Peace Education and Conflict Transformation

Uli Jäger


This paper looks at the contribution peace education can make to conflict transformation, focusing on the one hand, on the theoretical foundations of peace education and, on the other, on developing context-appropriate practical approaches.

The paper develops a basic concept of internationally oriented, context-related and process-oriented peace education. It also presents a comprehensive and practical approach to peace education in crisis and conflict regions. A fundamental distinction is made between direct peace education (encounter, inspiration, training) and structural peace education (pilot projects, curricula, implementation). Case studies from the practice of peace education are presented for the purpose of illustration.

Key findings:

  • Direct peace education focuses on the conflict-transformative power of human encounter. These are not random encounters but “staged” forms of encounter, at which people (such as members of different conflict parties) are invited to workshops, seminars and even major (sports) events for which a specific dialogue format or learning arrangement has been developed. In every case, peace education deliberately creates learning spaces in order to increase the likelihood that these encounters will have positive, conflict transformative effects. Many of the issues addressed in detail in the context of direct peace education (controversial topics; stereotypes; enemy images; taboo topics; collective historical narratives; participatory methods; development of concepts of peace and community) can lead to structural peace education, if the right conditions are in place and opportunities are utilised.
  • The interaction between direct and structural peace education offers new prospects for sustainable peace education whose aim is to promote conflict transformation. Improving the structural conditions for a long-term conflict transformation culture can do much to enhance the development of learning spaces for peace. Opportunities to trial and implement this approach exists in development cooperation, civil conflict management and related project settings.
  • Experience has shown that several steps are typically involved in project implementation. The first step is to offer learning spaces for educationists who are interested in and have a commitment to peace education, so that stable groups can develop. Mutual inspiration, shared learning and project work create the basis for cooperation among individuals with different backgrounds (political, cultural, religious, ideological) and levels of experience (university, school, non-school education) so that training opportunities for third parties can be developed. Following on from this, pilot projects can be carried out, the aim being to develop learning media and curricula through a shared process and to trial materials and curricula in an appropriate setting. At the end of the pilot phase, the next step is to integrate them into the education system. This is supported by practical activities taking place in parallel.
  • Key priorities for the development of conflict-transforming peace education are: a systematic analysis, from a theoretical and practical perspective, of the different definitions and interpretations of basic terms, and the ensuing options for action; a greater reflection on the role of peace education programmes in initiating, supporting and evaluating collective learning processes in various contexts, and ensuring the reliability of the findings; and an identification of the factors determining success or failure in the interaction between direct and structural peace education, with discussion of their implications.
  • Source

    Jäger, U. (2014). Peace Education and Conflict Transformation. Berlin: Berghof Foundation.