Education and Peacebuilding - A Preliminary Operational Framework

Prepared for:
Susan Brown, Chief Peacebuilding Unit Multilateral, CIDA

Annette Isaac Consulting
April 23, 1999
Ottawa, Ontario

Reflecting its fundamental purpose, to construct the defenses of peace in the minds of men, a culture of peace requires that education be the principal means of accomplishing this task.  This includes not only formal education in schools, but also informal and non-formal education in the full range of social institutions, including the family and the media. (UNESCO, 1998)


 This report, prepared for CIDA's Peacebuilding Fund, is a preliminary examination of how educational resources are contributing to peacebuilding processes worldwide.  The study will broadly review current issues in education and peacebuilding.  It will focus on children in conflict, and ways in which educational institutions can be used in conflict management.  A selection of lessons learned and preliminary guidelines will also be presented.  The study was drawn primarily from literature review, and informal discussions with individuals from CIDA and a number of Canadian, multilateral and international organisations.  The telephone and Internet were the primary instruments for reaching individuals across Canada and overseas.  The work was carried out between September, 1998 to January 1999.  Members of UNICEF's staff were particularly helpful in sharing draft ideas and identifying current sources of information.  Their contribution is gratefully acknowledged.

This review is an important first step in elaborating a discussion within CIDA on education and peacebuilding.  Additional work will be required, especially through direct project experience, to assist CIDA in developing more detailed analytical tools for peacebuilding programming, and to contribute to the dialogue and efforts now underway within the international community on this subject.

1. Why education?

In the first instance, the year 2000 has been identified as the International Year for the Culture of Peace by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).  This declaration is set within the framework of the United Nations' (UN) actions for peacebuilding, which embraces a number of conventions and action plans on education for peace, human rights, democracy, international understanding and tolerance.  Education is seen as one of the cornerstones of this peacebuilding process.  It is not an isolated role for as UNESCO (1998) puts it: "to be successful, it must be associated with social justice and sustainable human development" (P-1).

As important, is the situation facing countries constructing their social systems in the aftermath of conflict.  There will be demands for resources to assist in acquiring new knowledge and scholarship, recapturing lost knowledge and skills, and for training and re-training in such areas.  The education sector, with all its capacities for delivering knowledge and training, has an important role to play in the rebuilding process.  Finally, because education intersects with almost every sector and theme in peacebuilding, it warrants its own examination of the competencies, skills and resources needed to make the kinds of contributions demanded of it.

2. Education in what sense?

Education in this context, follows the definition historically used by CIDA to include the acquisition of knowledge, skills and training through formal, non-formal and informal systems and activities.  Educational resources refer to the full range of people, services, infrastructure and materials to support the various systems.

Formal education covers the knowledge, skills and training obtained through primary, secondary and tertiary institutions such as schools, colleges and universities.  Nonformal education is generally of a short-term duration and is geared towards upgrading of skills and introducing new knowledge.  Informal education relates to any type of learning or training, for anyone in an structured or unstructured setting.  For this report non-formal will also refer to informal activities.

 3. How is education used in peacebuilding?

 3.1   Peace education

First there is the conceptual debate: is it peace education, education for peace or something else?  Peace education is the more commonly used term to describe the educational contribution to peacebuilding.  In general, peace education is seen as activities that promote the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will allow people of all ages, and at all levels, to develop the behaviour changes that can prevent the occurrence of conflict, resolve conflict peacefully, or create the social conditions conducive to peace.  Peace education activities can take place in formal and non-formal settings.  Agencies like UNICEF, however, which have contributed to these views, point out that no common understanding exits yet as to what constitutes peace education, neither is there a common strategy for implementing it. Related terms include peacebuilding in schools, education for peace, education for conflict resolution, and values for life.  Because of the lack of consensus with the label of peace education, the ultimate description is determined by the culture and context of the country as well as the scope and objectives of the activity.

Adding to the issue of terminology, are the substantive concerns of how peace education is linked to education, its, content, objectives and target groups.  Then there are the deeper political, social and economic factors at the national level, which have contributed to wars and conflicts.  The question of how peace education influences people and decisions at these higher levels is still to be explored in-depth.  Compounding all of this is the fact that few systematic evaluations are available on the medium or long-term impacts of peace education, partly because the field is so new.  While these concerns continue to be at the centre of the discussion of education and peacebuilding, program and projects are being designed at all levels of schooling, and in the public domain, for all target groups using different types of methodologies (Table 1).  Lastly, a note about Canadian experience in education and peacebuilding which is also relatively new.  A survey conducted in February, 1998, by the Canadian Peacebuilding Community (CPCC) revealed that few Canadian institutions or NGOs had experience in peace education.  It was also recognised, however, that this was a gap in Canadian peace and development programming which needed to be filled.

 Table 1                                           

Examples of formal peace education projects

Let's Build Peace (Batissons la paix)

Provision of teaching materials and a teacher's kit to Grades 5 and 6 to restore a feeling of normalcy in schools and to bring a message of calm and peace to children affected by massacres of 1993.  Present efforts also focus on quality of teaching methods and teachers as role models of peace as well as educators.
International Humanitarian Law, Secondary Schools (Netherlands 1993)  Introduction and integration of the teachin? of International Humanitarian Law in history/civics education classes for 12-15 year old pupils.  To target young people who while living in non-war situations are daily confronted with the images of war and violence through the media and education.
Anti-Bullying Project (United Kingdom - 1995) To allow pupils to exteriorize their feelings and to develop both self-esteem and empathy for others.  The programme uses storytelling, video, song, drama and role play to convey an anti-bullying message to children.
Linguapax guides (University networks/UNESCO-Global)

Designed to elaborate new criteria for language policies and school curricula for teachers and education planners.

Associated Schools Network Project - ASP (UNESCO-Global) Linking schools together around the world, some via an electronic network. ASP has prepared a "Peace Pak' with a wide variety of illustrated educational resource materials for primary -school classroom activities.

 Examples of non-formal peace education projects

Aman Peace Project (South Asia, 1998) Multi-purpose project involving civil society groups, schools and cultural media to promote public dialogue and enlarge support for peace among population. (Funded by Alternatives, Montreal Canada)
Reinforcing Local Peacebuilding Initiatives (Kwazulu Natal, 1998) This project initiative is in support of local initiatives to assist victims of violence and to educate the youth about peaceful resolution of disputes in Kwazulu Natal.  Through a training programme it helps communities to empower and equip themselves to monitor and investigate violence and to deal with people in authority (Funded by OXFAM Canada)
Transdisciplinary curricula and the Culture of Peace in higher education (Venezuela/UNESCO) To elaborate and disseminate the modular transdisciplinary curricula on the Culture of Peace among organizations, higher education institutions and higher education government offices in Latin America and the Caribbean, increasing awareness   about the values associated with a culture of peace through education.

Sources:       UNICEF- ESARO, CIDA, UNESCO, International Bureau of Education, OXFAM Canada

 3.2 Emerzency education

The experience in emergency education has come mainly from the United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF), Humanitarian and Refugee groups (UNHCR) UNESCO, and NGOs working in war tom or disaster relief situations.  The idea of including education in the early stages of humanitarian operations in an emergency is relatively new (Aguilar and Richmond, 1998).  It arose out of the grim reality of millions of displaced people in refugee camps, and especially the high numbers of children and young adults.  One of the main objectives of emergency education is the rapid re-establishment of basic education in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates universal free and compulsory education, priority being given to primary school children with special emphasis on girls (IBE, 1996). Emergency education often includes elements of peace education in key areas of teacher training and curriculum development.  Its immediate goal is to restore the sense of normalcy and routine essentially for the psychological well being of very young children who have been displaced by war.  The issues and physical challenges involved in emergency education are multiple and complex ranging from the strictly educational (finding, training and retraining teachers, availability of teaching materials and textbooks, preparing new curricula, remuneration) to health, safety, repatriation and inter-agency collaboration.  United Nations agencies in conjunction with host governments and local agencies, have been able to undertake emergency education with varying degrees of success since the late eighties.  The PEER (Programme for Education for Emergencies and Reconstruction) programme in North and East Africa is one example of this kind interagency collaboration (see below).

(Programme for Education for Emergencies and Reconstruction)

The UNESCO PEER has become a framework for interagency collaboration on education with UNICEF, UNHCR and local agencies in war and refugee camps in East and North Africa, in Rwanda Tanzania, North West Somalia, Kenya, Yemen and Ethiopia.  Some of the major achievements include:

  • Teacher Emergency Packs (TEP) or school in a box - containing basic teaching supplies, including portable blackboard to be set up anywhere

  • Teacher training workshops

  • Mine and cholera campaigns

  • Psycho-social awareness training for primary school teachers to raise awareness about impact of psychological trauma on children

  • Provision of technical advice to local educational NGOs

  • Returnee education

  • Reintroduction of standardized curriculum and the provision of textbooks and teacher guides to primary schools.

4. What ahout children in conflict?

The impact of conflict on children whether as victims of war or child soldiers, has been brought to world attention through the media, international organizations and eye witness accounts.  UNICEF's latest report for example states that in the past decade alone, the estimated impact of armed conflict on children includes 2 million killed, 6 million seriously injured or permanently disabled, 12 million left homeless, more than 1 million orphaned or separated from their families, and 1 0 million psychologically traumatized (Bellamy).  The UN has appointed a Special Representative for Children in Armed conflict.  In Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAIT) and CIDA have made the issue of children in armed conflict a priority and is studying the problem in depth.  Education has been identified as one of the most immediate ways of helping children, affected by conflict, to regain parts of a lost childhood and to facilitate the experiences that support healthy social, emotional and intellectual growth and development (Landers, 1998).  Education in this context, can also be seen as a long-term strategy for conflict prevention, especially if concepts and practices of education for peace form the bases of new curricula, textbook and teacher development.  Table 2 contains a list of the most commonly advocated methods and approaches for addressing the issue of children affected by conflict.  At the same time, education is only one way of getting to the deeper social, political and economic problems that created the conflict in the first place, and for that it must be linked to other actions for justice and sustainable development.

 Table 2

 Formal educational actions for children in conflict

Basic Education The availability and provision of quality education at primary and secondary levels, for all children is another way of using education for peace.
Teacher Education and teacher training

Emphasis should be given to help teachers better understand child training development, psychological needs, cultural considerations especially in pre-service and in-service training, and in all aspects of teacher development.

Emergency education

To include aspects of peace education, consequences of miliary actions, mine awareness and conflict resolution.

Curriculum development New or revised curricula and syllabi should include themes such as communication, co-operation, reconciliation and problem solving (with accompanying methodologies of drama, art, music, storytelling) in traditional subject areas to newer ones like, human rights, gender, environment etc.
Textbook development Like curriculum development and, teacher training, new and revised textbooks would need to focus on underlying root tensions such as poverty, illiteracy, racism, patriarchy etc.

 Non-formal educational actions for children in conflict

Youth camps, youth groups, clubs, sport and recreation programmes These activities can be useful in helping youths of different backgrounds to develop cooperative, collaborative and communication skills, teamwork, mutual respect, all of which help to breakdown long-standing cultural barriers.
Education programmes and workshops for parents and adults Ongoing counseling and support programmes for parents and adults workshops for parents and adults especially in communities which never had a feeling of ownership towards schools, and where consequently school infrastructures was destroyed or severely vandalized.
Training for community leaders Ongoing work with community leaders in aspects of peacebuilding and conflict prevention.  Important because of the high regard in which they are held by children.  Traditional methods of discussion and resolutions should be used first.
Curriculum and materials development Educational NGOS, research institutes and related organizations can develop curricula and teaching materials for their constituencies about children and youth; share expertise with other NGOS; collaborate with academic community for specific research and evaluation skills.


5.  How can education be applied to conflict management?

 Generally speaking, conflict management refers to the processes of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, reconciliation and mediation.  These processes can be engaged at all stages of conflict: before, during and after.  Most of the work described in the previous sections are already elements of a strategy for managing conflict.  However, one first has to consider the traditional role played by educational institutions, in the formal system in countries which have and are still experiencing conflict.  The formal system through which most citizens pass (public and private) is a powerful socialising force transmitting the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of the dominant groups.  In many cases the formal system continues traditions set by former colonial or imperial powers.   In modern societies today, in times of "peace", educational institutions continue to uphold these structures largely without questioning if, whether and how their daily education practices are /are not contributing to sustaining a peaceful environment (other than in a general way).  Other contributing factors are ethnicity or religion, or a combination of both (IBE 1996).  It is not uncommon for these elements to be filtered through the education system.

 As a result, in countries which have experienced conflict or war, the educational establishment is often one of the first targets of destruction.  Rwanda is a well known case in point.  UN agencies, aid and development workers who witnessed the genocide described how the physical infrastructure of schools, colleges and universities, were among the first targets of destruction and were either completely destroyed or severely vandalised.  Furthermore, many of the teaching and administrative educational staff who survived the conflict fled to neighbouring countries, escaped abroad or found themselves caught up in the exodus of refugees.  Such occurrences are often repeated in countries experiencing similar forms of conflict.

 How can these crises be prevented from happening again?  Education easily comes to mind, as one option but the question then is what kinds of credible and legitimate roles can educational institutions play when they may have implicitly or explicitly contributed to the social breakdown?  It is beyond the scope of this review to examine these issues in-depth but the suggestions compiled in Table 3 represent a starting point.  These are in addition to the efforts contained in the previous sections on peace and emergency education and children.  However, interventions by educational institutions, must be analysed in terms of their status and influence prior to conflict.

 Table 3

Options for using formal educational institutions for conflict management

 Educators from all backgrounds working, working collaboratively, can accomplishing the following:


  •  Develop global curricula; revise and rewrite existing national and regional curricula to incorporate issues of human rights, gender, patriarchy, and oppression, and to eliminate negative stereo-typing; revise world history text books to accurately reflect history of all groups and all nations.

  • Create new programmes in colleges and universities dealing with conflict prevention, resolution and management, peace and security (many countries around the world already have these programmes).

  • Appoint Chairs at universities or high profile academic institutions in above areas to stimulate more research and practice in above issues (both for formal and non-formal/informal levels).


  • In mid-conflict the resources of a country are often focussed on survival.  Depending on the severity of the con lict, international refugee and humanitarian organisations have a major role to play through emergency education to bridge the gap until the conflict ceases.

  • Countries in non-conflict situations can support exiles and refugees in the diaspora through education and training programmes especially in areas such as psycho-social counselling and rehabilitation, conflict prevention, resolution and management.


Educational personnel can:

  • Act as mediators, counsellors, volunteers etc. at governmental, non-governmental and international levels.  They can help to create the national, regional and international political, social and psychological environments which would make it difficult to resort to force.

  • Rewrite and create new schools texts, curricula, and other resource materials for managing and resolving conflict.  This can be done within the context of peace education previously discussed, for among other things, peace education is vital to sustaining processes such as mediating conflict and signing of peace accords.

  • Help with training of new teachers, as well as teachers who have been in refugee camps or in exile, in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution.   These trainers themselves would have to be retrained with the help of professionals from the international community.

  • Initiate and stimulate theory and action inform policy and decision making in above areas.  The IDRC/UNRISD fouryear War Torn Societies Project offers a working methodology for post-conf lict societies (useful too for earlier stages).

  • In post conflict situations depending on the state of the buildings, schools, colleges and universities in areas which have not been severely destroyed can serve to accommodate classes, host meetings and public education campaigns, free of charge in the early rebuilding stages.

  • Public and private non-governmental institutions all have a key role to play at all stages of peacebuilding in areas ranging from public education, monitoring government policies, alerting governments and the world community about possible trouble spots and mediation
  • At community levels they can help to strengthen weakened social systems, through training and capacity building, in all areas and with all age groups.  This function gains added dimension especially in a situation of collapse where there is little or no government authority.
  • NGOs also open doors to credible alternatives to carry out peace education activities at the community and family levels. From a Canadian perspective organisations working in literacy, religion and peace, refugees, immigrants can both inform Canadian dialogue on education and peacebuilding in addition to working with their partners within conflict situations overseas. 
  • Adult education is an important area for NGOs in post-conflict activities. Economies are generally devastated in the aftermath of conflict and so training for re-employment, and income generation becomes a priority.In addition, the training of adults in the protective services, legal services and judiciary can help to restore balance in the short-term.
  • Other institutions

    Regional organizations

    - Regional organisations, generally have education staff which can add to the functions listed above.  Their strengths also lie in their potential capacities for negotiation, development of peace and security process, provision of early warning signals and research and policy development.

     International and multilateral organizations

     - These agencies, like regional organizations have a role to play especially in mid-conflict to provide and perform interim educational functions until national machineries can be re-established.


 6.  What lessons have been learnd?

The area of education and peacebuilding is new and to that extent awaits more comprehensive research and evaluation.  Nevertheless, within the limits of this preliminary review, the following observations, drawn from the literature and interviews, point to the way ahead.


 Education in the broad sense is only one input into a rebuilding process.   For work in this area to have lasting results, it must be accompanied by more fundamental restructuring at the political, economic, social and cultural levels.

 Rebuilding after conflict gives a country a chance to bring in substantial reforms in its education system.

 The interests and assessment needs of Western donors can often be at odds with the needs of conflict areas., For education, this may mean the forging of new methods of inter-donor collaboration, as well as new partnerships with national governments and NGOS.  Such relationships can help to enure fresh approaches to education design and planning especially in countries which have experienced severe crises.

Peace education

 Programme evaluation is needed to determine if peace education actually changes education and skills.

 Peace education is both a tool of prevention and of social reconciliation.   It is crucial from the start to clearly define what is meant by peace and what model of social coexistence is being envisaged in each specific context.

 Considerable variation exists between programmes as to how peace education is conceived, what activities are included, the content of printed peace education materials, the process of developing materials, the targeted audience and the means of reaching that audience.  Comprehensive evaluation of these initiatives are required to capture lessons learned.


Emergency education

 Education is a ma . or casualty of complex emergencies.  Its restoration has to start during the relief phase, along with the provision of the basics of food, health and shelter, and should continue well into the development phase.

 Training must go hand-in-hand with the rehabilitation of destroyed infrastructure and the distribution of educational kits.  In all educational initiatives, the emphasis must be placed on developing knowledge, skills, competencies and attitudes that are essential for life.

 Community participation and ownership: international assistance during emergences tends to create dependency on beneficiaries.  When the assistance is reduced or withdrawn, educational and other initiatives suffer serious setbacks and at times collapse.


Children in conflict

 Combined approaches of basic education and non-formal education are effective means of relieving war-related trauma and introducing structure in the lives of children and youths in upheaval.

 Parent and adult education programmes can provide parents and families with skills to help children recover from the stress and trauma of war.  An additional benefit of adult education programmes is that they help adults themselves to address their own beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and responsibilities for exacerbating conflict, and for recruiting and instigating their children for warfare.

 Of all those affected negatively by emergencies, girls and women are at particular risk.  Education plays an essential role in enabling girls and women and to assert themselves and to develop the skills and competencies necessary to cope with new challenges during emergencies.


Educational institutions

 The education system must be rebuilt and not simply re-instituted.   Change should address issues of justic rsity in all aspects and not only in curriculum development.

 Educational research and evaluation have roles to play in reconciliation and rebuilding, but they need to bridge the gap between theory and practice.


7.  What kind of guidelines can be followed?

 As a general principle, educational activities ought to provide clearly defined opportunities for recapturing lost knowledge, and acquiring new knowledge, learning and skills in rebuilding or peacebuilding processes.  Assessing the capacity of institutions to undertake peacebuilding work is a first requirement.  Collaborative work with international and national institutions in conflict areas can provide detailed and relevant information on appropriate indicators and criteria for project selection.   Project proposals should include descriptive and analytical information based on some or all of the following guidelines.


8. What are the next steps?


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