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Peace education



“Enough” by Danielle Poitras

By Blog editor, on 9 November 2023

At UCL’s Peace Education Special Interest Group (PESIG) we aim to support and amplify voices that call for peace in education, in society and in ourselves. Please get in touch with us if you would like to share your contributions to the PESIG blog:
Alexis Stones a.stones@ucl.ac.uk; Hans Svennevig h.svennevig@ucl.ac.uk

Words are crucial at this time to ask questions, listen, speak out, define terms, explore language, sources and histories; to write, challenge, protest, and to build peace. Here, Colorado-based poet and storyteller, Danielle Poitras, launches this term’s PESIG blog contributions with her poem “ENOUGH”.


Since Hurricane Lydia crashed into Mexico’s Pacific coast in early October where I was on retreat, the keyboard of my laptop is stuck in all caps.

I remember when I was in the first grade at West District School, I would write my name across the top of my worksheets “DANIELLE M. POITRAS.”

My teacher, Miss Thurston, who wore a permanent grimace and once locked my brother in the coat closet, pointed to my name in all caps and in a voice loud enough for all to hear, asked:



I kept my mouth closed in class after that.

Now, being forced to type in all caps is a sign of these terrible times, an expression of the horror unfolding in the world.

The urgent need to lift our voices for peace.
An invocation to our ancestors.
A prayer to end violence and hatred.
A call for humanity to evolve.


Haven’t we humans had enough of war?

NO MORE killing machines.
NO MORE using children as tools of war.
NO MORE children frantically searching for their mothers in the rubble.
NO MORE massacres of civilians.
NO MORE parents grieving their dead or kidnapped children.


I am someone who knows that we humans are capable of immense beauty and goodness. In his book A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, Howard Zinn reminds us that “to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”









*from Denise Levertov’s poem “Making Peace” in Breathing the Water.

Danielle M. Poitras earned her MFA in Writing & Poetics at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. As a heart-centered multimedia storyteller, she is most interested in telling authentic stories that spark ways of remembering and connect humans with their purpose for making the world a more beautiful and kind place.

Dear Mr Oppenheimer by Antony Owen

By Blog Editor, on 25 July 2023

Dear Mr Oppenheimer

Beneath your crafted nebula  

I picture your dead noon walk 

casting a long shadow eastward. 


In the post atomic abendrot 

you brush off Alamogordo sand 

like glitter from a forbidden kiss. 


Dear Mr Oppenheimer, 

sky is badged in yellow stars, 

magenta stars, violet dust. 


Dear Mr Oppenheimer, 

this night your star was born 

sunset bled over Hiroshima. 


At the IMAX film of your life 

a man scoffs bulb warm Dorito’s 

sharing his awe on TikTok –  

the new age Brittanica. 

By Antony Owen

For Teaching resources around early atomic scientists see these lessons from Quakers in Britain and the Peace education network.

Helping to shape the future: For and with pupils and students

By Blog Editor, on 17 July 2023

Dr Anna Korula, is a former Senior Human Rights Officer and Adviser at the UN and OSCE. She now works as an independent Consultant, Advisor and author on human rights, mediation, peace-making, conflict transformation and peace education. She recently contributed to the Citizenship PGCE and makes strong suggestions here about how universities, schools and NGOs can collaborate.

Helping to shape the future: For and with pupils and students

By Dr Anna R. Korula

In the educational sphere there are innumerable opportunities for teachers, particularly PGCE graduates working with pupils or students, to shape the future. Together with staff, other academics, and relevant university departments they might link with think tanks, NGOs and governments to draw attention to and generate action on a host of pressing societal issues during the course of their entire teaching careers. IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society for example, is very well placed to propel forward movement in many potential areas. Drawing on my own insights gained over three decades of a career in the human rights arena, including research, as well as a decade of active peacebuilding in five field missions based in Europe, Africa and Asia, with the United Nations and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), I outline some ideas in case they are of some potential interest to teachers engaging with various cohorts.  I have attempted to set it squarely in the context of education and social impact, also given the many pressing issues that are pertinent for the pupils and students of the present and future.  I do this in the hope that they will be given due consideration, and that they may help shape some future directions, as well as discussions.

  1. As I see it, I think it important to have stronger elements of Leadership Studies included in the curriculum or extra-curricular courses offered in schools, with emphasis on ethical leadership.  Practical implementation could also draw on the model used by the Obama Foundation to train youth in leadership, for example. Several charities in the UK, e.g., Quaker for Peace and Social Witness, the British Red Cross, Amnesty International, The Prince’s Trust, and others train or use staff or community members to become leaders in their fields, even if not always through specific leadership programmes, so it would seem the knowledge and capacity exist, but have to be included in a more systematic way.  My hope is that including such practical knowledge, as well as leadership studies per se will help shape more ethical young leaders for the future. Needless to say, embedding these courses within an overarching human rights framework would make eminent sense.
  2. I believe it important to consider, with some urgency, how AI, robotics, ChatGPT, Google Bard and other such tools will need to be managed by students, teaching staff, administrators and government agencies so as to draw on their strengths, whilst recognizing and managing their negative impacts. These are concrete challenges everyone will face, which will have very long-lasting impacts, also in the legal and ethical spheres. Here it becomes an imperative perhaps to adopt or adapt new EU legislation on AI regulation (currently being negotiated) for example, and include or tailor it to specific local i.e., national contexts and needs as well.  For example, EU legislation proposes that ChatGPT must disclose that content was AI-generated, which is an absolutely crucial pre-requisite and should be the minimum that is required by all teaching institutions. I am also particularly concerned about the developments in thought/brain controlling AI tools that have evolved with as yet no legal or ethical guidelines in place on their use and proliferation. It is perhaps essential to consider how best AI, robotics, and other tools currently under development be challenged more systematically (e.g. for bias; fake news, lack of ethical and legal norms) as well as built upon to propagate peace education, human rights education, but also e.g., generate wellbeing, supportive peer relationships, and enhance mitigatory approaches like restorative justice, mediation etc.  The possibilities are challenging, but also endless in their potential for good.

It is worth noting here that the commercial sector, as recognized just recently by McKinsey (June 2023) for example, is welcoming tech developments such as generative-AI with open arms as it is estimated to contribute $4.4 trillion annually to global GDP, so will not be ignored or marginalized, but embraced. Education needs to embrace this trend as well.

If undertaken in the near future, these initiatives as summarized above, could also feed into my third prospective initiative suggested below:

  1. Based on my subjective experience and insights I suggest a good way forward may be for academics/universities, NGOs (charities) to work via governments and the UN, with a special committee or subgroup set up primarily under the UN’s aegis, but with sub committees in all countries (lead and supportive countries initially) to work toward specific goals, as described briefly below. The SDGs may provide the lead-in required, as well as the glue, as they are now well established and gaining currency worldwide, so linking these initiatives to the SDGs will have many advantages, as the framework and structures already exist and they have cross-cutting themes across the main UN pillars.

UCL/IOE could for example, together with other relevant UCL departments as well as networks such as OxPeace, CPERG, charities such as the Association for Citizenship Teaching, Quaker for Peace and Social Witness Peace Education, the Peace Education Network, Peacemakers and so forth spearhead some of these initiatives. This could, over time, ensure global convergence of peace and human rights education in these areas, as foreseen in some of the literature on peace and human rights education (e.g., Hantzopoulos and Bajaj, 2021).  At present the division is still quite marked, also because the UN core pillars on security (including peacebuilding) and human rights are seen to be inter-related but separate, i.e., as parallel entities. So let’s hope this long overdue convergence and coordination will now begin and the overlap eliminated, streamlined, or rationalized.

Possible long-term outcomes therefore might be an UN Convention on Peace and Human Rights Education, though a Draft Declaration would be the first step toward this. Although the plethora of existing laws is an impediment to budgetary allocations and implementation, there is evidence to suggest that working toward a Convention would raise awareness globally, encourage governments, NGOs and community groups to become more active in establishing this as a part of the curriculum, provide the backbone for more ethical leadership, inform as well as strengthen democratic governance. This could spur greater citizen participation, particularly with youth and children becoming a natural part of the process. In addition, UN Conventions generally spawn ad hoc working groups or committees, Special Rapporteurs or other experts at the UN’s top tiers, who work to raise awareness and further the objectives of the convention or declaration.

In fact I suggest here it has to become an imperative to set up, perhaps as a first step, task forces managed and directed by children and youth, also linked across the globe, in keeping with the requirements of the CRC, and also enabling cross-cultural critical examination of issues of global concern such as climate change, the impact of technology etc.

At the very least, or as a first step, one could work to institute an UN International Day for Peace and Human Rights Education as this too raises awareness worldwide on both the necessary foundations as well as ongoing work in the area. Initiatives could coordinate with existing ones such as those undertaken by e.g., Global Peace Education, enabling a streamlined approach, as well as helping coordinate the innumerable local/national initiatives under way, and to augment as well as enhance them.

Perhaps pupils and students in global hubs could also be mentored or linked to former and serving UN and others peace workers to shape a new generation of peace workers who bring science and tech more into play in peacebuilding activities and institutions of the future, with a greater focus and emphasis on prevention.


White Poppies in Schools: A Peaceful Trip to Somerset

By Blog Editor, on 4 April 2023

By Peter Glasgow Chair of the Peace Pledge Union

Every year as the ubiquitous red poppies appear, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) begins its campaign to distribute white poppies as symbols of alternative remembrance. The white poppy stands for remembrance of all victims of war, challenging militarism and a commitment to peace. Here I share my insights from a visit to a primary school where I discovered that 8-9 year olds are more than capable of reflecting critically on war and everyday militarism.

Last October the PPU was contacted by a curriculum leader from a junior school in Somerset who requested a number of white poppies for a project that the school was undertaking over the remembrance period. The poppies were duly sent and I subsequently travelled down to the school having been asked to speak to a group of Year 5 pupils on Remembrance Day. I would consider myself an experienced teacher having spent over 30 years working in further education and then for two years as the PPU’s Peace Education Officer. The thing is, although I have taught people aged between 13 years and 70 years, I have never had any experience of teaching youngsters aged 8 or 9 years old. Could someone whose formative teaching was facilitating General Studies sessions for Craft Apprentices really manage the looming task that lay ahead?

At the school I was introduced to Lauren, who had made the request to the PPU. Lauren is a deeply impressive teacher who has come to the clear perception that primary education must include significant elements of critical education. This is why the school’s remembrance events were to include a presentation by pupils from years 4, 5 & 6 on the meaning of the white poppy, the purple poppy, the black poppy, and the ubiquitous red poppy, as well as my facilitated session. Talking to Lauren I was struck how much her educational views aligned with my own and that she didn’t demur when I expressed my opinion that it’s important that young people have opportunities to challenge their and others’ common sense notions of the world. My antennae twitched when she dropped into our discussion that ‘kids of this age like storiesmaybe a lifeline for my session.

I am introduced to a number of dignitaries assembling for the Remembrance Service. As is usually the way in these events, aspects of everyday militarism feature strongly, with the compulsory involvement of young children making me as a pacifist, feel uncomfortable. The presentation given, on the other hand, is more than a step in the right direction for critical awareness as the children showcase in creative ways their learning about the different poppies to the other pupils, the assembled dignitaries and a healthy number of parents. I take my leave of my new friends and it is with mounting trepidation that I am led to a very large room where, aargh, I find seventy-five Year 5 pupils sitting on the floor, accompanied by a number of teachers and learning support assistants standing at the back. I decide against sitting down and I commence in recounting my experience of being subjected to corporal punishment at the same age as my audience, in my junior school in late 1950s Sunderland. They are aghast but listen quietly and I am buoyed up when I get an all-round laugh when I tell them the teacher who wielded the cane was called Mr Ruff.  I ask them if this could happen today and the excited responses I get, with many hands thrown in the air, shows that they are horrified. Having indicated to my audience that this behaviour was not at all uncommon and was just accepted, I then ask them to think about what other behaviour was previously acceptable and is now very much unacceptable.

There is a short pause and they are able to articulate in their own words changing attitudes including relating to sexism, misogyny, racism, and homophobia. I come back to the idea of remembrance and the earlier presence of the military and the overriding concentration on remembering British military war dead, and once we have established that they really have been taught percentages, I ask them what is the respective proportions of civilian and military casualties in wars in the Twenty First Century. The highest figure anyone comes up with in relation to civilian casualties is 13% so they are very surprised to find the average is usually over 87%.

Before I know it the 45 minute session is coming to an end so I leave them with a number of questions perhaps the most pertinent on that day: why is remembrance always about the armed forces? In my summing-up I ask them to always be quizzical and to be careful of taking anything for granted. I left the room feeling pretty good and hopeful about this group of critical and reflective thinkers.

What had I learned?

  • Never be blasé when getting in front of any learners, no matter how experienced a teacher you may be.
  • It’s a pleasure to work with junior school pupils just as it is with other learners
  • 8/9 year olds can cope with moral questions and articulate sophisticated ideas
  • Critical education as a pedagogy works with all learners
  • In sessions themselves it is always best to get the learners to do the heavy lifting.

For further information about the Peace Pledge Unions Education resources please go to: https://www.ppu.org.uk/education

Poet Antony Owen reflects on Peace education & publishes new poem ‘War Anniversary’.

By Blog Editor, on 1 March 2023

Antony Owen is a writer from Coventry with an avid interest in the psychological and physical affects of conflict. In World War II his Nan, Martha Sherriff was forcibly displaced with her children following the Luftwaffe bombing of Coventry. As a child/adolescent growing up in the 1980’s where nuclear war tensions were high and weapons were proliferated to nearly four times what they are today (55,000 nuclear weapons) this had a profound affect on his interest in modern conflicts. Since 2009 Owen has had nine volumes of poetry published by many presses internationally and his work is widely translated. His 2017 book The Nagasaki Elder (VPress) was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry and he was also a winner of the Museum of Military Medicine Poetry Award in 2018.  He has met survivors in Hiroshima, Dresden and Coventry and has a passion for peace education and the role poetry and arts has to play in raising awareness of the consequences that conflict has on people in both the immediate and longer term.


I am writing this with a heavy heart at the first anniversary of the Ukrainian war and the ongoing escalations in nuclear weapon rhetoric. Despite feeling sad and deeply reflective about the lives consumed by this tragic war I am hopeful as Peace education has never been so active. With organisations and individuals working together to guide the next generation to better understand the consequences of warfare away from a video game or Hollywood film. The reality of war is far more devastating but seeing the progressive and balanced work CND Peace Education and places like the education team at Quakers UK is hopeful. These organisations continue to provide high quality teaching resources to meet the needs of student curiosity about the world of conflict, providing them with a balance away from aggressive militarisation.

A few years ago I visited Jogakuin School in Hiroshima where 350 students and teachers died from the atomic bomb explosion in 1945. At the existing school I conducted a Peace education lesson to students using a visual stimulus of over 2050 dots on a blackboard that represented a nuclear test conducted since the last atomic bomb on Nagasaki on 9th August 1945. We discussed how this made them feel, how they thought atomic bomb survivors felt, how the Marshall islanders and people from the Polygon and Aleut people felt seeing their land poisoned. They were undoubtedly very sad. Peace education in Hiroshima is mandatory and embedded into their social conscience in the hope they will never suffer again. With their American teacher we discussed Truman’s quote justifying use of the atomic bombs where Truman said “Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned of obeying international laws of warfare” (Source: PBS). The student responses included points that the tens of thousands of children and babies that were killed from the atomic bombings were not responsible for the cruelty to American Prisoners of war. Another point from our discussion was the dozen American POWs killed in the blast. This helped us to consider the different views involved that are not expressed in the speech from Truman and why Peace education provides that criticality.

I read a poem on the bombing of Hiroshima inspired by the testimony of an atomic bomb survivor the perspective was welcomed. Flags and nationalities are not respected by nuclear weapons and we know that all will be lost if a nuclear war was to happen. This is the most compelling insight I have had to the power of Peace education and poetry. The Quakers, CND Peace Education, ICAN, UCL PESIG are playing a key role in Peace education which is why the Quakers and CND Peace education can use my poems as they wish to advance their work in UK schools.

The poem below is written for the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine War and is dedicated to ALL victims in that conflict and to our inspirational school students and teachers in creating a more informed and peaceful world for the future.


War Anniversary


Let us for a moment

be patriotic to human life

think of flags as swaddled babes

their burst eardrums of bomb tinnitus


Let us for a moment

remember a beautiful blooding

a baby made in the kiln of her mother

wanting only the sonar of scent and milk.


What have we learnt?

that frozen ground can warp spades

of bodies covered in ghost white sheets

haunting the bones from previous massacres.


What have we learnt?

when wheat bends away from the scythe

and the mad machinery destroys mother earth

all because of locusts who leave nothing but plague.


Let us for a moment

pledge allegiance to life

learn that compromise is not Armageddon

to remember a baby today shall lead us tomorrow.

IOE Blog Post – Nuclear disarmament education

By Blog Editor, on 8 February 2023

This is a blog link to another blog that has just been published by the IOE Blog: Nuclear disarmament education is needed now more than ever. Read it here:

Nuclear disarmament education is needed now more than ever

UCL Peace Education Special Interest Group: A Call to Action

By Blog Editor, on 1 December 2022

by Hans Svennevig and Alexis Stones


The following article is featured in the latest edition of Teaching Citizenship journal. The practitioner journal for the Association for Citizenship Teaching. The theme of issue 56 is Conflict and Peace. We are delighted to have been able to contribute this call to action and welcome you to join us in January to discuss next steps.

Peace education is often spoken about as being somehow a radical endeavour. It is often considered to be on the left wing of political ideas, an expression from the left field or alternative culture. We would advocate that peace is ordinary rather than extraordinary. Even in the midst of conflict or violence, whether physical, internal or structural, peace still exists as a potential state of being. Conflict can also be a norm. So-called ‘healthy’ competition in education or sport, argument, oppression, injustice, marginalisation, territorial claims and religious disagreement are all part of the discourses of conflict. Indeed, conflict can define experience and the nature of existence.  

Our point is that peace education should reflect this tension. In an ideal world, peace is the default, but we recognise the influence of competing tendencies and ideologies that threaten peace. For this reason, peace education should exist in all educational settings. It should be part of the substance and framework of education with the value and application of any broad scale educational aim, principle or practice. Other authors in this edition of the journal have expressed the theoretical aspects of peace, peace education and conflict, they have discussed the practical application of this and how to embed it in the classroom. Our article is not to repeat those elements but to bring educators together to reflect on peace education practice, peace discussion and peace research so that peace education has its rightful place in educational settings.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (4.7) require peace education to be further developed as one of the 17 goals that are identified to support sustainable development. There is a clear appreciation at a supranational level for all of us to develop peace education and yet we see a significant absence of peace education in multiple settings, not to mention a lack of awareness of what peace education even is.  As the tragedies of Putin’s War in Ukraine continue and media coverage is a constant, it is easy to imagine how fragile young people’s ideas about the possibility of peace are. 

We need to educate about peace and how to go about it in practice. We need to connect, for example, to those in Russia and elsewhere who courageously resist tyrannical regimes. We need to think about peaceful practice and endeavours, around the world and through time and consider dialogue such as ACTs deliberation methods in the classroom that promote safe spaces for peaceful discussion. 

As Subject Leaders of Citizenship and Religious Education (RE) with experience in peace education with charities and informal and formal education settings, we set up UCL’s Peace Education Special Interest Group (PESIG) to help connect peace education to theory, policy and practice as part of the university’s curriculum, culture and commitment to social justice. We want to bring educators and researchers together to de-mystify peace education and bring this important area of education to students and staff. We were both aware that some aspects of peace education were treated as ‘tick box’ exercises and appeared in the curriculum in a purely academic way limiting genuine engagement and restricting experiences of peace education to prescribed models of engagement. As teacher educators, we have a huge responsibility to support the values of the student teachers we work with. Exposing and nurturing commitments to peace from the outset of the teacher development process is the least we can do. We set up the UCL PESIG to connect and reach out beyond our contexts to colleagues, students and professionals across subjects and educational settings. We held a launch event in July 2022 as part of this endeavour as a sharing space for peace practitioners. We have a blog series and we invite contributions from anyone interested in writing about practice, policy or theory in peace education: in  https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/peaceeducation/. Do have a read of it as there is already good variety of contributions that reflect the multidisciplinary and context-driven nature of peace education with many more to come. 

At the end of this piece [in the journal, the same quotes are used in our previous blog] we share insights from the PESIG launch event as quotations to begin conversations about the role we as educators have in our students’ lives when considering peace education. So as you read the quotes here – think about how you can bring all of the elements of this journal together in your teaching practice. If you would like to get more involved in peace education policy, practice and research, if you want to come to an event to share ideas or write for the blog and share some of your own practice, we would be delighted to hear from you contact Hans or Alexis

UCL Peace Education Special Interest Group Launch and Updates inc next event Jan 12th Online

By Blog editor, on 21 October 2022

“We are seeing a critical mass where educators are enabling peace education in the mainstream.” Monisha Bajaj Co-Author of Educating for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction. 

“If war is the answer, we must be asking the wrong question. It’s time to ask the right question.” Ellis Brooks Peace Education Co-Ordinator Quakers in Britain. 

We celebrate the Peace Education Special Interest Group (PESIG) launch in July which brought together peace educators from diverse fields in peace education in their individual, national and global contexts: from students to teachers and academics, charity founders and community education organisations. We asked: “What does peace mean for us today and how can we educate for peace?”. The room at the IOE and online breakout rooms buzzed with connections and plans to collaborate for meaningful and impactful peace education.  

We look forward to reconvening online for the next UCL PESIG meeting on January 12th 2023 at 4.30-6pm here: https://ucl.zoom.us/j/95629643055 this is a date change due to strike action on the original date.

Below are quotations and links from the speakers at the event to begin conversations about the role we have as educators when considering peace education. As you read the words here, think about how they can inspire your teaching, planning and practice in both formal and informal ways. What difference can a commitment to peace make to our work? 

‘Educating for a better world has to be the focus, and it is more imperative than ever to push for peace education and social justice, to build pockets of hope and resistance to amplify ideas and solidarity. We have to find communities and challenge ourselves’ Maria Hantzopolous Co-Author of Educating for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction. (See Teaching Citizenship Issue 54 for a review of this book: https://www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk/journals) 

‘We are seeing a critical mass where educators are enabling peace education in the mainstream. Be willing to grow… in dialogue with others. All growing and approaching things in humility.’ Monisha Bajaj Co-Author of Educating for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction. 

‘Food is the anithesis of war. It brings people together and in love and community. The best thing about building communities and building peace education is through storytelling. This is what brings people together. Telling stories with dignity. In education we should be telling the stories of families, love, food, laughter, not destruction, violence and hatred.’ Giles Duley, CEO of Legacy of War Foundation  https://www.legacyofwarfoundation.com/ https://gilesduley.com/one-armed-chef/  

‘How can we be sure that when we talk about these sustainable development goals peace education can be seen as an integral part bringing many of the themes of human rights, sustainable development together: holistically, personally, locally and globally? Communities are seeing the connections in education; we need to do the same in Higher Education’. Professor Douglas Bourn, Director of Development Education Research Centre at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/centres/development-education-research-centre  

‘If war is answer, we must be asking the wrong question. It’s time to ask the right question. Learning from practice and experience as we did in the Peace at Heart report: https://www.quaker.org.uk/documents/peace-at-the-heart. We need to think about every layer of the education system and the experience of social justice and peace education. There are glimmers of light with restorative justice and peace education becoming mainstream. We need to persuade others that our relational approach is important to them. What if peace was an FBV?’ Ellis Brooks Peace Education Co-Ordinator Quakers in Britain. https://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/peace 

If you would like to get more involved in peace education policy, practice and research, or if you want to come to an event to share ideas or write for the blog to share your own practice, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact Hans and Alexis on h.svennevig@ucl.ac.uk and a.stones@ucl.ac.uk  

Peace Education and Action for Impact: Towards a model for intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural peacebuilding

By Blog Editor, on 11 July 2022

Peace Education and Action for Impact: Towards a model for intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural peacebuilding

World BEYOND War partners with the Rotary Action Group for Peace to pilot a large-scale peacebuilding programme

by Phill Gittins

The need for intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural peacebuilding

Sustainable peace rests on our ability to collaborate effectively across generations and cultures.

First, there is no viable approach to sustainable peace that does not include the input of all generations. Despite general agreement in the peacebuilding field that partnership work among different generations of people is important, intergenerational strategies and partnerships are not an integral part of many peacebuilding activities. This is not surprising, perhaps, given that there are many factors that mitigate against collaboration, in general, and intergenerational collaboration, in particular. Take, for example, education. Many schools and universities still prioritise individual pursuits, which favour competition and undermine possibilities for collaboration. Similarly, typical peacebuilding practices rely on a top-down approach, which prioritises the transfer of knowledge instead of collaborative knowledge production or exchange. This in turn has implications for intergenerational practices, because peacebuilding efforts are too often done ‘on’, ‘for’, or ‘about’ local people or communities rather than ‘with’ or ‘by’ them (see, Gittins, 2019).

Second, while all generations are needed to advance the prospects of peaceful sustainable development, a case can be made to direct more attention and effort toward younger generations and youth-led efforts. At a time when there are more young people on the planet than ever before, it is hard to overstate the central role youth (can and do) play in working towards a better world. The good news is that interest in the role of youth in peacebuilding is rising globally, as demonstrated by the global Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda, new international policy frameworks, and national action plans, as well as a steady increase in programming and scholarly work (see, Gittins, 2020, Berents & Prelis, 2022). The bad news is that young people remain under-represented in peacebuilding policy, practice, and research.

Third, cross-cultural collaboration is important, because we live in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. Therefore, the ability to connect across cultures is more important than ever. This presents an opportunity for the peacebuilding field, given that cross-cultural work has been found to contribute to the deconstruction of negative stereotypes (Hofstede, 2001), conflict resolution (Huntingdon, 1993), and the cultivation of holistic relationships (Brantmeier & Brantmeier, 2020). Many scholars – from Lederach to Austesserre, with precursors in the work of Curle and Galtung – point to the value of cross-cultural engagement.

In summary, sustainable peace is dependent on our ability to work intergenerationally and cross-culturally, and to create opportunities for youth-led efforts. The importance of these three approaches has been recognised in both policy and academic debates. There is, however, a lack of understanding about what youth-led, intergenerational/cross-cultural peacebuilding looks like in practice – and specifically what it looks like on a large scale, in the digital age, during COVID.

Peace Education and Action for Impact (PEAI)

These are some of the factors that led to the development of Peace Education and Action for Impact (PEAI) – a unique programme designed to connect and support young peacebuilders (18-30) across the globe. Its goal is to create a new model of 21st century peacebuilding — one that updates our notions and practices of what it means to do youth-led, intergenerational, and cross-cultural peacebuilding. Its purpose is to contribute to personal and social change through education and action.

Underpinning the work are the following processes and practises:

  • Education and action. PEAI is guided by a dual focus on education and action, in a field where there is a need to close the gap between the study of peace as a topic and the practice of peacebuilding as a practice (see, Gittins, 2019).
  • A focus on pro-peace and anti-war efforts. PEAI takes a broad approach to peace – one that includes, but takes on more than, the absence of war. It is based on the recognition that peace cannot co-exist with war, and therefore peace requires both negative and positive peace (see, World BEYOND War).
  • A holistic approach. PEAI provides a challenge to common formulations of peace education which rely on rational forms of learning at the expense of embodied, emotional, and experiential approaches (see, Cremin et al., 2018).
  • Youth-led action. Frequently, peace work is done ‘on’ or ‘about’ youth not ‘by’ or ‘with’ them (see, Gittins et., 2021). PEAI provides a way of changing this.
  • Intergenerational work. PEAI brings intergenerational collectives together to engage in collaborative praxis. This can help to address the persistent mistrust in peace work between youth and adults (see, Simpson, 2018, Altiok & Grizelj, 2019).
  • Cross-cultural learning. Countries with diverse social, political, economic, and environmental contexts (including diverse peace and conflict trajectories) can learn a great deal from each other. PEAI enables this learning to take place.
  • Rethinking and transforming power dynamics. PEAI pays close attention to how processes of ‘power over’, ‘power within’, ‘power to’, and ‘power with’ (see, VeneKlasen & Miller, 2007) play out in peacebuilding endeavours. 
  • The use of digital technology. PEAI provides access to an interactive platform that helps to facilitate online connections and supports learning, sharing, and co-creation processes within and between different generations and cultures.

The programme is organised around what Gittins (2021) expresses as the ‘knowing, being, and doing of peacebuilding’. It seeks to balance intellectual rigour with relational engagement and practice-based experience. The programme takes a two-pronged approach to change-making – peace education and peace action – and is delivered in a consolidated, high-impact, format over 14 weeks, with six-weeks of peace education, 8-weeks of peace action, and a developmental focus throughout.


Implementation of the PEAI pilot

In 2021, World BEYOND War teamed up with the Rotary Action Group for Peace to launch the inaugural PEAI programme. This is the first time that youth and communities in 12 countries across four continents (Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, and Venezuela) have been brought together, in one sustained initiative, to engage in a developmental process of intergenerational and cross-cultural peacebuilding.

PEAI was guided by a co-leadership model, which resulted in a programme designed, implemented, and evaluated through a series of global collaborations. These included: 

  • The Rotary Action Group for Peace was invited by World BEYOND War to be their strategic partner on this initiative. This was done to enhance collaboration between Rotary, other stakeholders, and WBW; facilitate power-sharing; and leverage the expertise, resources, and networks of both entities.
  • A Global Team (GT), which included people from World BEYOND War and the Rotary Action Group for Peace. It was their role to contribute towards thought leadership, programme stewardship, and accountability. The GT met every week, over the course of a year, to put the pilot together.
  • Locally-embedded organisations/groups in 12 countries. Each ‘Country Project Team’ (CPT), comprised of 2 coordinators, 2 mentors, and 10 youth (18-30). Each CPT met regularly from September through December 2021.
  • A ‘Research Team’, which included people from the University of Cambridge,  Columbia University, Young Peacebuilders, and World BEYOND War. This team led the research pilot. This included monitoring and evaluation processes to identify and communicate the significance of the work for different audiences.

Activities and impacts generated from the PEAI pilot

While a detailed presentation of the peacebuilding activities and impacts from the pilot cannot be included here for reasons of space, the following gives a glimpse of the significance of this work, for different stakeholders. These include the following:

1) Impact for young people and adults in 12 countries

PEAI directly benefited approximately 120 young people and 40 adults working with them, in 12 different countries. Participants reported a range of benefits including:

  • Increased knowledge and skills related to peacebuilding and sustainability.
  • The development of leadership competencies helpful for enhancing personal and professional engagement with self, others, and the world.
  • Increased understanding of the role of young people in peacebuilding.
  • A greater appreciation of war and the institution of war as a barrier to achieving sustainable peace and development.
  • Experience with intergenerational and cross-cultural learning spaces and practices, both in-person and online.
  • Increased organising and activism skills particularly in relation to carrying out and communicating youth-led, adult-supported, and community-engaged projects.
  • The development and maintenance of networks and relationships.

Research found that: 

  • 74% of participants in the programme believe that the PEAI experience contributed to their development as a peacebuilder.
  • 91% said that they now have the capability to influence positive change.
  • 91% feel confident about engaging in intergenerational peacebuilding work.
  • 89% consider themselves experienced in cross-cultural peacebuilding efforts

2) Impact for organisations and communities in 12 countries

PEAI equipped, connected, mentored, and supported participants to carry out more than 15 peace projects in 12 different countries. These projects are at the heart of what ‘good peace work’ is all about, “thinking our ways into new forms of action and acting our way into new forms of thinking” (Bing, 1989: 49).

3) Impact for the peace education and peacebuilding community

The conception of the PEAI programme was to bring intergenerational collectives together from across the globe, and to engage them in collaborative learning and action toward peace and sustainability. The development of the PEAI programme and model, along with findings from the pilot project, have been shared in dialogue with members from the peace education and peacebuilding community via various online and in-person presentations. This included an end-of-project event/celebration, where young people shared, in their words, their PEAI experience and the impact of their peace projects. This work will also be communicated through two journal articles, currently in process, to show how the PEAI programme, and its model, have potential for influencing new thinking and practices.

What next?

The 2021 pilot offers a real-world example of what is possible in terms of youth-led, intergenerational/cross-cultural peacebuilding on a large scale. This pilot is not seen as an end-point per se, but rather as a new beginning – a strong, evidence-based, foundation to build on and an opportunity to (re)imagine possible future directions.

Since the beginning of the year, World BEYOND War has been working diligently with the Rotary Action Group for Peace, and others, to explore potential future developments – including a multi-year strategy which seeks to take up the difficult challenge of going to scale without losing touch with the needs on the ground. Regardless of the strategy adopted – intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural collaboration will be the heart of this work.



Author Biography:

Phill Gittins, PhD, is the Education Director for World BEYOND War. He is also a Rotary Peace Fellow, KAICIID Fellow, and Positive Peace Activator for the Institute for Economics and Peace. He has over 20 year’s leadership, programming, and analysis experience in the areas of peace & conflict, education & training, youth & community development, and counselling & psychotherapy. Phill can be reached at: phill@worldbeyondwar.org. Find out more about the Peace Education and Action for Impact programme here: at https://worldbeyondwar.org/action-for-impact/

Give Peace Education a chance: A Citizenship-based educational approach

By Blog Editor, on 14 June 2022

By PGCE Citizenship Student Teachers 2021-2022: Aroosa Azam, Samed Karadal, Shanti Kandola-Wade, Jess Duggan, Fatima Ahmed & Suhasini Bostone.

What is ‘Peace Education’?

​​We, unfortunately, live in a world where too often humans resort to violence and war as a primary tool to resolve disputes and responding to challenges – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the ongoing Ethiopian civil war (Tigray War), or rising tensions and standoffs between China and the US over Taiwan and the South China Sea. Amongst this backdrop, what can teachers do to support students to understand the world around them, in a safe, and supported way? The answer is perhaps a simple one – ‘Peace Education’. But what is Peace Education?

Before we look at Peace Education, a good starting point is unpacking what ‘peace’ is. We could use the dictionary definition of ‘peace’, but instead we adopt Johan Galtung’s definition. Galtung asserts that peace is like a coin – it has two sides: ‘negative’ and ‘positive’. ‘Negative peace’ refers to the absence of violence and is negative because something undesirable (e.g., violence or war) has ended, but can always restart, for example in the Korean War, where tensions between North Korea and South Korea still exist but are kept at bay by the Korean Armistice Agreement signed in 1953. ‘Positive peace’ refers to the attitudes, institutions and structures within society that allow for peaceful societies to be born and flourish, such as charitable causes like Amnesty International.

​​Positive Peace is then the end goal of Peace Education, because by adopting a positive peace mindset, as individuals we can improve and clear our headspace, improve our coping and critical thinking skills, and improve our overall mental and physical health. We can then use our internal positive peace to be creative in solving problems within our daily lives in our societies and in the world. Inner positive peace will enable us to communicate with one another productively and positively, and ultimately, this will lead to the cultivation of the structures and changes in society that will allow for positive peace to flourish in society.

The question for Peace Education is then, how do we achieve ‘Positive’ Peace? It intends to allow students to explore their relationships and their belonging at the personal (inner), peer, community, and societal level. Through Peace Education, students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to preventing conflict, resolving them peacefully and creating the social conditions that enable peace.

Education for Peace is underpinned by 4.7 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations General Assembly, 2015). This is supported by Fundamental British Values (‘FBV’), such as mutual respect and tolerance for others, which is why it can be integrated through a curricular approach. With this in mind, citizenship education is one of the most effective ways of delivering peace education in secondary schools. The National Curriculum for Citizenship does not reference peace education explicitly, but it explores related concepts (Department for Education, 2013). In Key Stage 3, the capacity for students to foster a culture of conflict resolution extends across topics, such as, human rights and responsibilities, the global community and the role of voluntary organisations in society. Throughout Key Stage 4, students extend their knowledge through the exploration of diverse identities, the UK’s involvement in international organisations and international law.

UNICEF describes peace education as a “tool to deliver conflict-sensitive education” (2016, p.vii). GCSE Citizenship lessons that focus on balancing the right to life, the overseas work of Oxfam, the role of the United Nations Security Council and its members in armed conflict, for example, enable the development of critical thinking skills, problem-solving and the foundational knowledge that is vital for this purpose. In doing so, we have the opportunity to fulfil the aims of citizenship education and create changemaking citizens with an orientation for justice.

Peace education provides an opportunity to respond to the evolving diversity of British society and addresses calls to decolonise the curriculum. It provides enriched learning by fostering an appreciation for different approaches to academic study – engaging with non-western ideology, female, and minority narratives. Importantly, peace education redresses reductive Eurocentric perspectives on conflicts which can, at times, neglect the lived realities of the global population that have been impacted by colonial legacies. Peace education presents an ideal opportunity to champion this more holistic approach to education by focusing upon a range of case studies, such as Ukraine, Palestine, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran, and Myanmar. Pupils are offered a variety of historical discourses, which respond to the diversity of some classrooms and wider society.

The commitment to peace education is not a purely academic pursuit to be embedded into the curriculum, but incorporated into wider school practices and ethos. The report ‘Peace at the heart’ published by Quakers in Britain (2022) stresses the idea of the school as a community whereby a peaceful environment can be cultivated to challenge othering, nurture students’ as advocates for themselves and crucially enjoy learning. The report critiques the tendency of schools to implement strict behaviour policies which violate children’s rights outlined in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which include education and dignity. Instead, the report suggests pursuing a ‘restorative’ approach of communication and problem-solving to resolve conflict, rather than focusing upon sanctioning individuals. In addition, students can also be supported to resolve their own conflict through peer mediation schemes, and as a result develop social and emotional skills including communication, empathy and awareness of wellbeing needs. Whilst the practices of ‘restorative’ approaches to behaviour and peer mediation are not new, the pursual of peace education as a whole-school approach and ethos enables schools to cultivate a safe learning environment whereby students are supported and giving the tools to engender peace, and constructive, cooperative, and healthy interpersonal relationships.

Teaching peace education may appear to be a simple, harmonious venture that instantly sparks consensus within the citizenship classroom. However, where there is peace, there has been conflict, which may be reflected in student discussion. Rather than cowering at the thought of tension in the classroom, the teacher can seize the opportunity to create cohesion between students through peace education. As the Crick report (1998) said:

“Education should not attempt to shelter our nation’s children from even the harsher controversies of adult life, but prepare them to deal with such controversies knowledgeably, sensibly, tolerantly and morally” (pp.56).

First and foremost, the teacher should anticipate the likelihood for controversy between their students. This can be optimised by considering the student demographic. For example, during one author’s experience at a secondary school, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was of imminent concern as the conflict broiled. Hence, this prompted a whole-school awareness campaign, delivered during tutor time. In advance of fostering any conflict-related discussion during tutor time, the teacher had become acutely aware of the demographic of their tutor group; including both a Ukrainian and a Russian child. Throughout delivery of Ukraine-related content and any subsequent discussion the teacher ensured to set firm ground rules and expectations of positive language and behaviour. What followed was good-natured and compassionate deliberation of a tragic ongoing war.

Peace education is not just the domain of the humanities and social sciences. Knowledge and understanding of peace can be promoted through all curriculum subjects. Below we list some examples of ways this can be done:

RE: Explore responses and campaigns for peace from religious and non-religious groups and communities. (Editors Note: This blog will explore RE as a subject to teach peace education and RE/Citizenship peace education links in future issues).

Art: Exploration and discussion around art as a form of protest against war. For example the painting ‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso, which famously depicts the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.

Sciences (Chemisty/Biology/Physics): The teaching of atomic structures and chemical bombs in the context of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

English: Exploration of war poems in the GCSE ‘power and conflict’ theme.

Geography: Human geography, exploring migration patterns and borders as a result of conflict. E.g., Ukraine conflict/ Poland.

History: War and peace treaties e.g., Paris Peace Accords post-war Vietnam

Music: Similarly, art is a medium that can be incorporated as a hook to instantly engage students in the lesson, and to explore protest songs. Linked is a curated playlist by the PGCE citizenship cohort of peace education themed songs.

Over time and as citizenship specialists, we are becoming more knowledgeable about peace education. Our role in citizenship education enables us to instil in learners the values, attitudes, behaviours and knowledge to become responsible global citizens. In doing so, we hope to upskill students in their quest for creative solutions to any type of conflict, whether it is internal or external. As teachers of peace education within the realm of citizenship, we plan to educate our students about their rights as citizens of a nation and members of a school, to establish a communal and global understanding of peace. Peace education provides a unique opportunity to do all of this and more, through adoption in the curriculum with citizenship specialists. The citizenship community acknowledges that our role is to show students that there is hope, to equip them with the necessary skills to make an impact and to demonstrate that through agency, they can be empowered to build a better tomorrow (Svennevig, 2021).


Crick, B. (1998) Education for citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools: Final report of the Advisory Group on Citizenship. London: QCA.

Department for Education (2013). National curriculum in England: citizenship programmes of study.


Galtung, J. (1969). ‘Violence, Peace, and Peace Research’, Journal of Peace Research, 6 (3), pp 167-191.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/422690

Quakers in Britain (2022). Peace at the heart: A relational approach to education in British schools.


United Nations General Assembly (2015). Sustainable Development Goals.

UNICEF (2016). UNICEF Programme Report 2012 – 2016: Peacebuilding, education and advocacy in conflict-affected contexts programme, p.vii.


Svennevig, H. (2021). ‘Our Responsibilities for Peace Education for the Next Generation’, Teaching Citizenship, 54, pp. 51-54. https://issuu.com/associationforcitizenshipteaching/docs/teachingcitizenship_issue54_autumn_21_digital