By Pi James
NEW YORK, 20 September 2013 – For the first time in the 12-year history of the International Day of Peace, the United Nations (UN) is highlighting the transformative power of education in reducing conflict and achieving long-term peace.
On 18 September, in a special peace day event at the UN headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for renewed investment in schools and teachers to “build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity.”
UNICEF Director of Programmes Nicholas Alipui joined the morning of commemorations, which included 500 high school and university students from around the world convening at the UN and connecting with young parliamentarians from Haiti via video conference.
Addressing the students, Mr. Alipui explained, “Investing in education during times of conflict and fragility offers knowledge and skills that provide protection, while in the longer term help develop values and attitudes that prevent conflict and build peace.”
Mr. Alipui also shared news of UNICEF’s Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy programme, or Learning for Peace, which is implementing innovative education approaches in 14 countries to build resilience and social cohesion in communities affected by or recovering from conflict.
“Since the programme began, more than 27,000 young people across four countries have been engaged in dialogue on violence, conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence,” Mr. Alipui said.
Further, Mr. Alipui added, in Uganda, 25,000 young people were recruited to become ‘U-Reporters’ and encouraged to share their views, via cell phone, on peacebuilding efforts in their communities.
“The Learning for Peace programme aims to transform children’s lives,” Mr. Alipui said. “Education is a shield for them and a key to realizing their dreams.”
The event also featured remarks from Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall, UN Foundation “Girl Up” Champion Monique Coleman, as well as Mr. Ban’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi and the Youth Representative on the Global Education First Initiative’s Steering Committee, Chernor Bah. The official observance of the Day falls on Saturday, 21 September.
The presentations followed an earlier ceremony when Mr. Ban rang the Peace Bell and joined Ms. Goodall and others in releasing a flock of doves in the UN Rose Garden.
Mr. Alipui also spoke of children in Syria and elsewhere whose lives and education are disrupted by conflict and strife.
“As we mark this day around the world under the theme of ‘Education for Peace,’ we cannot forget the hundreds of thousands of children deprived of learning because their leaders cannot give them the gift of peace.”
For more visit www.educationandtransition.org/pbea.