Marsabit Office Launch – 2022

The cycles of violence in Marsabit County have intensified since 2005, with the current conflict escalating to an all-time high in 2021 and early 2022 - to the extent that almost daily killings became commonplace in Marsabit town. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has partnered with Interpeace and established a new office in Marsabit in a bid to deepen its footprint in the region and scale up its peacebuilding efforts in the county

Ten Foundations for Gender Inclusive Peacebuilding Practice

The present Peacebuilding in Practice paper lays out the foundations for gender inclusive peacebuilding and is a result of a reflection process that Interpeace took between 2017 and 2019 to examine its implementation of gender programming. It demonstrates lessons learned and recommendations for developing, implementing and evaluating gender inclusive programmes. This Peacebuilding in Practice paper, developed through a consultative process across Interpeace offices as well as on an extensive literature review, aims to strengthen Interpeace’s capacity to bring its unique contribution to building sustainable peace and advancing gender equality. The practice note is intended to be complemented by the development and application of tools and processes that allow for the effective implementation of the ten identified foundations.

Interpeace’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

The tragic death of George Floyd in the United States has affected all Interpeace staff worldwide in a profound way. It is an affront to human dignity and human rights, and thus to Interpeace’s values and principles.

The Black Lives Matter protests are a global clarion call for a long overdue reckoning with systemic racism against black communities and people of colour.

Interpeace unequivocally condemns racism and is committed to using its resources to address racism in all its manifestations. We affirm our full support to those seeking to change peacefully the patterns of racial injustice that have led to the perpetuation of physical, structural, and cultural violence around the world.

The corrosive legacy of colonialism, anti-black racism and xenophobia continues to have an influence and impact on peacebuilding work today and cannot be ignored. If the world is to achieve meaningful and sustainable peace, there must be recognition of the inter-generational traumas - past and present - caused by centuries of bias, privilege, inequality, and injustice and of how these factors determine life outcomes today.

Racism comes not only in open and direct forms, but in everyday experiences of unconscious bias and discriminatory behaviour. We must therefore be equally vigilant in addressing overt and covert or casual forms of racism and prejudice in our societies.

When the social contract is repeatedly violated, especially by security forces, then public protest and dissent are an understandable and almost inevitable response. Often, such demonstrations are the only way that society is able to shine light on its own patterns, behaviours and institutions of exclusion. In this way, social protest movements become an essential part of the process of restoring trust and building a better future.


Photo credit: Interpeace.

As an international organization for peacebuilding, Interpeace recognizes its responsibility to advance equality and eliminate all forms of discrimination within its structures as a pre-requisite to supporting and enabling local communities to transform their own conflict dynamics. This has led us to consult internally on the need to establish a process of self-examination and reflection to ensure that no form of discrimination, intolerance, or exclusion on racial or other grounds can take place within our own organization.

To advance this commitment, Interpeace is establishing a representative Diversity and Inclusion Working Group that will independently consult with all staff, and will support management to (1) foster a constructive and inclusive discussion in the organization about diversity and inclusion; (2) identify ways, where required, to eliminate any structural, systemic or casual forms of racial and other discrimination and exclusion within our organization and networks; (3) review and offer recommendations on ways to enhance our peacebuilding work positively and meaningfully in support of greater diversity and inclusion; and, (4) strategize how to scale up Interpeace’s practical support for peacebuilding, including in Europe and the U.S., that addresses exclusion, racism, and marginalization.

Interpeace will also join other peacebuilding organizations wherever possible to create greater collective effort and progress in advancing and upholding diversity and inclusion in the worldwide peacebuilding community.

Interpeace takes these steps to build a stronger and more diverse and inclusive organization that is better able to address structural and systemic patterns of exclusion wherever they may be present.


Scott M. Weber





Strengthening the role of young women as advocates of peace and security in Palestine through creativity and art

The political sphere in Palestine is male dominated, with young women in particular excluded from political and security decision-making. Significantly, existing social norms, growing conservative attitudes, prevailing gender stereotypes and socio-economic hardship hinder women’s participation at positions of influence. As a result, young women are often not engaged or involved in traditional power structures, and ultimately, have limited knowledge of their civic and political rights, including the capacity to express their political and social views.

To help shift this reality, Interpeace’s Palestine programme (Mustakbalna) has since its creation engaged diverse actors across the political spectrum and key sectoral groups within the Palestinian society, including women and youth, as change agents to promote constructive dialogue, enhance civil peace and greater stability within the Palestinian community.

In 2018, Mustakbalna partnered with The Freedom Theatre to strengthen the role of young women as advocates of peace and security in Palestine through creativity and art. Combining technical capacity building on UNSCR 1325, human rights, and gender with training on the use of innovative advocacy tools such as participatory photography, videography and theatre, young women from six different areas in the West Bank were empowered to act with influence, stand up for their rights and lead positive change in their communities.

Empowering women through art   

In 2000, the Security Council passed UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This resolution was a milestone because it acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, as well as the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, humanitarian response and peacebuilding. More than just victims of conflict, the resolution recognized women as actors of change and as peacebuilders, as well as acknowledged the importance of including women in all stages of conflict prevention and peace negotiations. However, in conflict-affected countries, women – and young women in particular – often do not possess technical knowledge of UNSCR 1325 and generally lack the space, confidence and advocacy skills to voice their concerns and aspirations to decision-makers.

Thinking of ways to address the particular challenge faced by young women, the Mustakbalna programme in partnership with The Freedom Theatre delivered a series of capacity building workshops, theatre and drama workshops, and participatory photography/videography sessions, to enable young women in target areas to improve their confidence, advocacy skills and technical knowledge of UNSCR 1325. These comprehensive training efforts helped 120 young women between the ages of 15-25 to find their “own voice” using creativity and art. Throughout the sessions, young women improved their ability to have oftentimes difficult conversations about security concerns, covering issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse with their peers, project staff, and key stakeholders, while at the same time linking these concerns to broader reflections about UNSCR 1325 and to what extent it can be used as an advocacy tool. These improvements were confirmed by participants’ parents, and other project stakeholders, including women leaders, who were impressed by the level of knowledge and expertise demonstrated by young women such as displaying greater confidence and courage, greater awareness of their rights as women and as Palestinians, and greater clarity in their communication and self-expression. As a result, young women were able to bring forth their concerns and aspirations through various means and with various audiences.

The photography and videography workshops trained young women in the use of cameras and mobile phones to document issues around them and examine how these tools can be used as an advocacy instrument. Young women produced photographs and short films portraying their everyday realities, concerns and challenges regarding security, sexual harassment, societal pressure, abuse, and discrimination (gender and age) but also their aspirations and role in society. Meanwhile, the theatre and drama workshops covered not only theory and practice, but also interactive exercises such as use of body language and confidence-building. As a conclusion to the workshops, the works produced by young women, such as theatre sketches, photographs and short films, were presented in local communities to foster discussion around the role and concerns of young women.

Additionally, as part of the objective to raise broader awareness about issues concerning women in the Palestinian society, Interpeace’s partner, The Freedom Theater led the production of a play “Us Too – Women of Palestine”. The play highlighted powerful personal stories of harassment, struggle for equality, and women’s dreams of determining their own future, which toured in different locations in the West Bank.

In October 2018, a National Gathering was organized to conclude the training elements of the project. For the first time, the young women working groups were brought together from across the West Bank: Jenin City, Ya’bad, Nablus, Tulkarem, Tubas, and Hebron to help build stronger relationships, networks and communication channels with each other and with local organizations.

Connecting young women with decision-makers

As an integral part of the project, communication channels were created between young women and local decision-makers through introductory meetings to provide women with concrete opportunities to practice advocacy and accountability. These meetings were organized in all target areas, where participants discussed the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the role and particular security concerns of young women. Over 120 participants attended these meetings including young women, representatives of local municipalities, Governorate Offices, political parties, women’s and human rights organizations, legal institutions, and informal community leaders.

Furthermore, through the advocacy engagements facilitated by the programme, a meeting between young women and representatives of the National Coalition for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Palestine was organized. The discussion covered issues such as gender-based violence and discrimination against women including honor killings, violence against women by the Israeli occupation, raising awareness among men of women’s rights, gender, and UNSCR 1325, as well as the challenge of forming a unified front among women on the issue of women’s rights in Palestine.

Both decision-makers and women leaders acknowledged the importance and necessity of listening to these strong – but often marginalized – voices and recognized the place and potential of young women as “future leaders” of the Palestinian society.

Ensuring young women’s access to community structures at a local level is key to enabling them to later participate in peace and security processes at the national level. Fostering greater awareness of young women’s rights and opportunities can enable them to use such frameworks, and UNSCR 1325 specifically, as tools to advocate for a greater role for themselves.

The implementation of the Interpeace and Freedom Theatre project “Advocates for peace and security” was made possible with the generous support of the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA).

Photo credit: The Freedom Theatre

Sport, a tool for peace?

Sport is not limited to the practice of physical activities. It is in fact, a recreational space where a healthy lifestyle is promoted, through physical and mental development. It is a place where individuals converge to improve their social skills, strengthen cultural values and adapt to rules.

For this reason, the General Assembly of the United Nations has established April 6, as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, with the aim of recognizing the contribution of sport to the realization of peace through the promotion of tolerance and respect. As the eight Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Sport promotes health and well-being. It fosters tolerance, mutual understanding and peace. ... It empowers, inspires and unites.”

Nonetheless, the massive appeal of sport makes it a social phenomenon, where the context in which it’s developed determines the behaviors and actions of its followers, in particular when it involves youth. In this sense, social context greatly defines whether a sporting spectacle actually contributes to peace or incites violence.

National Stadium Carias Andino in Honduras. Licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Football, a global phenomenon

Football (soccer) is the sport that attracts the greatest number of people around the world, practiced in over 270 countries. Its massive appeal, goes beyond the likes of football fans and players, it also involves large private investments, political interests, and a complex network of relations between different levels of society.  Therefore, football is not strictly limited to the field, but is actually a social phenomenon. In any case, the place that football holds and the impact it produces depends on the general social context.

Around the world, football fans organize themselves into fan clubs (known as barras in Latin America), that aim to follow and encourage their team. These barras are a meeting place for followers, where not only do they share their preference for a particular football team, they also find identity and fraternity. These feelings however, taken to the extreme, can make passion, euphoria and unconditionality become vandalism.

Vandalism related to football has been a recurring phenomenon around the world. For example, in Europe, since 1960 the first manifestations of vandalism began amongst the followers of football teams in countries like England, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. Other countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras and El Salvador, also experienced these violent expressions around football.

However, violence related to football can start and end in the physical space of the stadium, in societies where institutional and social mechanisms are capable of reducing the risk factors that favor violence. But in societies where these mechanisms do not exist, the violence that emerges from the natural rivalry between the followers of two football teams, can transcend the limits of the stadium and become a social problem.

This is the case of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America and, at the same time, one of the most violent in the world according to the number of homicides registered annually. The permanent weakness of the Honduran public institutions is the result of a historical indifference from its economic and political elites to develop a State that guarantees favorable social development, democracy and economic growth. All Honduran society is immersed in these problems and must coexist with it, but undoubtedly, the young people are amongst the main victims.

In this context of institutional fragility, inequality, high poverty rates, corruption and impunity, football stands as a beacon of hope that awakens the illusion of Honduran society. For them, football represents a 90-minute pause of happiness amid decades of anomie.

Football followers at Honduran stadium. Photo credit: OsArGarMor

Barras in Honduras

Barras in Honduras are groups made up of young followers of a local football teams that have transitioned from a natural rivalry between their teams to violent confrontations in the streets. The violence amongst these barras has evolved from fighting in the stadium to open armed confrontations in their communities. In addition, the very characteristics of their social context and the levels of organization they have acquired, has led them to assume social protection roles of their members.  Amongst the most popular barras, we can name: the “Ultra Fiel”, of the Olimpia team; the “Revolucionarios”, of the Club Motagua team; the “Mega Barra”, of the Club Real España team and the “Furia Verde”, of the Club Maratón team. Being a member of these barras in Honduras is a matter of identity, a way of life and a search for spaces of cohesion that otherwise, are not possible to find.

In a context of marginalization and exclusion, youth groups (gangs, barras, rock groups or any other form of youth grouping) represent a mechanism of cohesion, identity and solidarity that is strengthened and radicalized due, on the one hand, to the excessive violence exercised by other forms of association and social integration (school and family) and on the other, to the repressive actions of State agents (police).

Barras are mostly made up of young people from poor and marginalized neighborhoods and communities where lack of basic public services, such as education, health and recreation, combine with high levels of unemployment and migration. These are social environments where violence is a structural part of social relationships, either at a intrafamilial and individual level, or as a strategy for income generation through illicit activities. This context is worsened by the effects produced by drug trafficking, as well as arms and human trafficking.

Members of the “Revolucionarios” supporting Club Motagua team in Honduras: Photo credit: Interpeace

Barras  for peace

With the support of the Berghof Foundation in 2014, Interpeace implemented the project: “Sports clubs for peace”, which contributed to build a positive perception of the barras as relevant actors in building peace in Honduras. In order to reach this objective, Interpeace implemented training programmes on issues related to conflict transformation, peace culture and mediations with young members of the barras, so that these young participants could have the necessary tools to become agents of change in favor of non-violence and peace in the country.

In 2016, in partnership with Free Press Unlimited and digital newspapers: El Faro, Plaza Pública and Nómada, Interpeace began to implement the project: “Journalism, Youth and Sports for Peace”. In Honduras, media devotes much of their time and space to the dissemination of negative messages about the barras, which generates stigmatization towards the followers of the football teams: belonging to barras, in these contexts, is synonymous with criminality and violence. This produces higher levels of exclusion which, in turn, contributes to cycles of violence.

As a way to counteract this reality, the project aims to reduce the negative effects of stigmatization and criminalization suffered by the young members of the barras, in particular those derived from the information spread by the media and government institutions. The aim is that the participants themselves, from within the barras, influence Honduran society to change their general perception, reduce stigmatization and in turn, reduce violence rates.

The project provides training and technical support to the young members of the barras, so they can develop their own digital media, where they are producers and protagonists of new narratives that have a positive impact on the media, opinion leaders, politicians, civil society and the private sector. The aim is to establish channels of communication between the different levels of society to better understand the phenomenon of violence, its causes and contribute to the transformation of the perceptions that the public has about marginalized youth.

“When something bad happens, the media always say the barras are responsible, but they never tell the good things we do on a daily basis.”

“The credibility to tell a story is the main value that we must preserve to reduce stigmatization about barras.”

Journalism workshops in Honduras with members of barras "Ultra Fiel" (left) and "Revolucionarios" (right). Photo credit: Interpeace

According to the perceptions and experiences that the participants have transmitted, it is very important to recognize how necessary it is for young people to have a source of identity. In that sense, sport can be a source of inspiration for youth, bearer of positive values ​​such as tolerance for differences, fellowship, teamwork, and their relationship with others, not as enemies, but as rivals in a recreational and peaceful space.

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)