The United Nations designated the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace, marking the beginning of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). The objective was to focus on the plight of millions of children in conflict-prone regions of the world and increase global awareness of issues pertaining to non-violence and peace to alleviate that plight. This goal remains a priority for all those concerned about the well-being of children around the world.
Education plays a key role in promoting a sound understanding and appreciation for non-violence among children in all communities. Peace education is an essential component of quality basic education that promotes the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values needed to bring behavior changes that enable children, youth, and adults to prevent overt and structural conflict and violence; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace at intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, national, or international levels.
Peace education has developed as an autonomous field with the goal of helping people think and connect across differences in culture, nationality, religious beliefs, political perspectives, and disciplines of knowledge. Multiple academic and training programs as well as advocacy initiatives have been launched in recent times by various organizations. It is expected that peace education goals can be met through modified patterns of communications and relationships that would help level distinctions based on identities and class. In regions where it is readily available, inexpensive, quick communication tools available on the internet have a significant influence on promoting the principles of peace and non-violence. In places without such access, there is a need to develop supportive and contextual outreach programs using alternative resources.
Despite movements led by peace organizations and activists worldwide, and despite the rapid development of a body of literature in the field of peace education, a large section of the world's children remains exposed to violent atrocities, pain, and devastation. Global experience indicates the insufficiency of international interventions in resolving conflicts indefinitely in various parts of the world. Wessells (2012) recommends a systemic approach to making peace education programs contextually appropriate through:
- A multidisciplinary analysis of a particular situation and the root causes of violence in that context
- A multi-level approach to connect efforts that promote social justice initiated in schools with efforts supported by the greater society
- A youth-centered approach supporting the agency and resilience of young people.
One can hope that local empowerment through proper understanding and a relevant and just approach to peace education would raise popular awareness about the value of non-violence. This, in turn, can successfully advance a world culture of peace for generations to come.