Education is the key to uniting nations, bringing human beings closely together. In many parts of the world, civil society suffers because of situations of violent conflicts and war. It is important to recognise the crucial role of education in contributing to building a culture of peace and condemning instances in which education is undermined in order to attack democracy and tolerance.
A culture of peace and non-violence goes to the substance of fundamental human rights: social justice, democracy, literacy, respect and dignity for all, international solidarity, respect for workers’ rights and corelabourstandards, children rights, equality between men and women, cultural identity and diversity, Indigenous peoples and minorities rights, the preservation of the natural environment to name some of the more obvious thematics.
These are all issues of concern to EI and its member organizations, as reflected in many resolutions endorsed at EI World Congresses as well as at regional EI supported events.
EI affirms the right to peace and pledges its support for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation.
In 2000, the then UNESCO Director General, Federico Mayor, stressed that “Education International is not only a vast repository of experience, it also has the know-how and talent to implement innovation and change far beyond what is normally found in government circles […] Education International and UNESCO can work together to achieve the common goals of an educated, intellectually curious and participatory culture of peace and democracy.”
Education is a key tool in combating poverty, in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, democracy, cultural diversity and environmental awareness. Education for peace implies an active concept of peace through values, life skills and knowledge in a spirit of equality, respect, empathy, understanding and mutual appreciation among individuals, groups and nations.
In its Constitution and resolutions, EI committed itself firmly to international peace activities linked to education promoting human rights and democracy and encouraging international understanding and solidarity. EI called on its member organisations to develop their advocacy in line with UNESCO's Charter and aims, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The educational action for promoting the concept of peace concerns the content of education and training, educational resources and material, school and university life, initial and ongoing training for teachers, research, and ongoing training for young people and adults. A culture of peace must take root in the classroom from an early age. It must continue to be reflected in the curricula at secondary and tertiary levels. However, the skills for peace and non-violence can only be learned and perfected through practice. Active listening, dialogue, mediation, and cooperative learning are delicate skills to develop. This is education in the widest sense. It is a dynamic, long term process: a life-time experience. It means providing both children and adults with an understanding of and respect for universal values and rights. It requires participation at all levels - family, school, places of work, news rooms, play grounds, and the community as well as the nation.
At the EI World Congress in 1998, EI and its affiliates placed on the record that they wanted "to take every opportunity to promote justice, world peace and education, in the interests of children of all countries.” As a token of EI’s commitment to a culture of peace, General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, was one of the first to sign the Manifesto 2000 appeal and to support the International Year for the Culture of Peace.
In a resolution adopted in 2004, EI Resolution on Education for Peace, EI member organisations “pledged to promote education for peace and intercultural learning as the best antidote to racist and fundamentalist phenomena in order to prevent social conflict and the recourse to social violence.” In 2007, teacher organizations were also invited to promote peaceful behaviour in school environments through dispute resolution and peer mediation.
EI's policy is essentially shaped by the various resolutions passed by the consecutive World Congresses since 1995. These resolutions focus on the role of education for international understanding and cooperation and education regarding human rights.
 Declaration on Schools as Safe Sanctuaries
 Resolution on United for greater social justice
 Resolution on peace and an end to violence
 Resolution on the Role of the UN in the Current International Context
 Resolution on Education for Peace
 Resolution on Education for a Peaceful Environment in Schools
 Resolution on the Revision of the Distortion of History in Japanese Textbooks
 Resolution on the Elimination of Nuclear Arms
 Resolution on Peace Education for Disarmament
 Resolution on Children and War
 Resolution on Towards Peace, Disarmament and Peace Education
 Resolution on Racism, Religious Intolerance
Peace Education is integrated comprehensive education focusing on life skills covering human rights, democracy, international understanding, tolerance, non-violence, multiculturalism, and all other values conveyed through the school curriculum.
Promoting Peace Education in the classroom
These are not just lessons for the classroom but lessons for life of immediate relevance, empowering individuals to achieve a just society in which all human rights of all persons are valued and respected.
Peace education applies to the contents of all curricula, at every level in the education system.
Peace education is the all-round education of each individual. Peace education should be extended to all learners, including refugee and migrant children, children from minorities and disabled with the objective of promoting equal opportunities through education.
The training of teachers, education workers and all education stakeholders, including staff from ministries of education is crucial. Educators promote the development of the whole person, so as to enable everyone to contribute to society in a caring and responsible manner. In order to recruit and retain the best teachers, governments should give priority to adequate salary, which must provide teachers with a reasonable standard of living for themselves and for their families, as well as the means of enhancing their professional qualifications by developing their knowledge and improving their cultural resources. Governments must also focus on providing attractive working conditions including small class sizes, career paths and more opportunities for professional growth and development, financial and other incentives, and support systems for new teachers, such as mentoring programs.
Education is a participatory and interactive process of instruction and learning, and the curriculum and pedagogy should give prominence to understanding the wealth of distinctive cultural and linguistic characteristics, in response to globalization.
The educational context should provide programs addressing psychological and physical violence, including cyberbullying, through violence prevention, conflict resolution and mediation in all levels of education.
EI Declaration “Schools shall be Safe Sanctuaries”
Schools must be safe and secure to ensure the best possible situation for teaching and learning. It is incumbent upon Governments and the international community to take action designed to prevent violence in schools and to facilitate an atmosphere where children can learn and teachers can perform their job in a positive, healthy and safe setting.
Since September 2008, EI has engaged in multiple cohesive initiatives to protect teachers, students and education worldwide in a context of increased targeted attacks against education.
In 2008, EI adopted a Declaration “Schools Shall be Safe Sanctuaries” demanding that schools be respected and protected as zones of peace. EI’s Declaration focuses on Violent Political and Military Attacks Against Schools and Education Institutions, Students, Teachers, Academics and all other Education Personnel, including Support and Transport Staff, Education Officials, Education Trade Unionists and Education Aid Workers. It is the responsibility of all Governments to ensure that students, teachers, schools and universities are protected, that the perpetrators of attacks are punished and that education becomes a force for peace.
In 2011, EI developed an analysis of the Education For All Global Monitoring Report which focuses on the impact of armed conflict on education. The EI publication is meant to be a reading guide to the EFA Report. It highlights the major findings, and helps teacher unions use these findings to protect education in their country, and the teachers and children in conflict-afflicted zones. The publication also highlights EI’s initiatives to keep education going in all corners of the world, and to make schools safe sanctuaries that guarantee the peace and security of all children, girls and boys, teachers and support staff and communities.
EI stresses the importance of re-building education systems in post-conflict situations and of considering education as a priority in humanitarian relief.
Living and Learning Together
Building dialogue and understanding between cultures has been a priority and a programmatic activity of EI for years. In 1997, EI organised its first international conference for affiliates in Central and Eastern Europe. Entitled “Democratic Societies: Living and Learning Together”, the Bled conference highlighted the role and responsibilities of teachers and their unions in combatting racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia. The second such conference was organised in Malta in 2002. Over 160 participants from all regions of the world challenged each other to enter into true dialogue among civilisations, cultures and religions and to face up to the dangers of unequal opportunities. Workshops provided participants with examples of best practice of EI member unions in terms of respecting cultures and honouring differences, human rights education, democracy to protect minority rights and access to education of asylum seekers and refugees.
Further conferences were organised in Turkey and Morocco to encourage the dialogue between cultures and religions.
EI activities continue to be developed to reassert universal values of human rights, peace and democracy and mutual respect through education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). With its member organizations in Israel and Palestine, EI is also continuing its efforts to make meaningful contributions to the Middle East peace process.
2000, Year for the Culture of Peace and Olympic Truce
In 2000, EI and UNESCO joined to produce a grassroots campaign for a culture of peace. The peace initiative was sustained effort by EI to invite all its affiliates to join in the promotion of 2000 as the Year for the Culture of Peace. The kit outlined aspects of EI’s ongoing commitment to human rights and a peace culture from an education and union perspective. Papers directed to teachers, education workers, and their students provided topics for classroom discussion and suggested some practical activities.
For example, EI followed up the 1998 Congress resolution that EI “commits itself to promoting world peace during the period of the summer 2000 Olympic Games, recalling that peace was declared during the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece.” The kit provided details of the Olympic Truce campaign which schools and colleges developed in a variety of ways.
Manifesto 2000 for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence
The Manifesto 2000 for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence was endorsed by EI. Written by Nobel Prize Peace Laureates in order to create a sense of responsibility starting on a personal level, the Manifesto 2000 was not an appeal or petition addressed to a higher authority. Considering it is the responsibility of each and every individual to put into practice the values, attitudes and forms of behaviour which inspire the culture of peace, UNESCO promoted a Manifesto which everyone can contribute to its aims within their family, their area, their town, their region and their country by promoting non-violence, tolerance, dialogue, reconciliation, justice and solidarity on a daily basis.
Tackling Violence in Schools
The education sector is one of the most exposed to violence. The Fourth European Working Conditions Survey carried out in 2005 in the EU27, in the two candidate countries (Turkey and Croatia), as well as in Switzerland and Norway, shows that overall approximately 10% of workers report having being exposed to violence, bullying or harassment at work in the previous twelve months. The education sector appears to be amongst those where the risk of experiencing some form of violence, bullying or harassment at work is the greatest. For example, workers in the education sector are six times more likely to have encountered the threat of physical violence than their counterparts in the manufacturing sector. Survey data also reveals that around 6.6% of workers in the education sector report having experienced bullying or harassment (against the EU27 average of 5%) and another 7.9% say that they have been personally subjected to physical violence from fellow workers or people outside the workforce (against the EU27 average of 5%) in the previous twelve-month period.
In several European countries, measures developed to prevent violence in schools have proven to be successful, thereby underlining the potential benefit of the exchange of best practices and an analysis of best practice transferability. The need for initial teacher training and continuing professional development; the importance of the support of other professionals including psychologists, therapists and counsellors in dealing with bullying and the victims of bullying; as well as the importance of leadership, constructive conflict management and school action plans, are regularly featured by teacher organisations as possible ways to prevent violence in the learning environment. Teacher organisations also insist that the issue has to be collectively addressed by the profession through trade union representatives.
Women’s engagement in peacebuilding policy
The UN Resolution 1325 recognized the relevance of gender in peace and security matters, and mandated all United Nations member-states to ensure full participation of women at all levels of decision-making in conflict resolution and peace processes. It also called for the protection of women and girls against violence during and after conflict, and for the adoption of a gender perspective to prevent and mitigate impacts of conflict on women. While progress has been made at policy levels, translating the goals of Resolution 1325 into reality in conflict-affected countries remains a challenge.
In the education sector, more efforts must be made by Governments to identify and strengthen the right methodologies for empowering both male and female teachers to create a safe and secure school environment for girls and boys. Synergies must be created between experience and policies.
In 1995, the Beijing Platform of Action recognised education not only as a human right but also as an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. “Literacy of women is an important key to improving health, nutrition and education in the family and to empowering women to participate in decision-making and society.” The issues raised at the UN Beijing Conference remain relevant. The Conference identified twelve critical areas of concern. Each concern revealed that women’s human rights are very much compromised and at risk in a prevailing culture of violence, and women remain systematically disadvantaged and discriminated against solely on the basis of gender. The Conference concluded that equality between men and women could not be achieved unless the rights of women are fully respected.
The 2011 EI Conference “On the move for Equality” highlighted that women’s civil society organizations are an important vehicle for the promotion of women’s participation and gender-friendly policies, both important for long-term peace and democracy. Burundi and Nepal are two post-conflict countries that are notable for the large number of women engaged in civil society. In these countries, women’s organizations have been a driving force behind women’s engagement in public and political life, and for the adoption of laws protecting women’s rights. Yet, the impact and sustainability of these organizations are hampered both by a lack of political will, and by insecure and inflexible funding regimes.