Sydney School of Education and Social Work events – 2015 Archive

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Education and sustainable peacebuilding


7 September 2016

A Comparative and International Research Network seminar.

According to the 2015 Global Peace Index, the world is less peaceful now than it was a decade ago. This is largely the product of conflicts becoming more protracted and intense. Outbreaks of disease and famine, increasing competition over sparse natural resources, a protracted global economic slowdown, shifting geopolitical landscapes, violent extremism, and displacement from lands and livelihoods by the impacts of climate change have, in recent years, increased the vulnerability of fragile and conflict-affected states to renewed violence. Nearly 90 per cent of the violent conflicts that have arisen since 2000 are recurrences of past conflicts, suggesting the precarious nature of peace in the world today.

Yet ratification of the United Nations Development Programme Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – specifically SDG 16 with its mandate to ensure “peaceful and inclusive societies”, but also in others like SDG 4 (Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and 10 (Inequality) – has created a strong global imperative for considering how positive human development outcomes and the ending of perpetual cycles of conflict and violence need to be viewed as mutually constitutive of one another. Recent years have seen a questioning of the liberal peacebuilding thesis, which has prioritised rule of law, governance reforms and institutional strengthening, over attention to reforming social service provision to make it more equitable and inclusive. Increasingly, however, there is recognition for the place of social services, including education as part of initiating and sustaining peace in the aftermath of conflict.

This presentation brings together theoretical developments and evidence from work over the past decade, aiming to suggest how and why education can be part of the transformative solution to contexts affected by conflict. As a cross-disciplinary endeavour, theorising on the relationship between education and peacebuilding comes from several directions, including education, political science, economics, anthropology and sociology. Together these disciplinary lenses have shed important light on how state fragility comes about through a breakdown in the social contract between citizen and state, and citizens with each other; and likewise how education might play a role in mending this broken contract. More recently, empirical work has begun to test and validate these theories. The largest such endeavour has come through UNICEF’s Learning for Peace initiative, a $US150 million program that operated between 2012 and 2016 in 14 partner countries. This presentation will discuss some of the key findings and learning how this endeavour gave rise to concurrent work at multiple levels: institution, community and individual. Outside of this initiative, the presentation will also explore the positioning of education within the peace processes unfolding in two conflict-affected contexts in the Asia-Pacific, namely Aceh, Indonesia, and Myanmar.

Event details

  • When: Noon–1.30pm

  • Where: Room 612, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
    Education Building A35
    Click image for interactive map.

  • Cost: Free

  • RSVP: RSVP by emailing Dr Matthew AM Thomas.

  • Contact: Dr Matthew AM Thomas
    T: +61 2 8627 4304

  • Speaker: Ritesh Shah is a senior lecturer in Comparative and International Education in the School for Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland. His research focuses on how education is mobilised as part of political, economic and social projects of transformation in postconflict settings globally, and particularly how such undertakings are framed by international, national and subnational actors. This work has been published in a range of journals including Compare, Comparative Education, IJED and IEJ: Comparative Perspectives. Dr Shah has been – and continues to be – engaged in communities of practice in his role as a consultant for humanitarian and development activities in the educational realm for several INGOs as well as agencies including NZ MFAT, Australia’s DFAT and UNICEF.

Education and sustainable peacebuilding: theories and evidence

Where Room 612, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
Education Building A35
Click image for interactive map.


7 September 2016

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