Peace Education in Iraq: Laying a Foundation for Sustainable Development

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Strengthening the capacity of universities across Iraq to contribute to the achievement of SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, UNDP Iraq, national NGO, Iraq Al-Amal and the UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck, together launched a new national curriculum  – “Diploma Programme for Peace and Conflict Studies”, which will be piloted in October 2019.

With the endorsement of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR), the curriculum was drafted with the participation of 14 academicians from Baghdad, Tikrit, Anbar, Mosul, Kufa, Babylon, and Basra universities, and designed to admit graduate students from any BA Programme. Admission of the first cohort of the two semester programme will be determined through evaluation by an academic board.

In Iraq, a country with a conflict-torn history, from colonialism to the regime of Saddam Hussein, the foreign invasion of 2003 and the rise of ISIS, reccurring conflict has contributed to the creation of a status quo that sees many communities traumatized and divided.  This curriculum is the first step toward a theoretical understanding of peace and non-violent conflict transformation; and lays the groundwork for community engagement by educated practitioners.

Jamal Aljawaheri, Executive Director of Iraq Al-Amal, explains, “Peace Education is cost-effective and sustainable. If we are able to educate the leaders of tomorrow in ideas of peaceful coexistence and conflict transformation, these ideas will permeate into communities and in time, lessen the burden of military and police costs associated with on-going violence and the security currently required to keep others safe. Keeping in mind, this must be well informed and context-specific ideas of peace and conflict.”

UNDP Iraq and Eastern Mennonite University previously collaborated on Peace Education in Iraq, having been instrumental in the establishment and capacity development of the Iraqi Universities Consortium for Peace Studies between 2016-2017, which has since advocated for the integration of peace studies into the higher education systems in Iraq.

Subsequently, the partnership with the University of Innsbruck has enabled the training of 23 Academicians (6 women) on conflict assessment/analysis, dialogue, negotiation and facilitation, which will further enable the effective delivery of the new Diploma curriculum.

“In an economy that knows the value of people, we know how to communicate with each other, we know how to cooperate with each other, we feel the empathy for the suffering of the other but also the joy of the other – and that’s what peace studies is about, that’s why we need it in universities. I think in many societies we have lost this ability, and peace studies can contribute a lot to their recovery – I think Iraq is a place where people long for that,” described Wolfgang Dietrich, UNESCO Chairholder for Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck.

In 2018, UNDP and Iraqi Al-Amal also supported 11 academicians and experts (4 from Iraq, and 7 from the region) to develop the first-ever Arabic language Peace Lexicon, which has since been adopted nationally as a key strategic tool for peace education. With over 263 key terms relating to peace and conflict, this lexicon will enable academics to share common ground when communicating about peace and conflict in Iraq, especially in the implementation of the new curriculum.

Dr Mohammedsiddig Mudawi, Head of Stabilization, UNDP Iraq, commented on the enthusiasm of attending academicians, all anxious to see the results of the pilot Diploma in October at Baghdad University, “For the first time, academicians from different fields of study – psychology, law and sociology, are coming together to explore the idea of Peace Studies, which is indeed still in its infancy in many Iraqi Universities. The fact that we could gather so many academicians not only to develop the curriculum together, but to embrace it at today’s launch, is a testament to the enthusiasm and passion of Iraqi society and their desire to achieve a peaceful co-existence.”

The development and launch of the Diploma Programme for Peace and Conflict Studies Curriculum and Arabic Peace Lexicon was made possible with generous funding from the Government of Japan.

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