Where peace begins - An international summit in Sarajevo highlights education as pivotal for lasting peace

from Save the Children
Published on 12 Mar 2009 View Original
(Sarajevo, 12 March 2009) Today, top peace negotiators and education experts joined representatives of governments and the United Nations at a unique summit to examine how quality education can be prioritised in peace processes, and become a reality for all children living in conflict-affected countries.

Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Rigoberta Menchu addressed the conference via video link to lend their support and energy to the attendees.

Tutu declared, "Nothing can be more unjust than denying children their right to education. If we want genuine peace, there is no question at all that you must have justice. And how can we expect children to learn to be just, to be fair, to be tolerant with one another, if not in school?"

The conference comes as Marrti Athisaari, the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize winner, became the 32nd Nobel Peace Prize winner to sign up to a joint statement calling for urgent action to implement quality education and build peace in conflict-affected countries.

Organised by Save the Children and the Norwegian government, and hosted by the President of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo, Where Peace Begins: The Pivotal Role of Education for Lasting Peace comes at a time when there are 30 ongoing armed conflicts in the world. Nearly 40 million children are out of school in conflict affected areas, over half of the 75 million children worldwide - a hurdle that needs to be overcome in order to reach the education Millennium Development Goal.

This major international meeting takes place against the backdrop of Bosnia-Herzegovina's fragmented, segregated and highly politicised education system, criticised as reinforcing the differences between the ethnicities involved in the 1992-1995 conflict, and a threat to future security in the region.

"When a war comes to an end, the peace agreement is the blueprint for that country's future. Education has got to be part of that blueprint if we're serious about building lasting peace and avoiding children's lives sliding back into war again," said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General of Save the Children, speaking from Sarajevo.

"But if you look at the 37 full peace agreements signed since the end of the Cold War, most do not properly address education - and nearly one-third don't even mention of education at all. The average time a child spends in a refugee camp is 17 years - that's more than an entire childhood - so it's clearly vital more needs to be done to address education in post-conflict countries."

The conference released a specific set of recommendations and follow-on activities that will ensure education is prioritised in ongoing and future peace processes.

The recommendations come just days before the United Nations General Assembly Thematic Debate on Education in Emergencies to be held on 18 March, reflecting the increasing urgency towards the issue of education in emergencies more broadly.

More information

Read Marrti Athisaari opinion piece: The Power of Education for Lasting Peace.

Find out more from the Conference.

Notes to editors

The conference was initiated as part of Save the Children's global campaign, Rewrite the Future focusing on providing education for children living in conflict-affected fragile states, calling for greater funding for education which will in turn build peace and stability. In March 2008 Save the Children launched a global debate to examine the relationship between education and peace, involving actors from over 30 countries around the globe and culminating in this international conference in Sarajevo.