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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

Lessons learned from my participation in the INEE Working Group on Education and Fragility

21 October 2013

Sidonia Gabriel was a program officer at the swisspeace Foundation. In her function in the Peacebuilding Analysis and Impact team she particularly focused on conflict sensitivity as well as strategic planning, design, implementation and evaluation of peacebuilding engagements.

swisspeace carries out research on violent conflicts and their peaceful transformation. The foundation aims to build up Swiss and international organizations' civilian peacebuilding capacities by providing trainings, space for networking and exchange of experiences.

As Sidonia has become the director of the Centre for Peacebuilding (KOFF) at swisspeace, her successor will continue to represent swisspeace in the INEE Working Group on Education and Fragility.


Before swisspeace became a member of the INEE Working Group (WG) on Education and Fragility in mid-2012, I was asked by the Framework Team for Preventive Action to give a presentation of conflict sensitivity to the Working Group on their behalf.  I met a group of mostly women, creative and committed education specialists that had a strong sense of their common cause: To strengthen education practitioners and policy makers to render education programmes more effective in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Today, the INEE Conflict Sensitive Education Pack and other tools and guidelines are developed and available; a High-Level Symposium on the topic has taken place in Paris, we have started to systematically collect lessons learned, and the Working Group members with their promotional activities are present all over the world.

The participation in the WG provided me with lessons learned that I carry along in my future work for peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity:

1. Language matters

In the beginning it was challenging for all of us to integrate conflict sensitivity language and terminology in the education sector. Education specific programmes have their own standards, guiding principles, key challenges, best practices; education specialists have their own codes, their language and often similar experiences. The successful development of a joint terminology on conflict sensitive education is the result of the systematic sharing and capitalizing of the existing knowledge, examples as well as work of the WG members.

  • It is not only the joint understanding that conflict sensitivity is important; it is all about creating a joint language and terminology that speaks to people and that is “speakable”. This takes time and willingness to share, and: it is the most exciting part of the exercise.

2. Think of the strategic level

As “conflict-sensitivity-passionates” (in all sectors) we need to be able to engage with the practitioners at the operational level. They are the ones who make a difference in the field, for the girls, boys and their parents that we are working for in education.

  • We also need to engage with the management level and with policy-makers, otherwise conflict sensitive education will not be integrated into education sectors plans, programme strategies and educational policies.

3. Education is transformative

We are often asked what to do first in a fragile situation, in conflict or in post-conflict situations. After having completed several conflict analysis exercises in different countries and conflict sensitivity assessments, it is obvious:

  • That conflict sensitive education, from project to strategic level, is one of the most “transformative” engagements and it strongly contributes to getting out of fragility and conflict.

4. Getting out of the silo

As soon as we are applying a conflict sensitive approach with an in-built context analysis, links to other sectors (i.e. security, health, good governance, peacebuilding) become very obvious.

  • Prioritizing a context-centered (and not a mandate-centered) approach prevents us from remaining in our silos and contributes to a more in-depth understanding of how to jointly address the challenges and strengthen the opportunities.


Thanks for the experiences in the working group and I am happy for comments and feedback on your lessons learned of working with the tools!

Are you using the INEE CSE Pack? Share your experiences and your feedback with us by commenting on this blog, and by filling in a user feedback form (available online and for downloading)


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