Education for a Culture of Peace
27 June 2016
The Gyeongiu Action Plan for Education for Global Citizenship was proclaimed in Gyeongiu, Republic of Korea, on 1 June 2016 at the United Nations Department of Public Information-Non-governmental Organizations conference. The Plan of Action aims to develop a fully conscious sense of Global Citizenship. The Plan states “Education for Global Citizenship aims to develop an education based on creative and critical thinking that enables all people to contribute actively to political and development processes in a complex, interlinked, and diverse global society both within and beyond their borders.”
Education for Global Citizenship builds on what in the late 1940s was called in UNESCO “Education for World Citizenship.” The preparations for the creation of UNESCO were carried out in London through the efforts of the British Council of Education in World Citizenship which brought together education specialists from Europe then in exile in London. Later, the term “world citizenship” was dropped in UNESCO work as perhaps too “political” a term and “Education for International Understanding” became the terminology. Now “Global Citizenship” has become the term widely used, but the values are largely the same as the earlier “world citizenship education”.
Education for Global Citizenship also builds upon the values and activities of the 2001-2010 International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. The UN General Assembly proclaimed the International Decade stating that the Decade “would greatly assist the efforts of the international community to foster peace, harmony, all human rights, and democracy throughout the world.” The Decade proclamation called upon UN bodies, NGOs, religious bodies and educational institutions, artists and the media actively to support a culture of nonviolence for the benefit of every child of the world. The Decade was to lead to “the promotion of democracy, tolerance, dialogue, reconciliation and solidarity as well as to international cooperation and economic development, and thus to sustainable human development.”
Although I recall the 2001-2010 Decade as one of chaos, crime, war and terror, there was useful work carried on to develop elements of a culture of peace and nonviolence. I was part of an International Coalition for the Decade, and we were pushing to “revise and modify school programmes so that they do not contain elements that incite violence, intolerance or violent resolution of conflicts, and that prejudices and stereotypes toward any person or group are eliminated from them.”
We are still at an early stage in the creation of a culture of peace. Such a culture is not only an aim or an ultimate goal to be achieved. It is also a comprehensive process of long-term action to construct the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men. A culture of peace means changing value systems, attitudes and behavior. We already have much on which we can build. We have, for example, the rich body of knowledge and experience in peace education and in the many efforts to improve learning methods and content so as to help students gain in self-confidence and harmony within themselves, with Nature, and with their fellow human beings.
Peace and nonviolence education is an intellectual and psychological preparation of the student in the aim of developing the student’s critical spirit to reflect on the stages of conflicts and their nonviolent resolution. The purpose of peace and nonviolence education is to allow students to acquire knowledge, know-how and a set of behavioral and interpersonal skills so that they may cultivate peaceful, cooperative and harmonious relations with others.
We know that access to education and to various forms of learning is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a culture of peace. A comprehensive system of education and training is needed for all groups of people at all levels and forms of education, both formal and non-formal. The development of a holistic approach, based on participatory methods and taking into account the various dimensions of education for a culture of peace is crucial.
Yet education is not for children alone. If we wish to create a new world society with world-conscious citizens with a sense of responsibility for life on the planet, we need to consider how to transform the world view of those in political power today. Most will not go back to school. Many have been formed in a narrow “national interest” frame of mind. Yet they hold political and economic power and are likely to continue to play a pivotal role at both the national and the international levels. Therefore, as world and global citizens we need to organize in a cooperative and dynamic way so that new ideas and values are clearly presented and heard in the halls of power.
René Wadlow, is president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.