On Friday 4 April 2008 the Mission of Norway in cooperation with Save the Children and the Mission of Qatar arranged a roundtable dialogue on the basis of questions posed in Save the Children’s recent report Where Peace Begins: Education’s role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
Ambassador Johan Løvald (to the right) opened the roundtable seminar on the importance of education in peacebuilding. (Photo: Save the Children)
Including Education in Peace Agreements
Education and peacebuilding merges two areas that are of high priority for the Norwegian Government. “Education is crucial to provide peace. Education constitutes an alternative to recruitment to armed groups, and quality education promotes dialogue, active participation in society and critical thinking,” Ambassador Johan Løvald said when opening the roundtable seminar.
The seminar dealt with the vital role education has to play in peacebuilding and was arena for discussion on how to bring education into peace agreements. The report from Save the Children explores the interdependence of education and peace from a range of perspectives, and calls for a greater engagement and collaboration between those in the peacebuilding community and those in the child rights and education sectors.
Children in Armed Conflict In Need for Education
According to Save the Children, half of all children out of school live in conflict-affected countries. Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI), states that these children living in extreme situations and armed conflicts are the ones in most need for education. “It is not difficult to provide schooling in situations where there is peace. The challenge is where there is no security. There is also where we need education the most, because there is also protection in education, there is hope in education,” Egeland says in an interview with Save the Children.
The peace negotiator Egeland points out that we, as an international community, has the ability to provide massive primary education, even to refugee camps and war effected communities, but that the needs of the children have been neglected. There is no need for more reports to document how bad the situation is, for instance in Somalia or Afghanistan. “The main challenge is now to operationalize it; what is the funding needed; who are going to do it; and how do we get enough teachers and trainers to spread all over the map and really do it,” Egeland says.
Rewrite the Future
The report also emphasizes the importance of quality education. “Education is not neutral and if misused, education can fuel conflict,” Ambassador Løvald said. The report stresses that education must be inclusive and accessible to serve as a building block for peace. The education system has a crucial role to play in creating a mindset of peace in the coming generation, and the school itself can be an important arena for training in democracy and peacebuilding.
Where Peace Begins builds on Save the Children’s practical experience and research by the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO). The report was released in March 2008 and developed as part of Save the Children’s ongoing Rewrite the Future campaign. The campaign focuses on securing quality education for children out of school in conflict-affected countries.