Peace Education Programs for Conflict Resolution

Central Focus/ Question

The main focus of this dissertation will be to determine whether peace education programs (PEPs) contribute towards sustainable conflict resolution. Countries that embark on peace education programs are normally characterized by land disputes, ethnic rivalries, violence, and other problems. This mechanism of conflict resolution can therefore be seen as a means of giving members of affected communities the ability to resolve their own problems. However, serious doubt has been posed on the level of transformation that can be achieved through peace education. The dissertation will therefore seek to establish a link between peace education and long-term conflict resolution.

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Rationale

Rheardon (1997) defined peace education as an effort to propagate support structures with the capacity to advance peace and a sense of confidence amongst communities. Peace education efforts normally dwell on parties that may not directly be responsible for a conflict or parties that play minimal roles in a conflict such as young children; however, these individuals have the potential to create another conflict in the future and thus undermine or promote sustainable conflict resolution (Bekerman & Mc Glynn, 2007), (Christie et al, 2008). Their attitudes and values can be the determinants of actions that occur thereafter and it is, therefore, crucial to study how they can be taught peace.

Peace education normally occurs in a complex atmosphere. Participants can emanate out of different age groups, genders, ethnic associations, and other varied demographic groups. To this end, the capacity of a program to cause change is heavily dependant on how demographic differences are handled. Also, influences by political parties are quite possible (Bekerman & Mc Glynn, 2007). The research will therefore focus on the workability of peace education in contexts characterized by various stressors.

Literature Review

Theory

Theoretical underpinnings of PEPs consist of insights given by authors on prerequisites to their success. For instance, Llamazares (2005) asserts that peace education can be sustainable and can yield results if it adheres to a three-tier system composed of the most level (inclusion, employment, and history narration), macro-level (good governance, justice, security, and infrastructure) and the micro-level (challenges that specific individuals face). He adds that efforts must be made to tie in these various levels to achieve tangible and far-reaching solutions to conflict. (Llamazares, 2005)

On the other hand, Ashton (2004) affirms that peace education initiatives should not be scrutinized in isolation. PEPs often work with a wide array of strategies that eventually contribute towards long-term conflict resolution. She argues that peace education programs should be evaluated based on their potential to achieve this goal and not on the actual basis for their intervention.

Tidwell (2004) adds that long-term conflict resolution through peace education can only be achieved through contextualization with local cultures. This should be backed up by follow-ups and reinforcements as argued by McCauley (2002). One of the ways in which reinforcements can be achieved is through the introduction of compulsory programs as stated by JEDI (2002).

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Case studies

Feuchte & Beelmann (2008) did a case study of peace education programs in a Ghanaian refugee camp of Liberian citizens. These authors found that 77% of the Liberian refugees felt that they had already begun applying lessons taught from the peace education program. However, before one concludes that the program was a success, it is critical to understand that evaluation programs carried out in these refugee camps were done shortly after implementation. (Feuchte & Beelmann, 2008) The Liberian case study – much like other case studies such as Ikobwa et al‘s (2005) research on the effectiveness of peace education programs in Sudan and Uganda – dwelt on short term successes. The dissertation will therefore seek to close this gap by looking at its sustainability.

JEDI (2002) worked with Northern Ireland youth in a peace education program. They found that the group was in a better position to embrace other communities if they first engaged in community work between themselves. Doing so built positive relationships and better-prepared participants to cooperate with individuals from adversarial groups. (Maoz, 2005). Nonetheless, such interactions need to be carried out in an honest and open manner and no person should be forced to adopt the viewpoints of the other as doing so could cause intimidation. (Tidwell, 2004)

In this same geographical context of Northen Ireland, Oconnor et al (2002) found that interventions did not yield the best results in terms of conflict resolution because of failure to acknowledge contextual matters. Teachers who were implementing peace education curricula in Northern Ireland failed to address contentious issues amongst groups. The educators would take on this escapist attitude when adversarial groups were interacting with one another. Jones (2005) further contributes to this viewpoint (of the importance of context) through her research in South Africa. In her journal article, the author affirms that peace education programs should not merely be imported from western countries and replicated in developing nations. South Africa has a unique history, culture, and community consequently, peace education models needed to be tailor-made to the South African context. Jones’ (2005) qualitative needs assessment found that cultural sensitivity hindered PEP success.

Other studies have found that teacher capability is critical in enhancing the effectiveness of peace education programs. For instance, in interventions by Adwan & Bar (2002), it was highlighted that teacher training was essential in the implementation of the PEP as it would prepare teachers to effectively use materials, technologies, and resources in the program. The training was particularly important because the intervention was geared at examining historical narratives from both Israeli and Palestinian angles; teaching this would require intense preparation. (Adwan & Bar-on, 2002)

Lewis and Ohanyan (2005) evaluated the effectiveness of peace education in an Abkhaz &Georgian camp. Their overall conclusion was that the PEP was modestly successful. Although it did not change the attitude of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides tremendously, it managed to alter their willingness to change through participation in more peace programs.

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UNICEF (2002) deduced that most peace education initiatives tend to report very positive outcomes in the beginning. However, failure to link peace initiatives to long goals could hamper their sustainability. Furthermore, various aspects of program implementation such as community services and continual funding by international organizations need to be promoted.

This literature review demonstrates that most articles on Peace education programs tend to focus on particular geographical locations i.e. they are case studies {refer to Feuchte & Beelmann (2008), Ikobwa et al (2005), Oconnor et al (2002), Lewis and Ohanyan (2005), Adwan & Bar-on (2002) & Jones (2005)}. Therefore any recommendations or inferences made are context-specific. The dissertation will therefore bring together all the lessons learned from different countries and relate them to long-term conflict resolution. Theoretical works tend to look at preconditions for success but they do not offer a conclusive statement on whether peace education programs are a plausible method for conflict resolution and this is what will be handled in the dissertation.

Conclusion

Peace education programs usually operate in complex environments, consequently, merely restricting evaluation of their success to goal achievement may not be workable. This is because conflict resolution may take a long time. However, certain indications can be useful in assessing whether a peace education initiative has actually yielded results. The dissertation will therefore attempt to look into the link between peace education and sustainable conflict resolution through this complex lens.

References

Ashton, C. (2004). Case for evaluation of peace education in supporting sustainability. Annual meeting ISA presentation Montreal, March 23

Bekerman, Z. & Mc Glynn, C. (2007). Addressing ethnic conflicts through peace education. NY: Palgrave

Christie, D., Winter, D., Wagner, R. & Tint, B. (2008). Peace psychology in a peaceful world. Journal of American Psychology 63(4): 540

Feuchte, F. & Beelman, A. (2008). Getting ready for a future without war. Berlin: Jena University press

Ikobwa, V., Schares, R. and Omondi, E. (2005), JRS peace education evaluation in South Sudan and Uganda. UNHCR report.

JEDI (2002). Community relations & education for citizenship in Northern Ireland Youth Service. Social issues journal 54(3), 563-586s

Jones, T. (2005). Implementing peace and community safety networks within South Africa. Theory into practice journal 44(4), 345-354

Lewis, J. & Ohanyan, A. (2005). Critical evaluation of peace education and interethnic contact in Georgian Abkhaz peace camp. Journal of peace and change 30(4), 1

Llamazares, M. (2005). Generic approaches to post war reconstruction. Working paper for conflict resolution 14

Maoz, I. (2005). Evaluation of communication between disputing groups: Interventions between Arabs and Jews in Israel. Journal of negotiation 21(5), 131-146

McCauley, C. (2002). Head 1st vs. feet 1st. NJ: Lawrence publishers

O’Connor, U., McCully, A. & Hartop, B. (2002). School community relations programme review.

Reardon, B. (1997). Human rights and education for peace. PA: Pennsylvania University press.

Sambanis, N. (2002). Recent advances in literature on civil war. Peace and defence economics Journal 3(5): 215-243.

Tidwell,A. (2004). Conflict, education and peace. Conflict resolution 21(4), 463-470.

Peace Education Programs for Conflict Resolution
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