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

Education for Peacebuilding

With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) officially coming into force in January 2016, there is renewed international commitment for and optimism towards ending global poverty during the next two decades. Simultaneously, however, there is growing concern that protracted conflicts (source pp. 13-32) and an increase in natural disasters (source pp. 20-25) threaten to undo the gains made to date.

In light of Sustainable Development Goal 16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, as well as Goal 4 (inclusive and equitable quality education), Goal 5 (gender equality), Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth), and Goal 10 (reduced inequalities) – there is a strong global imperative for understanding the essential connection between positive human development outcomes and ending recurrent cycles of conflict and violence. This was further stressed in three recent Peace and Security Reviews (UN Peacebuilding Review, Peace Operations Review, and SC Resolution 1325 Review), as well as the recent Sustaining Peace Resolutions endorsed by both the General Assembly (A/RES/70/262) and Security Council (S/RES/2282-2016), which called for all UN agencies to contribute to sustaining peace; to leverage social services for peacebuilding; and for mainstreaming and focus on the role of women in peacebuilding. Yet, despite their recognized contribution to restoring stability in the aftermath of violence, there is no common understanding of precisely how programs addressing administrative and social services can aid peacebuilding.

"Sustaining Peace" and "Peacebuilding" - The recent UN resolutions introduce the term “sustaining peace,” which, rather than redefining peacebuilding, provides for more clarity and an expanded scope. “Sustaining peace encompasses activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict.” It can be seen as an aspirational goal, aiming at fostering the ability and capacity to look beyond crisis management and the immediate resolution of conflicts. Click to read more on the concept of "sustaining peace".

Education social services have historically been used both as a means to catalyze conflict, and to build peace. Education becomes a driver of conflict when education services are made accessible only for some, and not for everyone. Where education services are poor in quality, irrelevant for employability, or abilities to cope effectively in challenging circumstances, citizens respond with frustration and resentment. Where education systems are being hijacked to polarize society, or where education instruments and tools communicate disrespect or discriminate against minority groups, education naturally turns into a tool of divisiveness. On the other hand, education services that are equitably accessible; that are of quality and relevant; that reinforce a common narrative; that strengthen intergroup relationships and identities; and that are fairly administered across constituent groups education do foster both vertical and horizontal social cohesion.




Key Statistics and Messages on Education for Peacebuilding


  • Education and inequality: research comparing education equality data and violent conflict data from nearly 100 countries over 50 years found robust evidence that the likelihood of violent conflict doubles for countries with high levels of intergroup inequality in education, after controlling for known conflict risk factors, such as wealth, political regime, geography, etc. The research also suggests that greater education equality between male and female students decreases the likelihood of violent conflict by as much as 37 per cent.
  • Education sector policy and planning can contribute to building sustainable peace through: redistribution (fair distribution of education access, resources, opportunities); recognition (respecting diversity and identity through education); representation (ensuring equitable participation in decision making at all levels); and reconciliation (leveraging education to deal with legacies of past human rights violations, or addressing historical or contemporary injustices).
  • Transitional justice and education: In societies coming to terms with an abusive past, Transitional Justice efforts aiming to strengthen the rule of law, address grievances among affected communities, and prevent the recurrence of human rights violations, can benefit from education in two areas. First, education should contribute to developing children’s abilities and skills for participating in a country’s productive and sociopolitical realms. Second, in a post-war society, education is charged with the task of enhancing the capacity of citizens, especially—but not only—adolescents and children, to think critically about the present and the past, so they can foresee and construct a better future.
  • Early Childhood Development (ECD) services can prevent violence at the micro-level: Children who have benefitted from proper stimulation and nurturance demonstrate healthy biological stress systems, secure early attachment, as well as healthy socio-emotional and cognitive development, resulting in reduced disposition to violence later in life. All developmental domains are compromised, however, if children are affected by direct violence (living in settings of war, domestic violence, etc.) or structural violence (inequality, poverty, etc.).


Key Statistics and Messages on Conflict Risk



Key Activities


Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (“Learning for Peace”)

From 2012-2016, UNICEF and the Government of the Netherlands undertook a 4-year partnership entitled Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (PBEA), also known as “Learning for Peace”. The objective of this program was to test how education can be leveraged to contribute to the mitigation of drivers of conflict in fragile and post-conflict countries. Unlike other UNICEF education in emergency programs, peacebuilding was seen as the primary objective of Learning for Peace, with the goal of strengthening – through the education system and the provision of social services – resilience, social cohesion, and human security in conflict-affected contexts.

The term ‘Education-for-Peacebuilding’ (as used under PBEA / Learning for Peace) connotes an integrated education systems-based approach that works towards addressing the underlying causes and dynamics or ‘factors’ of violent conflict. It is essential for education-for-peacebuilding workplans to be informed by conflict analysis (based on input from stakeholders and partners on the ground), and then to determine how education stakeholders and services interact at the macro, meso and micro levels of the human ecology. Education-for-Peacebuilding thus needs to be distinguished from ‘peace education’ which typically consists of formal education and curriculum initiatives that incorporate training in such topics as theories of peace, conflict resolution and tolerance. Peace education is a frequent component of ‘education-for-peacebuilding’ strategies, but – as stand-alone – deemed insufficient for preventing a lapse or re-lapse of societies back into conflict.

At the time of its inception, PBEA presented an unprecedented effort for UNICEF to go beyond ‘business as usual’ across the organization, by focusing interventions that are informed by high-quality conflict analysis and that are sensitive to local contexts. As UNICEF’s largest global peacebuilding programme to date, it has provided significant experience and robust evidence into how social services (and education in particular) can contribute to building sustained peace.

Click to access the full collection of education for peacebuiling resources compiled by the Learning for Peace program.


InsightShare partnered with UNICEF's Learning for Peace program to produce videos in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Young people and local staff were trained to use Participatory Video and Most Significant Change to evaluate the results of the PBEA program in selected regions of their countries. They formed local evaluation teams guided by InsightShare facilitators and co-designed the process, facilitated the fieldwork, and analyzed the results using participatory methods.

The young people and local staff were able to listen to more than 300 hundred stories across the four countries, create 48 videos, and involve more than 600 people in screenings. This video report from Uganda shows the process the local evaluation teams facilitated:

Watch all of the videos and more in the Learning for Peace Collection and at, and learn about this effective approach to peacebuilding.

Pan-African Symposium on Education, Resilience and Social Cohesion

This symposium, held on 1 – 3 June 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was organized jointly by UNICEF (WCARO and ESARO) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), with its Inter-Country Quality Node (ICQN) on Peace Education. The three thematic areas of the symposium included: 1) Taking a Systems Approach in Education for Peacebuilding; 2) Quality Education to Combat Violence, and 3) Schools for Learning and Practicing Peace.

Click to read the full report from this symposium, which includes the communiqué signed by the leaders of the participating countries.


Key Resources:




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