UNESCO Centre

Project Details

Page last updated: 20th August 2012

Project Information

The Role of Education in Peacebuilding

Dates: September 2010 to February 2012
Commissioned By: UNICEF
Reaserch Team: Professor Alan Smith (lead), Christine Smith Ellison
Partnerships: UNICEF, Dr Mario Novelli from the University of Sussex and Dr Zeena Zakharia of Columbia University

Peacebuilding in conflict‑affected countries has risen up the agenda of United Nations (UN) agencies, donor and international non‑governmental organisations throughout the past two decades. Although the UN Secretary General has called for greater co‑ordination and integration between UN agencies, there has been criticism that UN peacebuilding operations do not pay enough attention to social development.

Professor Smith stated:

UN peacebuilding prioritises security concerns, political reforms and economic development which are all crucial areas for post‑conflict reconstruction. But there is often an assumption that social development will follow at a later stage once these issues have been resolved. This underestimates the crucial importance of social development in bringing about durable solutions as part of post‑conflict peacebuilding. To be sustainable, peacebuilding processes must address the needs of local communities and marginalised groups as well as the concerns of political and economic elites, otherwise there is always the risk of a relapse into conflict.

“Across many of the world’s poorest countries, armed conflict is destroying not just school infrastructure, but the hopes and ambitions of generations of children. Globally, almost half of the children out of school (28 million) are in conflict affected countries, yet only 2% of humanitarian aid goes to education and they are often the last to benefit from ‘peace dividends’.

“Education is not a marginal player in peacebuilding. It is deeply implicated in the development of values and identity formation, which are vital for changes that unfold over generations. In the midst of conflict, education can provide knowledge and skills that provide protection, while in the longer term, it can develop attitudes and skills that offer a basis for transforming conflict itself.”

The final report argues for a greater role for education in UN peacebuilding operations and for education programming to be informed by a strong political economy and conflict analysis to address the drivers and underlying causes of conflict. The findings from the report have informed the development of a new UNICEF programme with significant funding from the Government of the Netherlands that will support education and peacebuilding in conflict‑affected countries over the next four years.

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Related Events

Seminar: Education and Peacebuilding in Conflict Affected Situations

University of Ulster, Magee, 20th June 2012

Summary: A seminar hosted by the UNESCO Centre as part of the INCORE Summer School 2012, with guest speakers Dr Mario Novelli, Senior Lecturer in International Education at the University of Sussex, Dr Tejendra Pherali, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies and Sociology at Liverpool John Moores University, and Professor Alan Smith, UNESCO Chair in Education for Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy at the University of Ulster.
(further information)

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