Main takeaways:  

  • Peace education is a necessary tool for teaching children and young people, through parents and teachers, so they can learn how to manage and transform conflict. Regardless of religion, culture, beliefs and interests, these should not impact the community and the way the community interacts amongst one another.
  • Education can play an important role within society to help rebuild and foster peace while also hopefully preventing conflict in the future by serving as a form of resilience against the drivers of conflict and fragility.
  • If you encounter peace education before conflict takes place, then you are “vaccinated” from future conflict.
  • The right type of education in post conflict settings which help to avoid the intergenerational cycles of inequality.

On 11 May, 2021 YPFP Brussels hosted an event in partnership with the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) on the role of peace education in post-conflict settings. The panel was moderated by YPFP Brussels Security and Defence Officer, Raquel Sequeira, with guests Kathleen Forichon, Junior Policy Analyst from the Crisis and Fragility Department at OECD; Anita Kayirangwa, Director of Programmes at Aegis Trust Rwanda; and Roisin Marshall, CEO of The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE).

The discussion opened with a more general discussion on the importance of peace education. Roisin mentioned how peace education is important to the integrated movement in Northern Ireland because she believes that it is necessary to teach children and young people, through parents and teachers, so they can learn how to manage and transform conflict.

Regardless of religion, culture, beliefs and interests, these should not impact the community and the way the community interacts amongst one another. Children and young adults can be more willing to learn and grow together, sometimes more-so than adults but there is a need to also include adults in peace education. Roisin then mentioned the recent riots on the streets in Northern Ireland made her think that people might be less likely to riot and throw stones (literally) at the “opposition” if they knew someone from the other side’s community.

Peace education looks at values, according to Anita. These values include, specifically, critical thinking and how there is a need for communication before and after the conflict. It is argued that if people reach a certain level of critical thinking, they will be less likely to start a conflict. Anita compared peace education to a vaccine: “If you encounter peace education before conflict takes place, then you are vaccinated from future conflict.”

Throughout the event, all speakers had the opportunity to talk about their work experience in Peace Education.

In the case of Northern Ireland, Roisin’s work at NICIE  helps schools think about an anti-biased approach and encourages them to think about how they do anti-biased approach to peace education and an integrated approach. The organization promotes reconciliation through peace education in Northern Ireland. Roisin shared the Bias Busting document to the audience.

The Aegis Trust Foundation is about preventing crimes against humanity and about coming up with tangible actions to help people create a system around them that promotes nonviolence, justice and peace values. To achieve this change, the organization Aegis Trust works with the Rwandan Board of Education on integrating peace and values education into schools (from grade 6-12), ensuring that this education is integrated at all levels and subjects not just in social sciences, thus enabling every teacher to be able to teach peace education.

Kathleen’s contribution to the event came from a more policy perspective, focusing on her work on human capital. Throughout her interventions, she underlined the need for addressing intergenerational cycles of inequality by investing in education, in the right type of education in post conflict settings which help to avoid the intergenerational cycles of inequality. This will have a long term impact as it will also address, in certain contexts, poverty and mental health problems that arise from conflict. She shared documents on “Considering human capital in a multidimensional analysis of fragility” and the OECD States of Fragility 2020. The Q&A session touched on questions related to bottom-up to top-down peace education to ensure an awareness of diversity, peace and inclusivity, challenges of gender differences regarding peace education and the importance of collective memory and the hardships of talking about violence to children who haven’t experienced what their parents/grandparents experienced directly, without traumatising them.

Written by Raquel Sequeira, Security and Defence Officer, Security and Defence Program, YPFP Brussels.