Paris Peace Forum fails to address peace education (report/opinion)

(Reposted from: Lifelong Learning Platform. November 22, 2023)

By the Lifelong Learning Platform

Worldwide, in the recent years following the pandemic we have seen violence rising, inequalities increasing along with the polarisation of society and a lack of intergenerational understanding and support. These trends are the more worrisome as they hit young people and children: violations of Human Rights across Europe and the globe are on the rise, accompanied by hate speech and violence in and outside of schools, fueling the spiral of polarisation and violence. Since 2018, such trends are discussed in the framework of the annual Paris Peace Forum. This global gathering of world leaders is exploring the way in which global governance can promote peace, and took place on 10-11 November. This year’s theme, ‘Seeking Common Ground in a World of Rivalry’, has not addressed peace education, failing to consider how rivalry and competition are fostered in education and training systems in the absence of competences promoted by Peace Education.

The Lifelong Learning Platform urges the European Union and its Member States, the United Nations and the Council of Europe to take immediate actions to raise the profile of education for peace and tolerance in a lifelong learning approach as the sole and best response to violence, war and conflict. To this end, the importance of Peace Education becomes apparent. Peace education is a fundamental aspect of lifelong learning that transcends political boundaries and ideologies. It emphasises and cultivates understanding, empathy, and conflict-resolution skills, aiming to promote harmonious coexistence in an increasingly interconnected world. 

Lifelong learning promotes a holistic approach that recognises the importance of continuous education and learning throughout one’s life. Its emphasis on non-formal and informal methodologies has been acknowledged as pivotal in building and rebuilding communities and strengthening societies. 

We firmly believe that peace education, guided by the principles of lifelong learning, is essential for a prosperous and harmonious global community. Principles that guide peace education include:

  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Peace education equips individuals with essential conflict resolution skills. Through lifelong learning, people can develop the ability to address disagreements and disputes in a constructive and nonviolent manner.
  • Empathy and Understanding: Value-driven lifelong learning fosters empathy and a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives. This, in turn, promotes tolerance and inclusivity, helping to bridge gaps in a divided world.
  • Global Citizenship: Peace education encourages the development of responsible global citizens by developing knowledge and values that motivate learners to take action within their capacity. It instils values that transcend political and cultural differences, emphasising our shared humanity and interconnectedness.
  • Prevention of Violence: By educating individuals on the principles of peace, we can reduce the likelihood of violence and conflict. This approach offers a path towards sustainable peace by addressing root causes and promoting social harmony.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Lifelong learning in the context of peace education encourages intercultural dialogue, cultural sensitivity and respect for diverse traditions. This promotes a sense of unity that transcends political boundaries and prejudices.
  • Systems and critical thinking: The development of life skills and key competences for lifelong learning in the context of peace can contribute to an understanding of historical path dependencies, injustices and the influence of local actions in a global context. Through such an understanding peacebuilding interactions can be fostered and polarisation can be reduced.

These principles are at the core of the learning community’s work, as civil society in education and training built a framework for individuals and communities to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a more peaceful, inclusive, and understanding world. Civil society advanced principles such as global citizenship education (GCE) within institutional commitments such as the Declaration on Global Education to 2050, but also through numerous standalone initiatives, especially GCE curricula through digital storytellingintercultural training activitiesgame-based learning on democracy. As part of GCE, civil society spearheaded mainstreaming peace education in all levels, sectors and formats of learning. Training on peace education, linkages between history education and peace, tools and materials to promote peace education in formal education, methodologies of adult education for peace activism, and training for trainers on implementing intercultural, democratic and peace education programmes are only some examples from the learning community.

Mainstreaming peace education requires safe environments in which all have key competences for dialogue, such as cultural sensitivity, critical thinking or practising empathy. Tools to establish safe environment  include:

  • guide to facilitate multi-perspective discussions in formal education
  • guide for using of oral histories in learning activities to bring forward family traditions, ceremonies and rituals, to knowledge of the environment, to religious and spiritual experiences
  • toolbox for intercultural learning
  • methodology for dialogic gatherings being used in schools
  • an initiative to promote debating in formal education

Peace education does not stop at prevention, as it touches on how learners cope with conflict and its implications. Therefore, resources, such as ‘Heroes cry too’, have an invaluable potential to support learners in dark moments.

In this context, LLLPlatform calls for:

  • Mainstreaming peace education cross-curricularly in formal education, strengthening links between formal, non-formal and informal learning to ensure a constant practice of peace education in a life-wide learning approach
  • Providing meaningful opportunities for initial training and continuous professional development for educators on leading dialogue, promoting diversity and viewing learners as equal partners in the learning. These opportunities should not be limited only to available courses but should consider educators’ working conditions, especially time and financial resources for training
  • Implementing the Council Recommendation on the Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning to ensure that peace competences are treated on an equal footing with all key competences required by learners to strive in current societies
  • Increasing funding in education and training at EU and national level, ensuring structural and sustainable funding sources specifically for peace education initiatives that goes beyond project-based funding

Boosting collaboration among all education and training stakeholders in policy making considering how all share responsibility in any peace-related process.

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