Interpeace and UNICEF partner to contribute to peace through work with children

A partnership between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Interpeace contributes to the sustaining peace agenda which calls for contribution to peace at all levels and across all sectors. UNICEF drives change for children every day, by saving their lives, defending their rights, and helping them to fulfil their potential. The organization has long recognized that the sustainability of its work around the world requires addressing the root causes of fragility, conflict, and violence rather than merely responding to their consequences. Based on the recognition of this interrelationship, UNICEF leverages its programming in social services delivery and community engagement focused on realization of child rights for peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as demonstrated through its previous “Peacebuilding, Education, and Advocacy Programme”, and ongoing programming in over 50 countries.

UNICEF’s contribution to peacebuilding is centered on the social and economic dimensions of peace. It supports contributions to sustaining peace at multiple levels including individual capacity to transform conflict, fostering relationships between and within groups ( horizontal social cohesion), and (re)building state-society relations (vertical social cohesion).

In line with the second facet of Interpeace’s mandate – to assist the international community (and particularly the United Nations) to play a more effective role in supporting peacebuilding efforts around the world – Interpeace has embarked on co-learning processes with a number of UN agencies. The Interpeace Advisory Team (IPAT) provides accompaniment on the operationalization of the sustaining peace agenda, including the integration of contributions to peace in humanitarian and development work. This work is guided by key peacebuilding principles including local leadership, fostering horizontal and vertical trust - between people as well as between people and governments - and carefully crafting processes that enable these.

“We are delighted to be supporting UNICEF in its endeavor of fostering peaceful and inclusive societies for the realization of children’s rights. This work constitutes a part of Interpeace’s efforts to partner with other organizations in fostering peace responsive humanitarian, development, and stabilization action,” said Martina Zapf, Senior Manager at Interpeace.

Photo credits: Interpeace.

UNICEF has partnered with Interpeace on an evaluative review of its peacebuilding, social cohesion, and violence prevention programming. The objective of this review, carried out by IPAT, is to identify effective approaches that could be scaled up as well as opportunities to further enhance UNICEF’s work in these areas, drawing on its unique added value. UNICEF and Interpeace have also worked together in several countries to improve the situation of children and peace - as seen in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau (read more here).

Further consolidating the partnership, UNICEF has concluded a long-term services agreement with Interpeace. Under this framework agreement Interpeace will collaborate with UNICEF in the areas of peacebuilding, social cohesion, and violence prevention. Interpeace’s Advisory Team will provide hands-on assistance to country and programme teams on conflict analysis, programme design and implementation; providing capacity development and supporting organizational change processes; developing action-oriented and field-tested guidance; as well as providing reviews and a sounding board. The two organizations will also continue to identify opportunities for jointly designing and implementing programmatic activities contributing to peace.

The overall aim of the collaboration between UNICEF and Interpeace is to identify and practically act on ways of further enhancing UNICEF’s contribution to peace, in line with its mandate. Recognizing and enabling the important role that social and economic interventions play in fostering peace, gives concrete expression to one of the core tenants of the sustaining peace agenda.

Photo credits: Interpeace

Abidjan Peace Talks: Young Ivorians Commit to Sustainable Peace

Le français suit

While only a fraction of young people in Côte d'Ivoire contribute to violence, the common stigma of youth as perpetrators of violence remains a shield to the potential of the majority driving substantial positive change in the country. The Abidjan Peace Talks have recognized youth as key players who can bring positive change and stability to societies in Côte d'Ivoire.

On Friday, 11 October 2019, more than 400 people gathered at the French Institute of Côte d'Ivoire in the main city Abidjan and listened to 10 young peacebuilders share their personal stories and experiences building peace in their communities across the West African state.

Photo credit: Indigo Côte d’Ivoire

“My participation at Abidjan Peace Talks has comforted me in my convictions to take more action because there is a lot to do to bring about lasting peace in my country,” said one participant, Richmond Koné.

It was the first time that the Peace Talks, a global initiative which builds on the idea that everyone can play a part in building peace, travelled to Côte d'Ivoire and the second time it was hosted in Africa, after the Nairobi Peace Talks in 2015.

Abidjan Peace Talks was part of a three-day public event named “Youth for Peace Côte d'Ivoire” that aimed to create an inclusive platform for young Ivorians to dialogue with decision makers and share innovative ideas that contribute to sustainable peace in the country.

“Youth for Peace re-awakened us on our responsibility in the peace process in Côte d'Ivoire. It gathered Ivorian youths and gave them the floor to speak. We have a lot to say but do not find platforms of this scale to express ourselves. Some of us want to act, but do not know how. The Abidjan Peace Talks and all its inspiring stories, I’m sure, has inspired many youths in one way or the other to act and be useful to our country,” said Michèle Gnokile, one of the speakers of Abidjan Peace Talks.

Abidjan Peace Talks held under the message “I build the peace I want for Côte d'Ivoire, and you?”, inspired by the Youth for Peace Côte d'Ivoire theme “Contribution of Youth to Peace in Côte d'Ivoire”

The event was timely as Côte d'Ivoire prepares for elections in 2020, and was jointly organized by N’Zarama Center for Peacebuilding, Indigo Cote d’Ivoire and Interpeace.

Shortly after the Peace Talks on 11 October, the 10 young speakers, who shared their stories about how they contribute to Peace in Côte d'Ivoire, visited the communes of Attecoubé and Abobo in Abidjan to inspire other young people to contribute to peacebuilding in their communities.

The Peace Talks have inspired several young Ivorians who committed to take individual actions for peace in their country, after listening to the inspiring stories of the speakers.

All speakers at the Abidjan Peace Talks. Photo credit: Indigo Côte d’Ivoire

“I feel touched by the story of Issouf Ouattara, when he said no matter how angry one is, he or she should not pick a stone and throw at another person. I felt touched because when we get angry and destroy another person, we destroy ourselves too,” said one young man, after listening to the speakers in Attécoube.

The Abidjan Peace Talks have also inspired Ivorian journalists who now want to produce radio programmes for peacebuilders to share their inspiring stories. The Peace Talks tour continues to other neighbourhoods famous for violent activities in Côte d'Ivoire.

“Abidjan Peace Talks celebrated the personal stories of young Ivorians, both exceptional and ordinary, who show that peace is everyone’s business; that everyone can contribute to peace at his or her own level,” explained Mathilde Boddaert, Interpeace Senior Programme Manager for Côte d'Ivoire.

You can watch the Abidjan Peace Talks videos here in French.

Youth for Peace Côte d'Ivoire was organized by N’Zarama Center for Peacebuilding, Indigo Côte d'Ivoire and Interpeace, with support from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), the French Embassy in Côte d'Ivoire, the Swiss Embas/sy in Côte d'Ivoire, the French Institute in Côte d'Ivoire and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Abidjan Peace Talks: les jeunes Ivoiriens s’engagent pour une paix durable

« J’ai été touché parce que lorsque nous nous mettons en colère et détruisons une autre personne, nous nous détruisons nous-mêmes également ». Cette émotion est celle de l’un des spectateurs des récents Abidjan Peace Talks. La rencontre a permis de mettre en valeur 10 expériences de jeunes Ivoiriens qui tentent au quotidien de contribuer à un changement positif et d’apporter une stabilité dans leur pays. Dans une Côte d’Ivoire qui entre dans une période préélectorale importante et où leurs camarades sont souvent stigmatisés comme attiseurs de violence alors que seule une poignée d’entre eux posent problème.

Plus de 400 personnes se sont rassemblées le 11 octobre dernier à l’Institut français de Côte d’Ivoire dans la capitale économique. Toutes réunies pour écouter les histoires personnelles de ces jeunes qui oeuvrent pour consolider la paix dans leurs communautés. « J’ai été conforté dans mes convictions qu’il faut agir davantage parce qu’il y a beaucoup à faire pour atteindre une paix durable dans mon pays », insiste l’une d’entre elles.

Photo credit: Indigo Côte d’Ivoire

Les Peace Talks, une initiative globale qui s’appuie sur l’idée que chacun peut prendre sa part dans la construction de la paix, ont investi pour la première fois la Côte d’Ivoire. Cette discussion était la seconde seulement en Afrique après celle de Nairobi il y a quatre ans. Elle a été organisée dans le cadre de la rencontre plus large « Les jeunes pour la paix en Côte d’Ivoire », prévue sur trois jours, pour établir une plateforme de dialogue entre jeunes Ivoiriens et décideurs et partager des scénarios innovants qui peuvent contribuer à une paix durable dans ce pays.

Ce format des ‘jeunes pour la paix’ « nous a réveillés sur notre responsabilité. Il a donné la parole aux jeunes Ivoiriens. Nous avons beaucoup à dire mais nous ne trouvons pas de plateforme de cette dimension pour nous exprimer », explique l’une des intervenantes des Peace Talks, Michèle Gnokile. Et « je suis certaine » que les Abidjan Peace Talks « ont inspiré de nombreux jeunes d’une manière ou d’une autre pour qu’ils agissent et qu’ils soient utiles », ajoute-t-elle.

Organisés sous le titre “Je construis la paix que je veux en Côte d’Ivoire, et toi ?”, ceux-ci tombaient à point nommé alors que la Côte d’Ivoire se prépare aux élections générales de 2020. La manifestation pour laquelle se sont alliés le Centre N’Zarama pour la consolidation de la paix, Indigo Côte d’Ivoire et Interpeace ne s’est pas contentée de rester confinée à l’Institut français. Les 10 intervenants sont également allés partager leurs expériences dans les quartiers d’Attecoubé et Abobo.

Pari réussi, plusieurs spectateurs en sont ressortis avec une volonté d’action. Parmi les premières conséquences concrètes de cette séquence, des journalistes ivoiriens souhaitent désormais produire des émissions de radio pour que les consolidateurs de paix puissent relayer leurs témoignages. De son côté, la tournée de ces Peace Talks se poursuit dans d’autres quartiers réputés violents en Côte d’Ivoire. « La paix est l’affaire de tous. Chacun peut contribuer”, relève la responsable des projets d’Interpeace dans ce pays Mathilde Boddaert.

Vous pouvez regarder les vidéos d’Abidjan Peace Talks ici en français.

Photo credit: Indigo Côte d’Ivoire

Youth for Peace Côte d'Ivoire était organisé par le Centre N’Zarama pour la consolidation de la paix, Indigo Côte d’Ivoire et Interpeace avec le soutien de la Communauté économique des Etats d’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO), l’Agence allemande pour la coopération internationale (GIZ), l’Union européenne (UE), l’Union africaine (UA), l'ambassade de Suisse en Côte d'Ivoire, l’ambassade de France en Côte d’Ivoire, l’Institut français en Côte d’Ivoire et le Programme des Nations Unis pour le développement (PNUD).


Tackling root causes of conflict in Timor-Leste: CEPAD launches Strategic Review to address food security issues

Timor-Leste, one of the youngest democracies in the world, has faced numerous challenges in its journey to build sustainable peace. Recognized as an independent country fifteen years ago, in May 2002, it has faced serious political crises, violence, unemployment, and land disputes. Despite these problems, the Timorese have reached important achievements in the past five years: growth in their economy, a decrease in child mortality rates and peaceful elections.  However, the Timorese are still faced with the consequences of decades of social turmoil and one of the biggest challenges that remain are food security issues. On May 30, 2017, the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD) in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, successfully launched a report called, “Timor-Leste Strategic Review: Progress and Success in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 2”, which addresses the need to improve nutritional outcomes in the country.

Research has shown that there is a clear link between conflict and food security issues. Tackling the root causes of conflict in fragile countries therefore involves addressing these challenges. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has made food security a priority and Sustainable Development Goal 2 seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”

A Couple in Oecusse, Timor-Leste. Photo credit: WFP Camila Urbina-Escobar

Timor-Leste is one of the countries with the highest rates of chronic undernutrition in the world.  Children and women are the most at risk of malnutrition. In 2013, 38% of children were underweight, and more than half of the nation’s children under five years old are stunted in bodies and brains. In the same year, 24.8% of women between 15-49 years old were underweight and 40% were anemic. Between 2013 and 2015, 26.9% of the country’s population experienced hunger. Moreover, Timor-Leste’s agriculture system does not produce enough food to feed the population. Factors that are contributing to this problem are unsustainable methods, poor soil fertility, land ownership issues, and farmer’s low motivation due to low profits. Additionally, the Timorese are experiencing the effects of climate change including higher temperatures and longer dry seasons.

Through the support of former President Ramos-Horta and the Bishop of Dili, a Strategic Review was undertaken by our local partner in Timor-Leste, the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD) and Johns Hopkins University, to determine what needs to be done to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2). The Strategic Review portrays the nutrition challenges in Timor-Leste and is a mechanism that can help the government set priorities in the actions and policies implemented in the country to achieve SDG2. Moreover, it can help stakeholders develop programs to end hunger and achieve food security.

Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Steve Tickner

The Strategic Review was developed through a participatory research process, which initiated with a compilation of the most recent information and data about Timor-Leste’s nutrition, agriculture and food systems. Afterwards, the research team conducted a nation-wide consultation process with members of the government, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, as well as led community consultations. The data gathered was then analyzed to write recommendations on how Timor-Leste can progress towards achieving goal SDG2. Recommendations include ensuring national social protection programmes, improving operations and nutrition of the nationally owned School Meals Programme, improving agricultural productivity by promoting agroforestry, improving spices and coffee production, investing in women farmers, etc.

Since 2007, Interpeace has been working with CEPAD, supporting peacebuilding processes in Timor-Leste, establishing initiatives to help break cycles of violence and help create a climate where the Timorese can identify and address priority issues in non-violent ways. We celebrate CEPAD’s work and are proud of the successful launch of the Strategic Review to achieve SDG2 in Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Steve Tickner

To read the full report visit the following link:

Timor-Leste Strategic Review: Progress and Success in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 2

All Hands on Deck for Peace Education in the Great Lakes Region

In this interview, Interpeace’s Great Lakes Programme Coordinator, Isabelle Peter, discusses the organization’s peace education initiative in the three countries of Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The peace education initiative is part of Interpeace’s Cross-Border Peacebuilding programme, implemented in collaboration with six regional organisations in the region. 

What is Peace Education, and how does it fit into Interpeace’s efforts to build lasting peace in the Great Lakes region?

Peace education is both about content and approach. It focuses on learning about and strengthening the skills, attitudes, principles and values that individuals and communities can rely on to transform negative situations of potential conflict into more positive situations. In terms of what constitutes peace education in the context of the Great Lakes region, it is a concept that looks at the fundamental causes and structures that underlie the continuous conflicts that the region has experienced.

Interpeace’s work on peace education was in response to a call by the people of the region themselves, who identified peace education as an important foundation for lasting peace. This emerged as a recommendation in a participatory research carried out by Interpeace’s regional peacebuilding programme, which we implement together with six partner organizations in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The mandate itself was given at a regional forum in Kinshasa in December 2015. In the face of repetitive conflicts that have occurred for the last 20 years or more, citizens from the region − among them youth, religious leaders, parliamentarians, ministers, regional organizations and women’s groups − came together in Kinshasa and clearly stated that peace education was absolutely necessary for the region to stand a chance at sustainable peace in the future. This shows how the people of the Great Lakes, in their own analysis, deeply understand the essence of peace education as a building block for lasting peace.

In the framework of Interpeace’s Great Lakes programme, the youth emerge as a key actor, historically instrumentalized by certain groups to fight for or to assert certain vested interests, and often also manipulated to commit acts of violence. What people in the region have said is that the youth can be that transformative force that can change the future of the region. We therefore mainly target to transform the youth since they are well positioned to shape a better future for the region. Although the focus is on the youth, peace education is more broadly about transforming people, shaping the attitudes and behaviour of individuals such that when faced with situations of potential conflict, they can transform these into situations that actually support peace and social cohesion.

Peace education, with a particular emphasis on the youth, is then a very important approach that can support this positive role that the youth can play.

Interpeace's Great Lakes Programme Coordinator Isabelle Peter. Photo Credit: Interpeace.

It has often been remarked that “Peace Education does not happen in a classroom.” What does this statement signify in the context of the Great Lakes Region?

That is a very important statement, but it is also a challenge that we have encountered in the programme. All the stakeholders we have interacted with in the region − among them policy makers, decision makers, teachers and education systems − are trying to find a way to make peace education more practical. This matter came up when we had a regional peace education summit in Nairobi in March 2016, with about 80 decision makers, policy makers and peace educational practitioners in attendance. What they said is that for peace education to really be effective, it must empower the individual to have the capacity to transform a situation, based on his or her knowledge, skills, behaviour and attitudes in line with the principles of dialogue, tolerance, mutual understanding and active listening.

Let us take the example of a young person in the Great Lakes region, confronted with a situation where he or she is for instance being approached by a politician or by the youth wing of a political party to fight for a certain cause or to carry out some actions that are not helpful for peace. If you place yourself in the shoes of this individual, the question is: how can you transform this situation? How can you react to it in a way that can turn it into something more positive? First of all, you must be able to resist the manipulation, and you also need to see how you can engage your family or your community for them to similarly resist this kind of manipulation. What this means is that peace education needs to be something practical that individuals and communities can use in their daily lives.

One important realization that has emerged from the programme is that the education system needs to integrate a form of peace education that explains what conflict transformation entails and also integrates the history of the region. But more importantly, this needs to be done in a way that really empowers those who undergo peace education to be able to recognize situations of potential conflict and to be able to transform them. I think that when this happens, we will see a new, empowered generation that can really turn around the future of the Great Lakes.

Interpeace has been working with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and UNESCO on peace education for a while now. Have you also been able to reach out to the National Governments? How have they responded?

Yes, we have been able to reach out to the national governments and their response has been generally positive. This is in following with Interpeace’s approach, which seeks to bridge between the grassroots and the decision-making levels. Ever since the peace education emerged as a strong recommendation from the people themselves, we have made effort to upstream this recommendation and we are engaging national and regional decision makers, to provide a viable communication channel between the grassroots and the decision makers.

Incidentally, we have come to realize that all the national governments in the Great Lakes region already have peace education within their policies and programmes. This happened when we organized the peace education summit in Nairobi back in March 2016 in collaboration with the ICGLR and UNESCO. We had high level representatives from the education ministries of Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, but also from Uganda and South Sudan. In fact, some of these States that we weren’t really targeting, came up and said they too wanted to be part of the peace education initiative. This very fact shows that there is a strong interest in promoting peace education among the various governments. So there is no doubt that the political will exists.

The key challenge that emerged in the Nairobi Summit is that the governments are sometimes short of the expertise required to implement peace education in a meaningful way, not just in the classrooms. For peace education to be indeed more transformative, for instance among the youth, the governments need to have certain tools at their disposal. They for instance need trained educators who know how exactly to implement peace education. Another key priority that was expressed at the Nairobi Summit was the need to harmonize peace education on the regional level. The public statement of the ICGLR Executive Secretary in a regional newspaper article illustrates the priority that peace education has received in the region. In the article, the Executive Secretary expressed his wish to make peace education a priority among ICGLR Member States, and mentioned during the Summit, since his term was coming to an end, that it is an initiative that he will endeavour to pass on to his successor as Executive Secretary.

So generally, we have reached out to national governments, and they have been very open and willing to work on peace education. What needs additional work is how to confront the challenges facing the implementation of the policies and making them reality.

Listening to you it seems that the National Governments have a very pedagogical, curriculum-based approach. Is there a way in which you think they can also reach, for instance, youth who are not in school?

That is a very important point. At the Nairobi Summit, the focus was largely on youth within the school systems. There were however discussions in the Summit on the question of how to reach non-schooling youths. A key actor that the Interpeace programme is working with is the religious denominations − the Christian faith, Islam − because they often have structures in place that allow them to reach wider demographics, including non-schooling youths. These non-schooling youths are a very important demographic because they are more prone to manipulation due to their precarious conditions. Peace education of course goes beyond just the schooling system. That is why our work with the churches, mosques and other similar actors is important in reaching these youths who exist on the periphery.

Photo credit: CENAP

How about the local communities? Are they directly involved in the peace education initiative?

We work very closely with the local communities in the programme, which helps us make a distinction between formal and informal peace education. Formal peace education is more of the school curriculum-oriented kind, while informal peace education is the kind that can take place outside of these formal systems. Our six partner organizations particularly work very much with the local communities in terms of promoting peace education, itself a recommendation that we got informally from the grassroots populations.

One dimension of our work with the communities includes supporting cross-border dialogue spaces, which we do in collaboration with our six partner teams. We currently have six dialogues spaces across Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, each comprising 20 to 30 community members, among them leaders who represent different communities and socio-political constituencies. We work with these cross-border community dialogue groups to come up with and implement initiatives that foster peace education. They have taken on a number of initiatives, sometimes also involving educators, to discuss the kind of values, principles and mindsets that are important in order to build lasting peace in the region. Participants in the dialogue spaces have gone further and reached out to their own communities, their own families, their own work places and to young people as well.

There is this nice story of a lady from one of our dialogue spaces who has become a sort of “go to” dialogue facilitator in her workplace. Whenever there is a conflict or some kind of tension in the office, her colleagues come to her, and she uses her peacebuilder’s mindset to help them to resolve the conflict through dialogue.

A second dimension is our work with 15 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the three countries to amplify the peace education initiative. Our partner teams engage these CSOs to collaboratively develop concrete initiatives, again aimed at increasing the outreach of our peacebuilding values and the peace education initiative. Some of the activities have included trainings with the CSOs, equipping them to in turn train their own members. We also work with Scouts associations from Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, and employ tools such as participatory theatre and video sketches to raise awareness and to transform the people we interact with into agents of change in the region.

All this work is quite profound. But then, in what unique ways would you say Interpeace’s approach to peace education is different from that of other actors and stakeholders in the Great Lakes region?

One thing is that we acknowledge the complexity of the regional reality, and we also recognize that change is always a result of many different efforts coming together − starting with the communities’ innate capacities to prevent and transform conflicts. This is why we work with peace education actors in both the formal and informal sectors. In the formal sector, we for example collaborate with UNESCO. We also collaborate with other international organizations such as the Aegis Trust, which has carried out very impressive engagements on peace education in Rwanda. In the informal sector we work with the churches and other different associations.

I think what is important is to see how we can all collaborate, to discern the gaps in the work of others that we can complement, and vice versa. So in that sense, we continue to be in communication with these like-minded organizations, and we invite them to our engagements, for example the 2016 regional peace education summit in Nairobi. Similarly, this month (February 2017) we were invited by UNESCO to speak at the SDG4 Regional Forum for Eastern Africa, which was a high level forum organized by UNESCO in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the implementation of the 2030 Education Agenda.

As Interpeace, our comparative or added advantage is that we have structures and networks in place to link the grassroots level to the national and regional levels. For our work in the Great Lakes region, we for instance have formal collaboration with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEGPL). These collaborations help us to see how we can foster advocacy for peace education, how we can really have a dialogue that is more inclusive, brings all tracks on board, and allows for an exchange not only between policy makers, peace education practitioners and students within the formal schooling systems, but also the international organizations and other actors and stakeholders who are involved. In all these collaborations, what is most important to us is to catalyze collective action towards fostering and better facilitating the implementation of peace education.

A second important element that Interpeace and its six partners bring is the voice of the people, who clearly articulated the importance of peace education as a recommendation in a research study that involved several thousand grassroots participants. This voice of the people weighs in to boost our collaboration with other stakeholders and to leverage peace education efforts in the region.

I am sure there must be challenges in these efforts to lay a firm foundation for peace education in the region. What are some of them?

The existing challenges came out clearly at regional peace education summit in Nairobi. The main challenge raised by the participants was about the actualization of the peace education policy frameworks into practice. Several elements are needed for effective implementation – adequate expertise is needed, tools are needed, structures are needed, and of course there are funding needs.

These challenges may also be related to the current global political environment in terms of the donor landscape. Donors and the international community want to see rapidly visible peace dividends, understandably because they are accountable to their own parliaments back at home for the funding that they provide. However, the reality is that addressing the root causes of conflicts in the Great Lakes, requires long processes. Peace education is one important pillar in mitigating the root causes for the long term, but it is difficult to demonstrate quick peace dividends from peace education because its goal is to transform a generation.

This presents a dilemma, and may be one of the reasons why it can sometimes be difficult to have the kind of support for peace education that is needed from the international community. But on the flipside, this dilemma is also a call to action for actors working on the ground to really demonstrate why peace education is an urgent imperative.

Photo credit: APC

And finally, you mentioned the recent UNESCO forum in Dar es Salaam. What key messages did Interpeace seek to pass regarding peace education in the region?

Together with our partner organizations in the regional cross-border programme, we used the opportunity to be the spokesperson for the needs and the priorities that the local populations have expressed to us through our programmes.

We had three primary messages that we wanted to amplify for the ministries of education from eastern Africa, the UN actors and other segments of the international community that were present at the forum.

Our first message was to highlight the important need for peace education in the region. Because this was a forum on education in general, its focus was far broader than peace education. Our message was therefore that even if we have perfect education systems in place – with important aspects such as gender considerations, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) et. cetera – all of these can be undermined if there is continuous conflict in the region. The fundamental starting point is therefore to really be able to create a situation of lasting peace, which can then allow all the other systems and processes to emerge in a sustainable way. Our number one message was therefore the importance and need for peace education to be included in the formal education systems.

Secondly, we wanted to draw focus on the approach to peace education, not just the content. This means equipping students with the skills, principles and values that they can use in their own daily lives to transform potentially negative situations into positive ones, to actually make peacebuilders out of the students and even out of the teachers themselves – peacebuilders for peace in the region.

Our third message was to emphasize the importance of a regional approach to peace education. This is because in both Eastern Africa and the Great Lakes region, we have seen how political developments in one country can spill over into neighbouring countries, sometimes with detrimental consequences. If we accept this reality, it also means that peace education efforts cannot just focus on the national level. We must take into account the regional level. So our three primary messages are the importance of peace education, peace education as both an approach and as a mindset, and thirdly the importance of the regional perspective.

We also took the opportunity to further our efforts to influence the policies and priorities of the governments present at the forum regarding peace education.

Read also

A Discussion Paper on Peace Education in the Great Lakes Region (PDF)

Favoring technical training in “Boquerón” detention center in Guatemala

The “Boquerón” detention center is located in the district of Santa Rosa in Guatemala, less than an hour away from the capital. In 2015, Interpeace’s Regional Office for Latin America, began to implement a project to provide technical training for young inmates in this detention center. The project was made possible with the cooperation of the Spanish NGO International Youth Initiative and the financial support of Malaga’s City Hall.

For Interpeace, the implementation of treatment programmes in detention centers, is intended to promote rehabilitation processes and support the General Direction of the Penitentiary System in Guatemala. This is accomplished by providing inmates with social, educational, cultural and productive job training workshops.

As part of the project, technical training was provided for young inmates at “Boquerón” in graphic design, serigraphy and dye-sublimination; workshops in computer programming and maintenance, as well as diverse methods of craft elaborations. In addition to these workshops, the young inmates were also trained to develop skills in management and conflict transformation, psychology and personal motivation. Moreover, Interpeace provided them with a screen printing apparatus, as well as several supplies and equipment for dye-sublimination, which uses heat to transfer dye onto materials such as plastic, cards, paper, or fabric.

Workshop at Boquerón Detention Center in Guatemala. Photo credit: Interpeace.

The systematic nature of society requires interventions oriented toward generating synergies which favor interactions between different tracks or different sectors of society, which is why Interpeace also applied its Track 6 approach in this project. Interpeace officials performed several activities at the political level (Track 1) with the Vice Minister of Security and the Directives of the Penitentiary System, conducted activities with other organizations of civil society working in support of the prison system (Track 2) and implemented activities directly with the young inmates, who are the beneficiaries of the project (Track 3).

The ultimate goal of the project was to expand the social function of the prison system and to achieve specific objectives such as reducing leisure time in detention centers and provide methods of rehabilitation and social reintegration with respect to the inmates’ human dignity, human rights and laws.

Shirt elaborated by the participants of the Boquerón project in Guatemala. Photo credit: Interpeace.

Entrepreneurship and productive capacity-building with at-risk youth in El Salvador

The districts of Nueva Concepción and Ilopango share two particular characteristics. Both towns are located in the midst of breathtaking water landscapes: the Lempa River and the Ilopango Lake. And although they are surrounded by peaceful scenarios, both Nueva Concepción and Ilopango, are located in one of the countries with the highest homicide rates in the world: El Salvador.

In 2015, homicide rates in El Salvador reached a historic high for the post-war period, of 116 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. In this context, Interpeace’s programme is working to strengthen the capacities of people involved and affected by this conflict, in order for them to define the problem, and gain a sense of responsibility and ownership of the solutions that can generate peaceful transformations in their communities. Interpeace firmly believes that this objective can only be reached through the inclusion of all social groups, not only governments and political elites, but also through the participation of civil society.

Interpeace’s programme, entitled “Comprehensive initiatives to prevent violence in El Salvador,” developed with the support of the European Union, is being implemented in ten districts throughout the country. The project seeks to work with at-risk youth between the ages of 18 and 29, with the objective to build capacities for entrepreneurial activities. This programme entails three specific steps: the first is to provide young adults with the necessary tools and methods to peacefully transform conflict. The second step, consists on training these young adults in the field of entrepreneurship. And lastly, the third step involves overseeing the establishment of productive associations and providing seed capital, specifically for materials and equipment to enable the implementation of their entrepreneurial ideas.

Ilopango, El Salvador. Photo credit: Interpeace

The programme is already underway and throughout July 2016, two workshops were developed focusing on the second step of the project. On July 14, 19 young adults from the district of Ilopango participated in a training session where they identified the enterprises they would like to implement in their community. The next day on July 15, a similar workshop took place in the district of Nueva Concepción. In both towns, the risks and opportunities of each enterprise were discussed and participants engaged in recollecting information to better define the implementation of each project. It’s important to highlight that these participants will ultimately choose the enterprise they want to initiate, as a way to consolidate the local ownership of the process. During August 2016, similar workshops will take place in the other 8 districts established by the programme. At the end of this phase, these young adults will participate in training sessions, aimed at implementing their enterprises.

Offering productive opportunities to youth is a key strategy to preventing violence. Empowering youth through these processes, helps decrease their involvement in threating activities and turns them into agents of positive change within their communities.