Author: Mario Novelli and Alan Smith
The role and practice of peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries has risen up the agenda of the United Nations (UN) agencies, donor agencies and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) throughout the past two decades. While peacekeeping and peacemaking have played an important role in UN activities since its foundation, it was not until 1992 that the language of peacebuilding entered the institution's lexicon, when UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali published An Agenda for Peace. In this post-Cold War environment, peacebuilding was defined as "an action to identivy and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict," and was demarcated chronologically from preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping.
Running in parallel to the rise of the peacebuilding agenda has been the surge of interest in the role of education in conflict-affected countries. Initially this was spurred by a realization that many of the world's out-of-school children were located in conflict zones and therefore achieving the Education for All objectives, and the educational Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were dependent on addressing educational access and quality in conflict affected countries. The focus, since 2000, has led to both increased coordination between agencies, assisted by the emergence of the Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies (INEE), and to increased international advocacy supporting education in conflict-affected countries. In 2008, education was incorporated within the UN cluster approach to humanitarian response, co-led by UNICEF and Save the Children.
More recently, this interest in education in conflict-affected countries has dovetailed with debates on the role, strategy and effectiveness of UN peacebuilding, with increased discussion on the particular role of education and other social sectors, within the broader UN peacebuilding architecture. UN leadership on peacebuilding has three main components: the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), which is an intergovernmental advisory committee; the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), which is a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF); and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), which provides direction and guidance on the programme management of the PBF and monitors its operations. The PBF was setup to support interventinos of direct and immediate relevance to the peacebuilding process and contribute towards addressing critical gaps in that process, in particular in areas for which no other funding mechanism is available. Use of fund resources is meant to have a catalytic effect in helping to bring about other, more sustained support such as longer-term engagements by development agencies and bilateral donors.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in his 2009 report on peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict, places social services, including education, among the five recurrent priorities for peacebuilding in post-conflict transition. Similarly, a recent review commissioned by the PBSO acknowledges that inequitable provision and lack of social services is a common driver of conflict (McCandless 2011). Nevertheless, social services, and in particular education, do not receive priority as compared with interventions in the security sector and political processes. The PBF has provided only limited funds and out of 192 projects, only 25 were in the area of social services, and few of these involved education.
The recent Global Monitoring Report (2011) from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called for an increased role for education in the PBF.
Similarly, the World Bank's World Development Report (WDR) (2011) recognized the important contribution to peacebuilding that the education sector could make. However, the two reports differ in opinions onwhen educational interventions should be prioritised, with the GMR arguing for early engagement and prioritization of education throughout all conflict phases, while the WDR suggested that security and elections be prioritized in the immediate post-conflict period with education receiving less priority until the medium term post-conflict phase. These debates feed into broader discussions with the international community on the role of social services (including education) in peacebuilding, and provide part of the background rationale for this research.
This research therefore sought to understand the role of education in peacebuilding in post-conflict states. The research was commissioned by UNICEF as part of the Education and Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition (EEPCT) programme -- a partnership between UNICEF, the Government of the Netherlands and the European Commission. The study consisted of two phases: Firstly, a literature review of education's role in peacebuilding. Secondly, the completion of three contry case studies (Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone), with a particular emphasis on the work of UNICEF. Rather than selecting cases for similarities, we sought to select for variety, drawing out the wide disparities between cases to enable a sense of the types of education programming taking pace in very different conflict environments. During the fieldwork, interviews and consultation meetings were held with a representatives, government officials, INGO and NGO representatives, UNICEF staff members and teachers. This report is a synthesis derived from both phases.
Access to a quality education is regarded as a right that should be maintained even in the most difficult circumstances. In the midst of conflict it can provide knowledge and skills that provide protection, while in the longer term, it can provide values and attitudes that offer a basis for transforming conflict itself. Education is deeply implicated in processes of socialization and identity formation, which are vital for economic growth and individual and national advancement and can act as an important vehicle for social cohesion. On the other hand, education can also undermine all these processes and, therefore, we need to ensure that it is delivered effectively and equitably and is a driver of peace rather than war. Crucially, education is not a marginal player in peacebuilding, but a core component of building sustainable peace. Peacebuilding is essentially about supporting the transformative processes any post-conflict society needs to go through, and these changes unfold over generations. Developments through the education sector represent a very important part of this transformative process, with huge potential to impact positively or negatively.
The education sector is potentially a very important sector for supporting the transformative process in post-conflict societies. The study suggests that education programming should be based on high quality political economy and conflict analysis that is sensitive to the conflict dynamics of local contexts. Attention should be paid to supporting transformation through reform of the education sector and paying attention to the values and content communicated through the education system. Such interventions need to be mindful of the dynamics of social transformation, especially the need for these processes to evolve over several generations, in order for them to become part of a self-organized and sustainable future. The more intrusive and externally driven, the less self-organized and sustainable the outcome, and we need to recognize the potential for us to do harm, despite our best intentions. The support offered thus has to be informed, sensitive and patient, and must recognize that the primary agency for managing the transformative process rests with the conflict-affected society itself.
Aims and objectives
The main aims of the study are to:
Provide evidence on the role of education in peacebuilding, based on academic, programming and evaluation literature;
Provide a basis for consultation and discussion within UNICEF on how it can most effectively contribute to peacebuilding through education; and
Examine how education interventions and programming could have a stronger role in the UN peacebuilding architecture.
The study comprised two phases: i) a review of research and programme literature to assess existing knowledge about education’s role in peacebuilding, identify critical gaps and analyse
initiatives by UNICEF and its partners in post-conflict contexts; and ii) completion of three country case studies (Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone) with a particular emphasis on the work of UNICEF.
This synthesis paper draws together the evidence from the different parts of the study relating to the role and potential of education to contribute to peacebuilding in conflictaffected countries. It draws on insights from three case studies: Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone, with a particular focus on the work and role of UNICEF. Each case study was based on an initial desk review prepared in the early part of 2011, followed by in-country fieldwork.
The case studies were preceded by a literature review on the relationship between education and peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries, which shaped the analytical framework for the research, a synopsis of which will be presented below. During the fieldwork, interviews were held with a wide range of national and international stakeholders in each country, including UN representatives, government officials, INGO and NGO representatives and UNICEF staff members. Interviews were complemented by stakeholder consultation meetings on the role of education in peacebuilding with UN, national government, INGO representatives and national civil-society organizations working in education and/or peacebuilding in each of the countries.
The objectives of the case studies were to:
Locate peacebuilding initiatives supported through education programming within broader approaches being undertaken in the case study countries;
Document country-specific education interventions where education has played an important role in contributing to peace or where it has missed the opportunity to do so;
Provide guidance on education interventions contributing to peacebuilding based on models and approaches used by UNICEF and its partners to initiate, promote and implement education initiatives in support of peacebuilding; and
Identify strengths, weaknesses and recommendations for UNICEF-supported education programming as it relates to peacebuilding.
In order to meet these objectives, the intention of the country case studies was to develop a ‘thick description’ to understand the nature, extent, efficacy and potential of education and peacebuilding initiatives, with a particular focus on UNICEF’s role therein. While the individual case studies demonstrate the particularities of the conflicts covered, in this report, we seek to synthesize the insights gained from the three studies in terms of the broader issues faced by development partners, UN agencies and particularly UNICEF when seeking either to incorporate a more systematic ‘peacebuilding’ approach into their educational operations and/or incorporating education more systematically into ongoing ‘peacebuilding’ approaches where it has largely been marginalized. Both, as we shall see, remain underdeveloped and require serious commitment, resources and institutional changes if they are to be successfully addressed.
The report is structured as follows: First, we provide some contextual background to debates and discourses that have emerged concerning education, conflict and peacebuilding. Second, we proceed with a brief synopsis of the main findings of the literature review, its limitations and implications. Third, we discuss briefly the choice of case studies and the nature of the conflicts under analysis. Fourth, we move on to present some of the key issues that emerged from the case studies, initially through a brief synopsis of the core issues in each case study, and then through a series of problem statements that synthesise findings. Fifth, we present the main findings of the research and their implications for UNICEF. Sixth, we then proceed to make some specific recommendations for UNICEF. Finally, we make some concluding comments on the role of education in peacebuilding and the challenges ahead.
The concept of peacebuilding is not well defined. UNICEF must decide its own interpretation, which would need to go beyond humanitarian assistance and to emphasize social transformation within conflict-affected societies.
Neither UNICEF nor the education sector has been strongly integrated into the UN peacebuilding agenda within countries.
Consistent with its mandate, UNICEF has comparative advantages to take a lead on peacebuilding, however it must consider the implications of how this may affect perceptions and how peacebuilding relates to other priority areas.
For UNICEF education programming to support peacebuilding there is a strong need to: build key partnerships at the global level; work with national governments; identify partners that share transformation goals (with the understanding this may create tensions with other partners or governments); make education programming more relevant to post-conflict transformations; take a gender-sensitive approach to peacebuilding programming; ensure a peacebuilding/conflict analysis lens informs all policy; and move from generic ‘global’ solutions to localized adaptations.
There is a need for a comprehensive capacity-building strategy for peacebuilding across all agencies from headquarters level to field offices.
There are important distinctions between humanitarian response programming, providing conflict-sensitive education, and programmes aimed at peacebuilding. Thus, it is important to develop monitoring and evaluation indicators that are particular to peacebuilding outcomes.
There is a distinctive role for research that generates new knowledge and insight into education programming and how it relates to longer-term peacebuilding.
Recommendations for UNICEF:
Develop a comprehensive policy paper (in consultation with field offices) on UNICEF’s commitment to peacebuilding.
Identify areas of common agreement with global partners about the contribution of education to peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries.
Carry out short (3 month) study to gather information about the extent to which UNICEF is currently integrated within the UN peacebuilding presence in conflict-affected countries; and how this operates in practice, obstacles and improvements.
Conduct assessment of capacity for conflict analysis and support for peacebuilding within HQ and field offices.
Run pilot studies in three countries to test the feasibility and direction of a shift towards education programming that has a more explicit peacebuilding rationale.
Introduce an education and peacebuilding programme in a limited number of countries (based on pilot studies’ findings).
Place greater emphasis on knowledge management and institutional learning.
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