Promoting a Culture of Peace through Education: UNESCO Celebrates UN Peacekeeping Day in Dakar

UN peacekeepers from Niger stand at attention at the Niger Battalion Base in Ansongo, in eastern Mali. (Photo: UN)

Promoting a Culture of Peace through Education: UNESCO Celebrates UN Peacekeeping Day in Dakar

(Original article: UNESCO Office in Dakar.  June 15, 2016)

The promotion of a culture of peace is at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate. The concept of “a Culture of Peace” was itself born in Africa, and developed for the first time on a global scale by UNESCO during the International Congress on “Peace in the Minds of Men”, organized in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1989.

The United Nations General Assembly considers that a Culture of Peace consists of “ a set values, attitudes, traditions and customs, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reflect and are directed towards respect for life, for human beings and their rights, the rejection of violence in all its forms, the recognition of the equal rights of men and women, the recognition of the rights of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information, attachment to the principles of democracy, freedom, justice, development for all, tolerance, solidarity, pluralism and acceptance of differences and understanding between nations, between ethnic, religious, cultural and other groups and between individuals. The individual elements of a culture of peace are therefore: non-violence and respect for human rights, respect and solidarity among all peoples and dialogue between cultures, the linkage of peace to democratic participation and sustainable human development, the free flow and sharing of information and knowledge, contribution to conflict-prevention and post-conflict peace-building, and equality between women and men, all best supported through projects in which people take an active role in transforming their values, attitudes and behaviours”.

Rooted in the history of African and Diaspora thought, the search for a Culture of Peace is endogenous to the continent. African intellectuals have not adopted a posture of withdrawal or confrontation toward the world, but rather called for a sense of identity and openness to other peoples and cultures. Africa and Africans, as Leopold Sédar Senghor highlights, have forged the concept of the “refounding of universal civilization” as a result of dialogue between cultures and civilizations.

To further promote a culture of peace and joint initiatives between UN agencies in support of this programme, UNESCO shared its vision, its framework of action and its activities on education for a culture of peace during the celebrations of the UN peacekeeping day with a debate on “peace through education and culture” at the United Nations Information Center in Dakar on Friday, 27 May, 2016.

The United Nations Information Center in Dakar (UNIC) and the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR/WARO), in partnership with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), UNESCO and the association of Captain Mbaye Diagne, organized a conference around the theme “Honoring our heroes: Peace through Education.”

This year, the UN peacekeeping day paid homage to our heroes, more than one million men and women who have served under the UN flag with pride, distinction and courage since the first deployment in 1948. Globally, more than 3,400 peacekeepers have lost their lives while in service since the first deployment. During the celebrations of this day in Dakar, a tribute was paid to Captain Mbaye Diagne, a Senegalese Officer of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (MINUAR) who saved, unarmed and facing extreme danger, the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of Rwandans during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

Mrs Yacine Mar Diop, Captain Mbaye Diagne’s wife and Colonel Faye, representing the commander in chief of the Senegalese armed forces, were present at the Celebration. The memory of the Captain’s actions was revived through the film “Black stars: Captain Mbaye Diagne ”by film director Djieydi Djigo, with a song dedicated to the Captain, called “African Hero,” by the Rwandan singer Manu Rusengamihigo.

In this context, UNESCO contributed by sharing its vision, its framework of action and its activities, notably linked to education for a culture of peace. “To build Peace through Education and Culture, several programs have been implemented in support of our Member States” underlined Hervé-Huot Marchand, Education Specialist at the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, citing some examples including the ECOWAS Reference Manual with modules on a culture of peace, prevention and management of conflicts, human rights, civic-awareness and citizenship, democracy and good governance, gender, public health and environment, among others.

Moreover, other projects concerning self-training courses on education for peace and the promotion of the role of media in preventing violence and extremism through campaigns and awareness-raising conferences on youth, against radicalization and online hate speech, were presented. These projects, similar to others in development with a multi-sectorial approach within the different fields of intervention of UNESCO, show the continuous commitment of UNESCO to achieve socio-economic empowerment for youth to ensure sustainable development.

“Young people, through an education based on respect, dialogue, equality, solidarity, respect for nature, tolerance and sharing of responsibilities, can be the engine for a more respectful, multicultural, democratic and pluralistic worldview, where the commitment to peacefully settle all conflicts is always on the agenda” reaffirmed Saip Sy, National Coordinator of the Programme for a Culture of Peace.

More Information on this activity can be found on the website of the United Nations Information Center in Dakar (in French).

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