Peace education appears to have both merit and staying power. Now it just requires implementation.

The United Nations General Assembly discussed March 18 every

. Radhika Coomaraswamy, director of the U.N.'s children and armed conflict unit, pointed out that education taught wrongly can worsen the situation. She cited hate education and the training of child soldiers.

The concept of peace education, which involves not only the teaching of children during and after war but also instruction that fosters understanding rather than division, stayed below the radar until a couple years ago at the Clinton Global Initiative 2007, where the

received considerable funding and attention. Peace and emergency education have since become a cause célèbre, with celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Nobel laureates rallying to the cause.

In the lead up to the U.N. debate, Save the Children held a conference in Sarajevo to urge the international community to embrace education as integral to the peace process.

"If we want genuine peace, there is no question at all that you must have justice," said

. "And how can we expect children to learn to be just, to be fair, to be tolerant with one another, if not in school?"

Tutu was one of 32 Nobel Peace Prize winners who signed a declaration to make quality education part of peace-building in conflict-affected countries. Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari underscored the

to avoid conflict.

"We have a choice today to create stability or divisions in the future, to decide if we want today's children to be tomorrow's generation of warmakers or peacemakers," wrote the former teacher. "I would gladly give back every prize I have received in return for the latter."

Back in the General Assembly, there were calls for donors to see education as both a development issue and a humanitarian issue. As of today, only Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Japan do. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro advised governments and donors to ensure that students and schools were

, noting that last year in Afghanistan there were 275 attacks on schools.

But all this is old news to engineer

, a 40-year-old Afghan. Nearly 15 years ago, he founded Aschiana, a school for Kabul street children where every student is required to take Yousef's favorite course: peace education.

About the author

  • David Lepeska

    David has served as U.N. correspondent for the newswire UPI and reported for several major newspapers, including the New York Daily News and Newsday. He was chief correspondent for the Kashmir Observer in Srinagar, India, and regularly contributes to the Economist, among other publications. Since 2007, David has reported for Devex News from Washington, New York, as well as South Asia.