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The United Nations is preparing a Transforming Education Summit; to be held in New York on 19 September; during the General Assembly. A preliminary Summit is being held at UNESCO in Paris 28-30 June. This is an opportunity for peacebuilding efforts to provide information and suggestions; especially for a major theme of the Summit; “Learning and Skills for Life, Work, and Sustainable Development.” As the preparatory text for the Summit states:
“Transforming education means empowering learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to be resilient, adaptable and prepared for the uncertain future while contributing to human and planetary well-being and sustainable development.”
However; the uncertain future holds out some clear challenges: armed conflicts, human rights violations, persistent poverty, mass migrations, and the consequences of climate change.
The goal of a world community living in peace; where human relations are based on nonviolent relationships is central to the transformation of education. We work to develop an atmosphere of cooperation and solidarity; where discussions of all points of view are possible. We must, however, be realistic in what such a summit on the transformation of education can bring in terms of long-range change.
I had participated in the UNESCO-led World Congress on Disarmament Education in Paris; June 1980. Today; there are no visible disarmament negotiations. There is a growth in military spending; despite many calls saying that the money would be better used for development and welfare. There is in many parts of the world a growth of militarization–a process whereby military values; ideology and patterns of behaviour achieve a dominant influence over political, economic and foreign affairs.
Nevertheless; there is a value in presenting the goals and techniques of peacebuilding in the Transforming Education Summit; especially that UNESCO already has an Education for Global Citizenship program; which includes elements of education for human rights and the culture of peace efforts.
Education for Global Citizenship aims to develop a sense of belonging to a common humanity and being able to contribute to global peace, sustainable development and the creation of a harmonious world society. As the Preamble to UNESCO’s Constitution states:
“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”
In light of the armed conflicts in many parts of the world; there is a need to focus on specific ways to ensure education for children in areas of armed conflict and in post-conflict situations; including effective measures to deal with the traumas caused by the armed conflict. Post-conflict education must help to develop new attitudes and values; especially toward those who were considered enemies during the armed conflict.
There is much that peacebuilding concepts and techniques can contribute to Transformation of Education. We need to see how best to provide ideas into this Summit process.
René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues.