An example would be changing our own work situations to non-hierarchical organisations, thus providing a concrete model of a new set of human relations. As persons we should also solidify our individual contacts through concrete actions of cooperation and bearing witness, even if only symbolical, to solidarity with the peripheries. We must think of all areas of our personal lives, families, social relations as well as political and professional environments, as possible areas of consciousness raising.

Third, all actions should be judged on their potential to change the structures. In the short range, actions that affect substructures may be constructive, but complementary actions in other substructures must be undertaken as well to synergize efforts towards the longer range total change of the macrostructure.

Fourth, actions are to be judged by their ability to change emotional structures in human relations. Whereas the eco-political structures are more readily visible, and therefore specific actions more easily planned, the socio-emotional structures are to a large extent “invisible”, as they are seen by almost none outside the dominated groups. They are perhaps the most insidious aspects of Western cultural imperialism, as can be realized through our experience with racism and sexism, and our struggles (both internal and external) in communication.

The prototype of the structure to be dismantled here is the Mail Market Manager (MMM), who himself requires liberation from his burdens of authority and suppression of those human attributes which do not fit the model. Such a liberation process can be planned by polarizing the attributes valued by the model and those devalued (i.e., female, accommodating, service oriented, etc.). The MMM needs to move from theoretical to concrete, from logical, sequential analysis to intuitive thinking, emphasizing discontinuity and contradiction; to see dependency as sometimes humanely integrating and independence as sometimes alienating; to accommodate changing reality in present and future contexts, rather than holding to static structures, be they the conservative elements of the present or ideologically prescribed future contexts. He/she must move from ambitious, conforming and competitive modes of behavior to creative and solidarity affirming behavior. We must recognize that there is a bit of the MMM in all of us.

Fifth, to undertake actions, we need to be aware of objective conditions, affective reactions, and the mental change which may come from the action. These mental changes may lead to change in praxis and ultimately to change in the objective reality from which the action started. To engage persons in the change process we must take into account that the specific political position of any individual is the result of contradictory forces in his/her context as perceived by the individual. This perception is conditioned by the external imposition of “what constitutes truth” on one side and by the psychic constitution of the individual on the other side. The psychic constitution is in return influenced by the social structure on the micro and macro levels. A global strategy for consciousness raising must, therefore, take this into account. This means that a dialectical relationship must exist between the contradictions. This dialectic is best achieved through dialogical media in which the objective contradictions and the perceptions of these are gradually exposed to the participants in the learning process. In practical terms this means on one side that shocking exposé of contradictions can counteract the conscientization process. On the other side, it could mean that one-sided attention to the psychic constitution of the individual would also counteract the process. Consequently, the right balance must come through active participation in dialogue.

In planning the general strategy, we must determine which new points of linkage must be joined and which old points must be broken. For the first part we believe a set of constructive cooperative links between and among Peripheries must be set up reinforcing the potential strength coming from recognition of their common interests and dissipating their competition and antagonism that is imposed by the exploitative division of peripheries originated in the Centre of the Centre. Another important new link should be established between the Periphery of the Centre and the Periphery of the Periphery. Each needs to become aware of the ways in which they are commonly manipulated by the Centre and find points on which co-operative efforts could result in moving the structures toward greater symmetry and equity.

Another important potential link is between those pockets of the Centre now moving toward the new value system, for example, the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), and the Peripheries. This is most essential for purposes of security (in some cases legitimation) and for access to resources and communication channels (media and established educational structures). Likewise, the present links between Centres which reinforce their interests as opposed to the Peripheries must be broken. The strategists must seek modes of dispelling their fears of the new value system, i.e., counter-penetration of ideas.

In determining which actions are to be taken in which sphere, two factors must be considered, power (resources) and mobility. What needs to be moved where and who has the greatest capacity to move it?


The consciousness-raising mechanism here maybe set into motion by confrontation of alternative theories and conflicting value structures, by recognizing and dealing with emotional reality and nonverbal communication, by the necessity to provide concrete human experiences to illustrate intellectual abstractions. The tensions exposed in such a process are in many respects those with which we have struggled during these past days at Västerhaninge.

This GLOBAL STRATEGY represents for the Consciousness-Raising Group a conversion of those tensions into a new form of energy, at positive force through which each of us can maximize our potentialities and catalyze each other within the context of a political and emotional community working together to realize the new values. We value our individual experiences which come together in our mutual conscientization as a group, and we appreciate the catalytic force provided by IPRA in bringing all of us together in this Seminar.

Appendix 2: Bylaws of PEC[3]

1. The Peace Education Commission (PEC) is established to conduct the education activities of IPRA.

2. The purposes of PEC are to facilitate international cooperation between educators, peace researchers and activists toward more effective and widespread peace education, to engage in activities that will facilitate education about the causes of war and injustices as well as conditions for peace and justice. To this end PEC shall undertake, sponsor or support educational projects within schools as well as out of school through close cooperation between researchers and educators at all levels, and where appropriate, with other peace organisations, especially research and education agencies.

3. PEC will engage in various activities, such as:

  • organizing courses and conferences on peace education;
  • assisting and initiating peace education activities in different countries and in other international organizations, where interest exists among educators, activists, community leaders and scholars;
  • encouraging publication of articles on peace education in research, educational and scholarly journals;
  • directing the attention of researchers to aspects of peace education that might require further investigation and cooperating with them in research;
  • undertake, sponsor and support educational materials development, as well as teaching learning methods required by peace education.

4. PEC shall review its activities at the IPRA General Conference held biannually.

5. A Council shall be elected to assist in carrying out the activities of PEC, and to advise and assist the Executive Committee of PEC. The PEC Council shall consist of not more than 15 members, at least eight of which are practicing or experienced educators. Members shall serve two years. The PEC Council shall represent as far as possible the different geographical regions of the world. Members of the Council shall be elected by the IPRA General conference. A quorum is 10 members.

6. The Executive Committee shall consist of not more than five members in addition to the Executive Secretary. The committee members are elected from the PEC Council members at the IPRA General Conference.

7. An Executive Secretary of PEC shall be elected for two years by the plenary of the IPRA General Conference. The Executive Secretary is responsible for the conduct of day-to-day activities of PEC. He or she will consult with the PEC Executive Committee as far as practical and shall represent PEC in the name of the Executive Committee. The Secretary shall not serve more than two terms.



[1] Documentation of PEC activities since the beginning are available in the authors` archives on peace education at the University of Toledo: https://utdr.utoledo.edu/islandora/object/utoledo%3Abareardon; and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology https://arkivportalen.no/entity/no-NTNU_arkiv000000037626 (especially items Fb 0003-0008; G 0012 and 0034-0035)

[2] Originally published in the IPRA Newsletter available in archive on peace education https://arkivportalen.no/entity/no-NTNU_arkiv000000037626 and also included as chapter 3 in Robin J. Burns and Robert Aspeslagh, Three Decades of Peace Education around the World : An Anthology, vol. vol. 600, Garland Reference Library of Social Science (New York: Garland, 1996).

[3] Included in Mindy Andrea Percival, “An Intellectual History of the Peace Education Commission of the International Peace Research Association” (Columbia University, 1989).


Burns, Robin J., and Robert Aspeslagh. Three Decades of Peace Education around the World : An Anthology. Garland Reference Library of Social Science. Vol. vol. 600, New York: Garland, 1996.

Percival, Mindy Andrea. “An Intellectual History of the Peace Education Commission of the International Peace Research Association.” Columbia University, 1989.

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