Peace Education

Peace Education is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes,
skills, and behaviours to live in harmony with oneself and with others.


In 1945, the United Nations was established to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, “to reaffirm faith in the …dignity and worth of the human person [and] in the equal rights of men and women”, “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”, and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom…”. Preamble to the UN Charter.

Peace education has developed as a means to achieve these goals. It is education that is “directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. It promotes “understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups” and furthers “the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.” (Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

In other words, peace education is an integral part of the work of the United Nations. Through a humanising process of teaching and learning, peace educators facilitate human development. They strive to counteract the dehumanisation of poverty, prejudice, discrimination, rape, violence, and war. Originally aimed at eliminating the possibility of global extinction through nuclear war, peace education currently addresses the broader objective of building a culture of peace. In this global effort, progressive educators world-wide are teaching the values, standards and principles articulated in fundamental UN instruments such as the UN Charter, Human Rights documents, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the World Declaration on Education for All, and many others.

UNICEF and UNESCO are particularly active advocates of education for peace. UNICEF describes peace education as schooling and other educational initiatives that:

• Function as ‘zones of peace’, where children are safe from violent conflict
• Uphold children’s basic rights as outlined in the CRC
• Develop a climate that models peaceful and respectful behaviour among all members of the learning community
• Demonstrate the principles of equality and non-discrimination in administrative policies and practices
• Draw on the knowledge of peace-building that exists in the community, including means of dealing with conflict that are effective, non-violent, and rooted in the local culture
• Handle conflicts in ways that respect the rights and dignity of all involved
• Integrate an understanding of peace, human rights, social justice and global issues throughout the curriculum whenever possible
• Provide a forum for the explicit discussion of values of peace and social justice
• Use teaching and learning methods that stress participation, Cupertino, problem-solving and respect for differences
• Enable children to put peace-making into practice in the educational setting as well as in the wider community
• Generate opportunities for continuous reflection and professional development of all educators in relation to issues of peace, justice and rights. (Peace Education in UNICEF Working Paper Series, July 1999)

Much of the work of UNESCO is centred on the promotion of education for peace, human rights, and democracy. The notion of a “culture of peace” was first elaborated for UNESCO at the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, held at Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1989. The Yamoussoukro Declaration called on UNESCO to ‘construct a new vision of peace by developing a peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between women and men’ and to promote education and research for a this vision. (UNESCO and a Culture of Peace, UNESCO Publishing, 1995)

Underlying all of this work in the field of peace education are the efforts of committed educators, researchers, activists, and members of global civil society. Acting in partnership with the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), educational institutions, and citizen networks have advanced education for peace by linking ideals with extensive research and practice.

The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century (UN Document: Ref A/54/98), is a significant example of such work. One of the first principles of this document is the necessity of instituting systematic education for peace. According to the Agenda, their Global Campaign for Peace Education aims to “support the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World and to introduce peace and human rights education into all educational institutions, including medical and law schools.”

“A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflicts and struggle for justice non-violently, live by international standards of human rights and equity, appreciate cultural diversity, and respect the Earth and each other. Such learning can only be achieved with systematic education for peace.” -Hague Appeal for Peace Global Campaign for Peace Education

The International Peace Research Association, founded with support from UNESCO, has a Peace Education Commission that brings together educators working to promote a culture of peace. The Peace Education Network, based in London, also works alongside the UN in promoting peace through education. Overall, the participation of global civil society in building a culture of peace is essential. Get connected!

Framework and Rationale

Many teachers are already practising peace education without calling it by name. Historically, in various parts of the world, peace education has been referred to as Education for Conflict Resolution, International Understanding, and Human Rights; Global Education; Critical Pedagogy; Education for Liberation and Empowerment; Social Justice Education; Environmental Education; Life Skills Education; Disarmament and Development Education; and more. These various labels illuminate the depth and diversity of the field. Using the term peace education helps co-ordinate such global initiatives and unite educators in the common practice of educating for a culture of peace.

Source: UN Website on Peace Education

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