Peace education

I dream of peace, a collection of writings and drawings by children from former Yugoslavia.
Peace education-related activities in UNICEF are guided by the Millennium Development Goals and by human rights principles such as those from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, namely the best interests of the child, non-discrimination and the right of the child to participate and be listened to. These principles imply a commitment to peace building, to poverty reduction through investment in children, and to disparity reduction through emphasis on reaching the most vulnerable, the most marginalized and the most deprived children.

In UNICEF, peace education is defined as “the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behaviour change that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an interpersonal, intergroup, national or international level".

This approach is in line with the Education for All (EFA) Dakar Framework of Action which calls for the promotion of an education that helps children and young people to acquire skills such as the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflict as well as social and ethical values.

UNICEF’s peace education-related activities form an integral part of a comprehensive approach to fulfilling the right to quality education for all children.

Peace education is helping to establish quality child-friendly learning environments that are rights-based, gender-sensitive, healthy and safe for children, protective of them and successful in helping them to learn. From peace-minded quality education come learners who have acquired literacy, numeracy, and important life skills such as critical thinking, decision-making, communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, coping, and self-management which can be applied to specific contexts including peace building, violence prevention, hygiene and sanitation, health and nutrition practices, HIV/AIDS prevention, and environmental protection.

Through peace-minded quality education, children and young people are empowered to participate in bringing about constructive change, both locally and globally.

It is UNICEF’s position that peace education has a place in all societies — not only in countries undergoing armed conflict or emergencies. Because lasting behaviour change in children and adults only occurs over time, effective peace education is necessarily a long-term process, not a short-term intervention. While often based in schools and other learning environments, peace education should ideally involve the entire community.

Examples of Peace Education-supported activities:

1. Supporting Peace Education and Education for Conflict Resolution Initiatives at country level. Initiatives are being implemented in more than 20 countries and target formal as well as informal education.  They cover a wide range of activities, including learning-through-playing opportunities, peer mediation for conflict resolution, campaigns for peaceful coexistence, use of theatre and other performance art to raise awareness of the issues, Child Friendly Schools/Community initiatives, capacity building to promote democratic youth leadership, training of child broadcasters, and parents’ education for conflict mediation and non-violence. 

2. Supporting development of country-based educational materials, curricula, and teaching manuals for Peace Education and Education for Conflict Resolution. These materials are used to help children develop skills in problem solving, negotiation, critical thinking and communication that will enable them to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence. 

3. Sport for Development. A UN Inter-agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace has been set up. It recommends that sport should be incorporated as a useful tool in programmes for development and peace, and that communications-based activities using sport should focus on well-targeted advocacy and social mobilization, particularly at national and local levels. UNICEF is promoting girls’ education through partnerships at a number of international sport events and messages on peace and conflict resolution.

4. Peace and Disarmament Education. A multi country project, “Disarming Children and Youth:  Raising Awareness and Addressing the Impact of Small Arms.” has been undertaken in Kosovo, Somalia, Southern Sudan and Tajikistan. The objective is to initiate change in the attitudes and behaviour of children, their families and communities to oppose the use of small arms. The strategy is to develop children’s skills for conflict resolution, offer alternative behaviours to youth, and build pressure for changes in public policy through youth involvement in peace-building at community and national levels.

5. Life Skills-Based Education for Peace Education and the Environment in Southern Sudan (Operation Lifeline Sudan) Life Skills-Based Education modules for Peace Education and the Environment are currently under development. The modules provide information and activities which will help mentors and learners to develop knowledge, attitudes and skills for landmine safety, conflict resolution, peace building, and the promotion of human rights.  The life skills-based education programme goes beyond the focus on curriculum alone and utilises a comprehensive approach to quality education. 

In many parts of Southern Sudan, two generations of children have known only war and its traumas.  Mentors need to be prepared to receive learners with a wide range of life experiences. The learners include students, post-school aged young people, women’s groups, community groups, and local authority personnel.  Mentors are trained in participatory teaching and learning methods. Community Centres – which provide integrated services such as education, health care, clean water, and sanitary latrines – serve as gender-sensitive, protective learning environments which allow children to practice the life skills that they have gained.

6. Developing a Landmines and Small Arms Advocacy Kit. This kit aims at providing UNICEF staff with the resources to undertake advocacy on these issues.  Developing a booklet “Child Rights Guide to the Mine Ban Treaty” to raise awareness of the impact of landmines on children, and to explain the relationship between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Landmines and their Destruction.

7. The use of new-technologies to promote peace-minded quality education. UNICEF ‘Voices of Youth’, internet rights project promotes issues related to adolescent development and participation.  This online project provides an opportunity to children and young people to learn about global issues, particularly in the light of how they affect children and young people worldwide share their views with others and look at ways in which they can take action in their own communities.

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Related links

Peace education programmes

Bosnia & Herzegovina
Cote d'Ivoire
East Timor
El Salvador
Operation Lifeline Sudan
Sierra Leone

Expert Opinion

Every child has the right to a safe enviroment. War is an insecure and unsafe way to teach children how to act in the real world - Voices of Youth