By Taleen Vartan
NEW YORK, USA, 31 January 2012 – In 2011, UNICEF commissioned research to investigate the role of education in peacebuilding in post-conflict contexts. The resulting report, entitled The Role of Education in Peacebuilding: A synthesis report of findings from Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone, is part of a knowledge generation study within the Back on Track programme on Education in Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition. Back on Track is a five-year partnership between UNICEF, the Government of the Netherlands and the European Commission.
The study examines how integrated education interventions could have a stronger role in post-conflict peacebuilding within the United Nations system. It includes a programme literature and research review on the role of education in peacebuilding, as well as three country case studies on UNICEF’s education work in Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone.
One of the main objectives of the study was to provide evidence on the role of education in peacebuilding based on academic, programming and evaluation literature. Through a comprehensive review of 520 documents related to education, conflict and peacebuilding, researchers found that education is a driver of social development in post-conflict settings. It promotes peace and serves as a powerful force for social transformation. The findings from the literature review also highlight the need for heightened attention to education sector reform from a peacebuilding perspective and greater engagement with the UN peacebuilding architecture.
Education is often a key casualty of armed conflict. Lebanon, Nepal and Sierra Leone were selected for this study to encompass a cross-section of different conflict environments.
Despite wide social, economic and political differences in these countries, the inextricable role of education within the peacebuilding agenda was clearly evident in all three cases. In these identified countries, but particularly in Sierra Leone, vast interest in and appreciation of the importance of education marked the immediate post-war period. In Lebanon, after 2006, schooling was highly valued; the government and international agencies prioritized coordinating psychosocial support for teachers and students, rebuilding and refurbishing schools – which were previously used as shelters – and bringing children back to school as soon as possible.
Building sustainable peace
Education is an essential building block for sustainable peace. “The role of education in peacebuilding is pivotal in post-conflict countries,” said Jordan Naidoo, UNICEF Senior Education Advisor. “Education is fundamental for economic growth, national advancement and can serve as a conduit for social cohesion and reconciliation in countries recovering from crises.”
This study suggests that the focus should remain on bolstering the role of education in post-conflict contexts to support social transformation, as well as paying close attention to the values and content communicated through education systems in these fragile countries and territories.