International Day of Peace

In 1981, 21 September was established as the International Day of Peace. So designated by the United Nations, the International Day of Peace is devoted to creating and strengthening cultures of peace within and among peoples and nations. The United Nations invites all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities on this day, and to otherwise commemorate the spirit of the day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.

The theme of this year's International Day of Peace is "The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace," emphasizing the role that achieving the SDGs will play in promoting a sustainable peace in our world today.

A childhood free from conflict and hostilities is something to which all children have a right, yet millions of children live in conflict-prone regions of the world. Education plays a key role in promoting a sound understanding of and appreciation for non-violence among children in all communities. Peace education is an essential component of quality basic education that promotes the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values needed to bring behavior changes that enable children, youth, and adults to prevent overt and structural conflict and violence; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace at intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, national, or international levels.

Peace education has developed as an autonomous field with the goal of helping people think and connect across differences in culture, nationality, religious beliefs, political perspectives, and disciplines of knowledge. Multiple academic and training programs as well as advocacy initiatives have been launched in recent times by various organizations. It is expected that peace education goals can be met through modified patterns of communications and relationships that would help level distinctions based on identities and class. In regions where it is readily available, inexpensive, quick communication tools available on the internet have a significant influence on promoting the principles of peace and non-violence. In places without such access, there is a need to develop supportive and contextual outreach programs using alternative resources.

Despite movements led by peace organizations and activists worldwide, and despite the rapid development of a body of literature in the field of peace education, a large section of the world's children remains exposed to violent atrocities, pain, and devastation. Global experience indicates the insufficiency of international interventions in resolving conflicts indefinitely in various parts of the world. A systemic approach to making peace education programs contextually appropriate would establish:

• A multidisciplinary analysis of a particular situation and the root causes of violence in that context

• A multi-level approach to connect efforts that promote social justice initiated in schools with efforts supported by the greater society

• A youth-centered approach supporting the agency and resilience of young people.

Local empowerment through proper understanding and a relevant and just approach to peace education would raise popular awareness about the value of non-violence. This, in turn, can successfully advance a world culture of peace for generations to come.

Resources:

Fountain, S. (1999). Peace education in UNICEF. United Nations Children's Fund Programme Publications. http://www.unicef.org/education/files/PeaceEducation.pdf.

Wessells, M. G. (2012). Cosmology, context, and peace education: A view from war zones. In Peter P. Trifonas & Bryan Wright (Eds.), Critical peace education: Difficult dialogues. New York, NY: Springer.

Vision of Humanity Global Peace Index 2015: http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/our-gpi-findings

Building Blocks of Peace Classroom Modules (Institute for Economics and Peace): http://economicsandpeace.org/education/secondary

Education about religions and beliefs: http://erb.unaoc.org/

Peace Education from TeachUNICEF: http://teachunicef.org/explore/topic/peace-education

Education and peacebuilding - UNICEF: www.unicef.org/education/bege_65480.html

Murithi, T. (2009). An African perspective on peace education: Ubuntu lessons in reconciliation. International Review of Education, 55, 221-233.

Leckman, J., Painter-Brick, C., Salah R. (2014). Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children and Families. Boston, MA: MIT Press. http://www.amazon.ca/Pathways-Peace-Transformative-Children-Families/dp/0262027984/ref=sr_1_1/178-7594129-4363849?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414764018&sr=1-1

Peace Education Foundation: http://www.peace-ed.org/

Peace Education in UNICEF www.unicef.org/education/files/PeaceEducation.pdf

Teachers Without Borders: http://www.teacherswithoutborders.org

University of Peace: http://www.upeace.org

Uwazie, E. E. (Ed.). (2003). Conflict resolution and peace education in Africa.  Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Vargas-Baron, E., & Alarcon, H. B. (Eds.). (2005). From bullets to blackboards: Education for peace in Latin America and Asia. The Inter-American Development Bank. http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=612166

Wintersteiner, W., Spajić-Vrkaš, V., & Teutsch, R. (2003). Peace education in Europe: Visions and experiences. Germany: Waxmann Verlag GmbH.

International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World Manifesto, 2000: www3.unesco.org/manifesto2000/default.asp

Anne Bauer