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Podcast #52: Education is key to peace and social development

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2011/Asselin
A girl attends class in the village of Gbalahun in Sierra Leone.

By Rudina Vojvoda

NEW YORK, USA, 9 February 2012 – Currently, more than 1.5 billion people live in fragile and conflict-affected states. Children living among armed conflict are subject to violence, deprived of basic needs and robbed of developmental opportunities.

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But there is a critical measure that can promote peace, even amid unrest: education.

A recent report, The Role of Education in Peacebuilding: A synthesis report of findings from Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone, commissioned by UNICEF and written by Mario Novelli of the University of Sussex and Alan Smith of the University of Ulster, provides evidence that education can be a catalyst for peace and highlights the need for education sectors to adopt a peacebuilding perspective.

To discuss the findings of the report and the role of education in building sustainable peace, podcast moderator Kathryn Herzog spoke with Mr. Novelli, author of the report; Jim Rogan, UNICEF’s Chief of Peacebuilding and Recovery Section; and Louise Anten, Head of the Education and Research Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Netherlands.

Education mitigates conflict

Discussing the role of education in building peaceful societies, Mr. Rogan explained that education is socially transformative and serves as the basis for a country’s knowledge development.

“Getting kids into school – it’s a very big peace dividend,” said Mr. Rogan, adding that once children are part of a safe schooling system, it is harder for them to be lured into armed groups. In addition, through curriculum development, education can mitigate conflict and bring opposing parties together.

Discussing the funding of peacebuilding education programmes, Ms. Anten noted that children in fragile and post-conflict countries are hard to reach.

“This is not maybe so much a matter of funds but a matter of good policies,” said Ms. Anten, adding that education has not been given the attention it deserves in the peacebuilding agenda.

But according to Ms. Anten, there is a positive change. “We have taken the discussion a step further, not only [providing] education in the situations of ‘do no harm’ sort of way, but actively trying to have education contributing to peacebuilding.”

Analysis as basis for education programming

Highlighting some of the key findings of the report, Mr. Novelli said that it is fundamental to treat conflict-affected countries individually and to understand the particularities of each situation.

“Education programming for peacebuilding needs to be informed by conflict political economy analyses, which we generally found was lacking in the cases that we looked at. We need to do a good job on analyzing content and informing programing in the basis of good analysis,” he said.




6 February 2012 Podcast moderator Kathryn Herzog speaks with experts on the role of education in peacebuilding in Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone.
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