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IOE Student Blog


A blog on life at IOE and education affairs written for students by students.


Global citizenship education in post-conflict Iraq

By IOE Blog Editor, on 25 October 2023

By Michael Jones, Development Education and Global Learning MA* 

*This programme has been renamed the Global Learning MA. 

As an MA student in development education and global learning, my research journey formed a crucial part of my dissertation, which focused on the role of global citizenship education in post-conflict societies. I was drawn to the Iraqi context due to its unique challenges and the potential for education to contribute to peacebuilding and social cohesion, and due to my current position working at the American University of Iraq, Sulaymaniyah.

During my research journey, I had the opportunity to work closely with the ‘Iraqi Travellers Café’ (ITC) initiative, an inspiring organisation that was actively promoting aspects of global citizenship education through its workshops and events in the capital, Baghdad. I was fortunate to witness first-hand the dedication and passion of the ITC team, who were committed to creating transformative educational experiences for participants. The workshops provided a safe and inclusive space for individuals from Iraq’s diverse backgrounds, including the limited foreigners that live in the country, to come together, exchange ideas and engage in critical dialogue about global citizenship. 

Being part of the ITC workshops allowed me to observe the participants’ active engagement and genuine curiosity in learning about global citizenship education. It was inspiring to see individuals from various communities and age groups actively participating and sharing their perspectives. The workshops fostered a sense of community and belonging, as participants came together to explore common values and aspirations for a more inclusive and peaceful world. 

Analysing the responses from the workshop participants provided valuable insights into their perceptions of global citizenship education in the Iraqi context. One significant theme that emerged was the participants’ heightened awareness of the concept through their engagement with the workshops. Many participants expressed that they had limited knowledge or had never heard of global citizenship education before attending the workshops. This highlighted the importance of initiatives like ITC in bridging the knowledge gap and introducing new ideas and perspectives to individuals who may have been previously unaware of the concept. 

Moreover, the workshops played a pivotal role in expanding participants’ understanding of global citizenship education beyond theoretical concepts. By providing a space for open dialogue and interactive activities, participants were able to connect the principles of global citizenship with their own lived experiences. This experiential learning approach helped participants develop a deeper appreciation for the values of acceptance, empathy and respect, which are essential to being a global citizen.

Engaging with the participants also allowed me to witness their transformative journeys. Many participants shared personal stories and reflections on how the workshops challenged their preconceived notions and expanded their horizons. It was evident that the workshops had a profound impact on their perspectives, instilling a sense of responsibility and a desire to actively engage with global issues. This demonstrated the potential of global citizenship education to empower individuals and inspire them to make positive contributions to their communities and beyond. 

One of the key realisations I had during this research was the significance of empathy and respect in the pursuit of global citizenship. The participants consistently emphasised the importance of caring for others and understanding different perspectives. Through the workshops, they developed a sense of empathy, recognising the shared humanity that transcends cultural, ethnic and national boundaries. This emphasis on empathy and respect not only fosters harmonious coexistence within diverse communities but also challenges existing power structures and promotes social justice. The participant’s commitment to caring for others went beyond mere sentiment; they expressed a desire to actively educate others about the knowledge gained from the workshops, indicating a potential inclination toward becoming agents of change within their own communities. 

However, alongside the participants’ aspirations for global citizenship education (GCE), there was also a sense of helplessness when considering its implementation in Iraq. The participants acknowledged the challenges posed by social and governmental aspects that could hinder the progress of GCE. Some participants expressed concerns that the government might be an obstacle to implementing GCE, while others believed that unity between the people and the government is necessary for its successful integration into the education system. This recognition of challenges and potential obstacles highlights the complexities inherent in promoting GCE in Iraq and underscores the need for comprehensive and collaborative efforts. 

The participants’ sense of helplessness also stemmed from the realisation that implementing GCE in Iraq would require substantial efforts and systemic changes. They recognized that it goes beyond the scope of individual workshops and calls for a holistic approach involving various stakeholders, including government agencies, educational institutions, civil society organisations and international partners. The participants emphasised the importance of bridging the gap between educational ideals and the realities of the Iraqi context. They acknowledged that GCE needs to be adapted and made applicable within the Iraqi environment, taking into account the country’s unique challenges, historical context and cultural diversity. 

These insights underscore the complexities and potential obstacles that must be addressed to promote GCE effectively in Iraq. They also highlight the need for sustained commitment and collaboration among all stakeholders involved. Advocacy for supportive policies and reforms, as well as research and evaluation studies, can contribute to overcoming these challenges and refining GCE strategies to suit the Iraqi context. By addressing these obstacles head-on, Iraq can work towards creating a more inclusive and peaceful society, empowering individuals to make positive contributions both locally and globally through their active engagement as global citizens. 

Throughout my research journey, the resilience and determination of the individuals I encountered in Iraq left a lasting impression on me. Despite the challenges they faced due to the country’s complex history and ongoing conflicts, these individuals were unwavering in their commitment to creating a more inclusive and peaceful society. They recognized the pivotal role that education, particularly global citizenship education, plays in driving positive change and shaping a better future for their communities. 

The encounters I had with educators, workshop participants, and community leaders highlighted the transformative power of education in post-conflict settings. It became evident that the pursuit of peace and reconciliation requires more than just the absence of violence; it necessitates the establishment of robust educational structures that promote understanding, empathy and respect among diverse populations. Global citizenship education emerged as a vital tool for fostering these values, as it encourages individuals to transcend narrow boundaries and embrace a broader sense of shared humanity.

One significant realisation that emerged from my research is the importance of context-specific approaches in post-conflict settings like Iraq. The historical and socio-political context of a nation greatly influences the way in which education is understood, implemented and experienced. Recognising this, it becomes crucial to tailor global citizenship education strategies to the unique challenges and opportunities present in the Iraqi context. This involves considering the country’s diverse ethnic groups, historical grievances and current political dynamics to ensure that educational initiatives resonate with the local population and contribute to sustainable peacebuilding efforts. 

Moreover, the research journey highlighted the need for sustainable, long-term strategies in post-conflict settings. While workshops and events, such as those organised by the Iraqi Travellers Café, serve as valuable catalysts for change, lasting impact requires sustained efforts. Building inclusive and comprehensive education systems that promote global citizenship education demands ongoing collaboration between government agencies, educational institutions, civil society organisations and international partners. It requires the commitment to develop and implement supportive policies, allocate resources and provide continuous professional development for educators. 

Witnessing the determination and resilience of the individuals involved in this research journey inspired me to continue advocating for the transformative potential of global citizenship education in post-conflict settings. It reinforced the belief that education is not merely a means of transmitting knowledge, but a powerful tool for social change and reconciliation. The experiences and insights gained throughout this research journey have shaped my perspective and deepened my commitment to contributing to the field of global citizenship education, particularly in regions affected by conflict. 

As I reflect on my research journey in Iraq, I am filled with hope and optimism. The individuals I encountered have shown that even in the face of adversity, positive change is possible. Through their collective efforts and a renewed focus on inclusive and context-specific education, Iraq has the potential to overcome its challenges, foster social cohesion and create a more peaceful and prosperous future for all its citizens.

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