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Policy advocacy and partnerships for children's rights

Education a catalyst: a conversation with Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire

© Judy Rand
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner for her efforts to end violence in Northern Ireland.

UNICEF Radio is hosting a series of podcast discussions with Nobel Peace Prize winners. This is the fourth in the series.

By Rudina Vojvoda

NEW YORK, USA, 8 June 2011 – In 1976, Mairead Maguire was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her extraordinary actions to end violence in Northern Ireland, her native country.

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Since then, Ms. Maguire has dedicated her life to promoting peace, justice and equality around the world. She recently spoke with UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello about the situation of children in conflict zones and explained why education is a catalyst for peace and tolerance.

Peace building through education

In August 1976, Ms. Maguire’s sister lost her three children when an Irish Republican Army getaway car ran them over on a sidewalk after its driver was shot by a British soldier. In response to the violence that struck her family, Ms. Maguire organised massive peace demonstrations calling for an end to the bloodshed and violence in her country.

For the last thirty years, Ms. Maguire has been a committed peace activist as well as a strong advocate for children’s rights. She has travelled around the world, meeting with children from communities living in conflict zones and refugee camps.

Drawing examples from these encounters, Ms. Maguire described education as a stepping stone in building peaceful societies. “It begins in the schools where we implement education on non-violence, conflict resolution and goes right up to the top of our society where our governments are challenged to use non-violent methods to solving problems,” Ms. Maguire told UNICEF Radio. 

Fund education, not armies

The 2011 ‘Education for All’ Global Monitoring Report reveals that military spending is diverting the resources of aid donor countries. The same report states that it would take only six days of military spending by rich countries to close the $16 billion external financing gap needed to ensure education for all. 

Meanwhile, conflicts are robbing children of an education. Of the total number of primary school-aged children in the world who are not enrolled in school, 42 per cent – or 28 million children – live in conflict-affected countries.

Ms. Maguire believes that building peaceful societies through non-violent actions is possible if the priorities are set straight.

“We have to put resources, best practices and good structures into building education and health care, but we can’t do it if we’re spending billions and billions on nuclear weapons, militarism and war” said Ms. Maguire. 

She called for a new way of living together and said she remained hopeful for the future. “It’s illogical that we have policies that are destructive of human life when we could put this money into building human security, education, welfare, and good health,” Ms. Maguire concluded.




26 May 2011 - UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello speaks with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire about the importance of education in the peace-building process.
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