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PEACE in Action

Builders of National Cultures of Peace


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Building a Culture of Peace
Builders of National Cultures of Peace

In recent issues of PEACE in Action, we have had a section entitled Building a Culture of Peace in Schools and Communities. However, the examples given were all from the United States, even though the magazine is distributed to nearly 180 countries. In reviewing the last issue, a Deputy Under Secretary-General of the United Nations suggested that I also report on activities in other countries.

I have begun to do that, and I have been pleasantly surprised to find out how much is going on to promote cultures of peace. There is a major effort to promote peace education around the world by: (a) the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – see separate article on UNESCO; (b) nongovernmental international organizations – see the separate article on two of them: the International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE) and the Global Campaign for Peace Education (GCPE). In addition, the International Institute for Global Leadership (IIGL) and individual country governments and local civil society organizations, often with official and nongovernmental assistance, are undertaking other education-related activities to build a culture of peace.

This article will report on some of these activities in a variety of countries, drawing upon information obtained from the websites and on-line newsletters of the IIPE, the GCPE, and the IIGL, plus correspondence from a mission of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Activities Reported by IIPE/CIPE/GCPE

The Philippines

A leading state-run university in Mindanao is considering the integration of "peace education" in its curriculum. Dr. Grace J. Rebollos, the newly installed president of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) said peace education is part of her agenda for making the university an instrument for promoting a "culture of peace" and for answering to the call of development for social uplift. If realized, it will make WMSU the first university to offer peace education in the region, if not in Mindanao, and one of the few schools across the country to do such. Full article available online.

Gambia

Mr. Baboucarr Boye, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of State for Basic and Secondary Education, deputizing for his Secretary of State, noted that the integration of human rights education in the basic school system, coupled with developing a national implementation strategy report, is important because it responds to one of the basic aims of the education policy statement for 2004- 2015. He said it would create awareness on the importance of peace, democracy, human rights duties and responsibilities of individuals in fostering these qualities. Full article available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/200712050500.html

Spain – Basque Country

The Basque Plan of Action for Human Rights and Peace Education (2008-2009) was developed by the Basque Government as an outcome of the creation in 2006 of an Interdepartmental Commission on Peace and Human Rights. The plan is supported by the belief that human rights and peace education are essential tools for strengthening social and ethical consciousness in the defence of the dignity of each person, of life in the first place, and of all Human Rights.

The Basque Plan is justified as a public response for a society that has lived for a long period with violence and terrorism. The persistence of violence has created deep fractures in Basque society. The Plan of Action for Peace and Human Rights Education was formulated to redress and heal these fractures, offer particular attention to victims of violence, and further necessary processes toward reconciliation in all social levels. The Basque Government is pleased to share this plan, and is happy to receive feedback. To receive a copy of the plan, e-mail derechos-humanos@ej-gv.es

Liberia

The Ministry of Education, in partnership with the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), held a one-day roundtable mapping exercise in December 2007 with stakeholders and implementing partners on strengthening peace education in Liberia. The exercise brought together participants from various NGOs to brainstorm and discuss progress of Peace, Human Rights and Citizenship education (PEHED) among Liberians. PEHED is designed to be taught in all schools across the country beginning with elementary through senior high. The program has been incorporated into the curriculum, and materials are being developed to ensure that it is ready by the beginning of the 2008/2009 academic year. Three regional resource centers have been established, human rights manuals have been written, and 500 have been printed for teachers; 10,000 copies of the Peace Education manuals have been printed. For the full story visit: http://allafrica.com/stories/200712190544.html

Nepal

The Minister for Education and Sports of Nepal recently announced that the ministry would include peace education as a new subject in schools beginning next year. For more information, see: http://www.gorkhapatra.org.np/content.php?nid=27307

Colombia

The Colombian National Education Plan 2006- 2016 is a social pact that must guide the horizon, the planning and the social and political mobilization around the defense of the right for quality education. Nearly 20,000 education agents from all over the country proposed their initiatives related to 10 main topics chosen by public consultation. Among these topics, peace education, “convivencia” and citizenship had the first place in preferences; this subject did not appear in the previous plan. But now, there are in Colombia thousands of persons, groups, organizations, and communities working hard to create peace cultures in their daily realities in spite of the violence and conflicts that they have to face. The methodology of the newly-created Community- based Institute on Peace Education (CIPE) fits exactly with what the Colombian National Education Plan is seeking. To receive a copy of the complete Plan, visit www.plandecenal.edu.co or e-mail: secretariatecnica@educacionparalapaz.org.co

India

A talk on "Peace Education & Human Rights" was held in August 2007 in New Delhi at a program jointly organized by Peace Education Resource Centre, India (PERC, India) and the Russian Centre of Science & Culture (RCSC, New Delhi). The speaker of the day, Dr. Saroj Pandey, spoke of the two objectives of the Global Campaign for Peace Education: public and political support in spreading awareness, and incorporating Peace Education in the daily teaching to promote peace. She emphasized Conflict Resolution, which is considered very relevant because Indian society has adhered to a social hierarchy system—which has led to various sections of the society being deprived of basic human rights. She also stressed the need to incorporate components of peace in the curriculum at all levels of education.

Dr. Leban Serto gave a brief report of his participation in the 25th Anniversary of the International Institute of Peace Education (IIPE) and the strategic meeting of GCC-CIPE recently held at New York. He shared his experiences at the seminar wherein the participants discussed a vision of a peaceful world 25 years from now, and concluded that such a world was possible if we all work towards it.

Peru

Members of Instituto EDUCA, an NGO in Lima, were concerned about the violence that their country experienced during the 1980s and 1990s when terrorist groups confronted the armed forces in a gradually expanding struggle. This struggle left around 70,000 dead, tens of thousands of families displaced and living in abandonment, and a serious sequence of destruction and despair in the population. This was especially so with the poor, peasant farmers, Quechua-speaking and illiterate inhabitants of the Andean region.

Since the 1990s, EDUCA, through its programming in schools in poor marginal and rural areas of Peru, was convinced that Peace Education had to become part of the curriculum and the daily ambiance of the school and classroom where, among other aspects, children might learn to live in a more peaceful and loving way. This was done by introducing conflict transformation as a new approach to dealing with everyday problems.

EDUCA participated during 2002 – 2003 in an international project directed and funded by the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs and the Hague Appeal for Peace in an effort to promote peace and justice in schools in the marginal areas of Lima. (Others in the project were civil society groups in Albania, Cambodia and Niger.)

EDUCA is presently engaged in Peace Education Projects within the educational system and the school community (school principals, teachers, students, parents, leaders of the local communities) in the Andean areas. The Regional civil and educational authorities in Huancavelica have accepted Peace Education as part of the regional curriculum.

During the last 4 years, ODECA has been active in the nationwide civic movement So It Doesn’t Happen Again, being a founding member and responsible for the educational component of the movement. ODECA's role has been to raise awareness and to introduce peace education as an important factor in the school curriculum and in the general environment where people learn to dialogue, debate, and respect others and their opinions and to reach consensus.

The need for building a strong resistance towards human rights violations at all levels was recognized rather broadly after the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) report in 2003. More than 170 institutions and organizations of all types organized the civil movement So It Doesn’t Happen Again in order to promote awareness at all levels, and to foster the need for reparation and reconciliation after the suffering and devastation of the civil war. This growing movement has strong support on the National Education Commission, which is in charge of workshops and developing educational material and fostering advocacy at all levels to bring about positive change.

Peace educators have had a hard time dealing with violence in schools, in families, and in local communities in many areas of the country where structural injustice is at the root of great poverty. Nevertheless, children and youth have become aware of the need to build a more just and peaceful society, and they are learning new and permanent ways of using conflict resolution in everyday life. Teachers in many schools are developing new peace education concepts and attitudes for teaching communication skills, conflict resolution, and living in solidarity.

IIGL Student Activities

The International Institute For Global Leadership (IIGL) is a tuition-free, internet-based education program which provides a curriculum in consciousness designed to prepare students to become personally empowered, consciously aware, high-integrity and heart-centered leaders in their communities and the world. The study program is open to participants of any age and from anywhere in the world.

The program is divided into different levels of study. The introductory level consists of two small books which are e-mailed to the student. When these have been completed, the student enters Level One studies.

Levels One & Two – which focus on personal empowerment - consist of seven books each. Level Three, devoted to personal assessment and goal setting, consists of written exercises. In Levels Four, Five & Six a student may choose seven books for each level from a selection of more than 300 books in 17 subject areas. The upper levels offer students many opportunities for advanced guided studies, internships, etc. according to their personal interests and life goals. More details about each level are available in the curriculum section of the IIGL website.

Many of the youth participating in the IIGL educational program are carrying out projects to promote a culture of peace in their countries. Here are a few examples drawn from IIGL's annual report from 2007:

Senegal

William Diedhiou Sekou and his co-workers at the YMCA organized a set of activities during the International Day of the Youth in June 2007 at the YMCA in Dakar. Around 500 people attended (parents, students, guests, and media). The theme for these activities was Fight Against Children Trafficking and Abuse.

Peru

Mariela Morales participated last month in the 25- day course “Formation of Young Leaders for Democracy” in International Histadrut Institute in Israel. The course is based on Education for Democracy, the formation system that induces an attitude of responsibility and commitment with ourselves, our communities and human beings in general. Qualities such as voluntarism, permanent motivation, teamwork, symmetry in the teacher- student relationship, program flexibility are highlighted. Following her return to Peru, she has founded an NGO, Association of Young Leaders of Peru – AJLOP, to carry out ideas picked up at the course.

Kenya

Linquist Asiebela has a “G3” project. G3 is all about sharing God's love with others. It's not a religious sect, and neither is it a group for a specific set of people. Anyone can join regardless of age, occupation, church or location. Linquist says “We are focusing on sharing God's love in whichever way appropriate, because before God we are all one people irrespective of some little differences that try to separate us. Are you ready to adventure? Do you want to spend just a fraction of your life in building someone else's life that is crumbling? Then join us. I invite your ideas on how we can do this work as we are in the process of constructing a website. If you have any questions, suggestions, opinions, ideas, or anything to say you can write to me at linkasieb@yahoo.com”

Bikundo Onyari, who is from Nairobi, is involved in many endeavors to improve his community. For one, he is the local representative of NABUUR.com, an internet-based organization dedicated to connecting Global Citizens who are committed to bringing greater opportunities to the developing countries. He is also in the process of setting up an Entrepreneur Resource Center in his home village of Kangemi, an informal settlement of 200,000 people on the outskirts of Nairobi where a huge percentage of the population is unemployed youth. The village lacks adequate recreational activities, resulting in alcoholism, insecurity, apathy, stealing, prostitution and idling. Bikundo's vision is to see every youth in Kangemi doing something meaningful that generates income and that they enjoy. For questions or to offer support, you can contact Bikundo directly at onyarib@yahoo.com

Ethiopia

Under Bereket Alemayehu's leadership, the Humanist movement, in cooperation with the International Center for Conflict and Human Rights Analysis, Ethiopia hosted a half-day workshop in August 2007 in Addis Ababa. The theme for the workshop was “Placing human liberty as the highest value, and non-violence as the highest social practice.” Mr. Philip Freeman, who organized the same workshop in Uganda, conducted the workshop.

Nigeria

Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba reports that in April 2006, the African Christian Youth Development Foundation, in partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core and Youth Service America, organized a national Interfaith Youth Project in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria to mark the 2006 Global Youth Service Day and the National Day of Interfaith Youth Service. The 2006 program was a huge success, attracting a total of 126 religiously diverse youths from different parts of Nigeria and Plateau State. Local support was also generated from the Ministries of Youth Development, Education and Environment. The participants engaged in a 2-day Interfaith Dialogue Session, culminating in a day of Community Service that took participants along Jos' major streets. Local residents also came out to provide support to the young participants, whom they described in such glowing words as “Architects of a New Nigeria.” As a consequence of the success of this event, a tree planting and erosion control project was organized in September 2006.

The goal of the 2007 project was to provide religiously diverse youths in Nigeria with opportunities for meaningful involvement in preventing youth violence and creating community change, as well as providing environmental beautification services. The project aimed at increasing youth awareness and understanding of the nature, uses and impact of violence on families and communities, particularly those with ethnic and religious diversity. The project sought to promote a strong sense of, and commitment to, community among young people in Nigeria. During the 2007 National Day of Interfaith Youth Service and Global Youth Service Day activity, hundreds of religiously diverse youths in cities and towns across Nigeria, turned in unity of purpose and commitment to promote service, community building and the creation of sustainable connections across religious and social barriers.

Lawrence Afere speaks to groups of secondary school students as part of his “secondary transition programs.” One of his talks is entitled “Making the most of your life – with planning.” What he has found is that the students from the private schools are enthusiastic about their possibilities, but the students from economically disadvantaged homes and low income communities are not looking forward to graduation. Rather, they see no hopes of further schooling or of obtaining gainful employment. Their plans include joining a gang or undertaking some illegal activity. He is trying to figure how he can change their attitudes.
[Editorial Note: A daughter of mine, who is a teacher, has found similar attitudes here in some U.S. schools. Greater effort is needed worldwide to develop an attitude at the policy level of seeing that all of their people, especially the youth, have opportunities for productive and useful lives; that would be the best policy for dealing with terrorism and crime.]

Wale Oketunji, a Level One student with IIGL, recently convened a meeting of the IIGL students in the Lagos area for the purpose of creating a pilot project which would work closely with the Lagos state government in the advocacy of Youth Leadership training based on integrity, accountability and transparency with the basic idea of creating young role models. In October 2007, a group of six IIGL students met In Lagos and set the project in motion under the banner of “The Nigerian Dream Team.” They developed a proposal which has been submitted to the Lagos State Government's Centre For Excellence, calling for the creation of a Youth Leadership Summit; they recently received an invitation to make a formal presentation to the State Government. For more information, you can contact Wale at oketunjiwale@yahoo.com.

Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba founded the Creative Minds International Academy (CMIA) as a values- based education program committed to preparing their students for the intellectual, personal and creative challenges of school life and beyond. Inspired by Project Happiness of the Dalai Lama Foundation, the Academy is dedicated to helping young people to discover and develop their inherent gifts, talents and abilities and to help raise ethically s responsible, self-disciplined, and creative citizens capable of participation in a positive and sustainable society. For more information, go to http://creativemindsacademy.cfsites.org/

Lawrence Afere has also established Lifting Our Community (LOC). After only a year from its inception, LOC was able to encourage young people to meet the practical needs of less privileged people in their communities and to improve their academic and economic lives. LOC met the needs of at least 433 less privileged people at Aged Home, Motherless Babies Home, Remand Home for boys and girls, Lepers’ colony, orphanage home, and some secondary schools in Ondo State.

Another project was the launching of a book entitled "Life Impacting Virtues" in December 2006. It was honored by personalities from the Ondo State Government, the business sector, parents and relatives. This event was a never-to- be-forgotten one for the guests and the launchers. "This book will transform the minds of the old and young" said our book presenter. Contained in the book are issues like: what are purpose, vision, dreams, goals, etc.

LOC is now planning to develop a program to create some job opportunities in Ondo State, which is faced with a high rate of unemployment. They have decided to buy some pieces of land, which are cheap in the remote part of our town (Akure), and to commence scientific farming on at least four plots. A committee is working on the details, including other investments needed and the marketing of the produce. Lawrence can be contacted at ablawrence2002@yahoo.com

Colins Imoh, who is a member of the IIGL Board of Directors, reports the formation of the Centre for Human Development & Social Transformation (CHDST). The vision for CHDST is to build a democratic culture of peace in Nigeria. It is organizing workshops in non-violent conflict resolution, peace education, good governance, democracy, environmental awareness, and human rights. One of its current projects is called Protect Our Future. The purpose is to help Nigerians to become more aware of their responsibilities to themselves and to the nation by looking at the common good.

They are starting with the school system, where they are organizing Peace Clubs to train teachers in conflict transformation. In November 2007, the Centre published a first draft of a Peace Manual for use in the Peace Clubs; it is now in need of funds to finance the final publication. The Centre has lots of projects which need volunteers. To let them know your availability and areas of interest or to help finance the Peace Manual, you can contact Colins at his E-mail: imohcolins@hotmail.com For more information about the Centre for Human Development and Social Transformation, contact the Protect our Future website.

USAID -Supported Activities

Some of the USAID Missions responded to our request for information about peacebuilding-related projects that they were supporting around the world. Here is one interesting response.

Macedonia

The USAID (US Agency for International Development) Mission in Macedonia reported the following information about their peace education- related activities:

Higher Education Linkage Project (HELP) was instrumental in the creation of the first multi-ethnic, multi-lingual university in the Balkan region – South East European University (SEEU). SEEU was developed through the efforts of the international community to offer higher education to the Albanian-speaking minority, Macedonians, and other ethnic groups. The university has grown from 600 students to 7,500 today, and it has a mix of roughly 70 % Albanians (from Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo), 25 % Macedonians, and 5 % other (Roma, Serbs, etc.)

The Roma Education Project (REP) provides educational support, mentoring, and scholarships to approximately 1,200 disadvantaged Roma students. The impetus is on equipping the students with the skills necessary to succeed in regular schools, to integrate into society, and to advocate for social issues. Additionally, REP trains teachers in “Anti- bias” and “Education for Social Justice” methodologies. The objective of the 5-day Anti-bias training was to help teachers recognize their own prejudices and to be able to deal with them in a constructive manner. Evaluations indicate that intensive contact between teachers (especially mentor teachers) and students is the most powerful tool for reducing stereotypes.



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