Education should be considered an important element both of peace agreements and of the peace-building processes that peace agreements are a part of, for four reasons:
• Peace agreements can determine the agenda for the post- conflict period, to include funding and program priorities of governments, donors, and humanitarian organizations alike. Including education in a peace agreement thus makes it more likely that education will receive attention after a conflict period, including funding and that the impact of the conflict on the education system will be addressed as well as the role that education may have played in the outbreak of conflict.
• Addressing education in peace agreements by, for instance, committing the state to providing wider access to education, can signal that the state cares about the population and is committed to keeping and building peace by transforming the roots of conflict, thus restoring faith in the government and defusing dissent.
Explicitly addressing education in peace agreements can thus constitute an important incentive for individuals to lay down arms, particularly where educational exclusion is at the root of young people’s motivations to fight. Therefore, incorporating education into peace agreements can be critical in bringing the direct physical violence of a conflict to an end.
• Education systems play a vital role in building long-term, positive peace that transforms the roots of conflict and helps a country move from a fractured society to a new cohesive entity.
• Perhaps the most important rationale is that education is a fundamental right, enshrined within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, equally applicable in times of war and peace. It is not enough, of course, simply to include the mention of education in a peace agreement. The goals and targets for the education system must be mutually agreed upon, and developed using the input of many concerned parties. The peace agreement should reference education in the context of reinforcing security, child protection, economic development, and support- ing socio-political transformations within a society. Adequate funding and technical support for these educational objectives must also be specified.
Throughout the conference, there was common agreement on the following statements regarding quality education, why it matters, and how it can be achieved:
1. Inclusive quality education in post-conflict societies is about more than social justice or political theory. It makes a real and measureable difference in determining whether peace agreements succeed or fail. The data shows that where education is inclusive and all participate, the peace is more likely to succeed. In the peace negotiations, therefore, quality education merits serious consideration. All those who believe in equal access to quality education in emergencies and in post-conflict fragile situations must advocate for this priority. Efforts should be focused on all of those who are in a position to affect the agenda and the outcomes of peace processes.
2. While quality education is an essential ingredient in recovery from conflict, a system of education cannot, by itself, achieve or preserve peace. Parties who desire a stable and enduring peace must understand and find ways to manage the underlying sources of the conflict. Equal access to quality education, and teaching that promotes tolerance and diverse points of views goes hand-in-hand with other ongoing efforts toward reconciliation.
3. Teachers play a critical role in promoting peace or continuing conflict. Part of the price often paid in violent conflicts is the loss of teachers and education experts. They are sometimes targeted in the violence. They often emigrate and do not return. For that reason, recruiting, training and paying educators and teachers will frequently be an early post-conflict priority. Their training, protection and their mandate should reflect the crucial role teachers can play as peacebuilders, acting as they do so directly on the first generation of the citizens of a new peace.
4. Quality education requires a quality curriculum. It needs to be prepared with the advice of education experts, drawn from both within and outside the current context, and is intended to prepare the next generation to govern with understanding and a respect for human rights. The curriculum also needs to deal frankly with the shared history of the parties to the peace agreement, so that young people will know what happened, while accommodating different points of view and promoting tolerance.
An integrated framework and policy that includes both peace education and conflict resolution skills will support the goal of quality education.
It is important to note that reconciliation and durable peace may be supported by both informal as well as formal quality education. Every effort should be made to encourage exchanges, promote social interaction and allow children to come together face to face. (Such initiatives often take place in children and young people’s clubs and networks, which have evolved in schools or local community organizations.)
The curriculum should recognize international law, respect human rights, and aim to create a culture of peace.
The process for generating a new or revised curriculum should be sensitive to the cultural, psychological, and historical context as well as seek to involve and empower local stakeholders as much as possible.
5. Peace agreements create high expectations; education can help meet those expectations. Where they provide for access to quality education, the population will expect to see early results. Financial and physical resources, both domestic and international, must therefore be deployed as quickly as possible, consistent with thorough consultation and careful, transparent planning.
6. Schools must be safe from attack. For quality education to be delivered throughout conflicts, and in post-conflict periods, schools and children’s routes to schools must be considered “zones of peace” free from intimidation and violence.
7. Girls must have access to education. Education for girls and young women is frequently neglected in post-conflict societies. Yet the evidence establishes that educating girls is among the most productive social investment which supports a more stable society, economic recovery, and an enduring peace.
8 In peace mediation, girls’ education should be a high priority.
9. Designing a system of quality education after violent conflict requires trust built among the parties. Trust is fostered best by true collaboration. Thus, decisions about education should involve all stakeholders, including those in authority, working in mutual collaboration with educators and teachers, parents and families, and above all children and young people. Children and youth should have a voice in the process and their views should be reflected in the outcome.
“OSCE is engaged in education reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina because this sector is essential to the Mission's goal of helping BiH become a fully democratic, stable, and secure state. For governments, the importance of education reform-along with political and legislative changes in the sector-means also greater stability in the region." (valEry pErry, DEputy DirECtor, EDuCation DEpartMEnt. osCE Mission to bosnia-hErzEgovina) “Peace agreements are political solutions to armed conflict, and education is fundamentally a political matter because education is a central component of the production and reproduction of power structures in society. In this way, education is strongly connected to the root causes of conflict, which include distribution of resources, access to political power in societies, recognition of identity and cultural development, and poverty”.