How close are we to world peace

Political education

Uli Jäger

Uli Jäger M.A. is the director of peace education at the Berghof Foundation. As a workshop leader, he has gained experience at home and abroad, and teaches the subject of "Peace Education in Conflict Regions" at the University of Tübingen.

"The object and the goal of politics is peace." This is how the political scientist Dolf Sternberger defined the term political in 1961. But what is peace? Is the absence of war enough? How can it be produced and secured? Peace education has made these central questions of human coexistence its task. Is peace "only" an issue of political education or is it also its goal?

Wall painting "World Peace" (& copy /

"Since wars arise in the minds of the people, peace must also be anchored in the minds of the people." This programmatic statement from the preamble of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), founded in 1945, is probably the most frequently cited basis for the pedagogical discussion of war and peace. Over the decades it has lost none of its significance, although or precisely because it is primarily human consciousness that decides between war and peace. People can learn to create peace and to deal with conflicts non-violently. You can develop ideas of peaceful coexistence in diversity and think through and approach their implementation in social and political action. But learning peace also includes the recognition that wars and violence have a variety of structural causes and that peace can by no means only come about through the "spirit of the people". There are not only people who want to enforce their interests by force, but also structures that prevent peace. These include, for example, laws that systematically exclude or discriminate minorities from political participation.

Today, UNESCO offers the concept of a "culture of peace" as a basis for understanding and a platform for global approaches to peace education. The concept has been developed by experts from all over the world over the past ten years and is supported by the member states of UNESCO. According to the UNESCO concept, a "culture of peace" exists if values, attitudes, traditions, behavior and lifestyles meet two requirements: First, if you respect life, end violence and promote non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation, and if so Second, they adhere to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and between nations.

Source text

UN General Assembly Declaration on a Culture of Peace

article 1

A culture of peace is understood to mean the totality of values, attitudes, traditions, behavior and ways of life that are based on

a) respect for life, the end of violence and the promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation;

b) Full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States and non-interference in matters which by their nature belong to the internal jurisdiction of a State, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law;

c) the full respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

d) the obligation to resolve conflicts peacefully;

e) efforts to meet the development and environmental needs of present and future generations;

f) respect for and promotion of the right to development;

g) respect for and promotion of equality and equal opportunities for women and men;

h) respect for and promotion of the right of everyone to freedom of expression, expression and information;

i) observance of the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and between nations;

and are promoted by a national and international environment conducive to peace.

Article 2

A culture of peace can develop better with the help of values, attitudes, behavior and ways of life that serve to promote peace between individual people, groups and nations.

Article 3

The development of a culture of peace is inextricably linked with

a) promoting the peaceful settlement of conflicts, mutual respect, mutual understanding and international cooperation;

b) the fulfillment of international obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law;

c) the promotion of democracy, development and general respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

d) the empowerment of people at all levels to develop skills in dialogue, negotiation, consensus-building and peaceful settlement of disputes;

e) strengthening democratic institutions and ensuring full participation in the development process;

f) eradicating poverty and illiteracy and reducing imbalances within and between nations;

g) promoting sustainable economic and social development;

h) the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women through their equality of power and their equal representation at all levels of decision-making;

i) ensuring the respect, promotion and protection of the rights of the child;

j) ensuring the free flow of information at all levels and facilitating access to information;

k) increasing transparency and accountability in governance;

l) combating all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

m) promoting understanding, tolerance and solidarity towards all cultures, peoples and cultural levels, in particular towards ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities;

n) the full realization of the right of all peoples, namely those who are under colonial or other form of foreign rule or under foreign occupation, to self-determination, which is anchored in the Charter of the United Nations and in the International Human Rights Covenants2 as well as in the resolution 1514 (XV) of the General Assembly of December 14, 1960 contained declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples.

Article 4

Education at all levels is one of the most important tools for building a culture of peace. In this context, human rights education is of particular importance.

Article 5

Governments have a vital role to play in promoting and strengthening a culture of peace.

Article 6

Civil society must be fully involved in the development of a culture of peace.

Article 7

The media, through their role in education and information, help promote a culture of peace.

Article 8

Parents, educators, politicians, journalists, religious bodies and groups, intellectuals, scientists, philosophers, creative people and artists, health and humanitarian workers, social workers, leaders at various levels and non-governmental organizations comes to the promotion of a culture of peace play a key role too.

Article 9

The United Nations should continue to play a vital role in promoting and strengthening a culture of peace around the world.

107th plenary session
September 13, 1999

Source: (accessed on September 30, 2014)



Peace as a core value

Peace is a generally recognized, central value that is also anchored in the Basic Law. The will of the German people is already affirmed in the preamble to "serve the peace of the world". And in Article 26, paragraph 1, it says: "Actions that are suitable and are undertaken with the intention of disturbing the peaceful coexistence of peoples, in particular the waging of a war of aggression, are unconstitutional." Against this background, dealing with the basic value of peace is an outstanding topic for schools and political education. Prominent experts such as Wolfgang Sander emphasize that this discussion must also deal with dilemma situations. These arise from the frequently and controversially discussed question of whether, in certain situations of the worst domestic use of violence (e.g. genocide), military intervention from outside can protect more lives than renouncing the use of military means.

Theoretical treatises and practical reports on peace education often refer to the Norwegian researcher Johan Galtung's concept of peace. Galtung understands peace as a process on an international, social and individual level. Even small steps are identified and given meaning. This comprehensive peace process, which has now been concluded nowhere in the world, aims at a steady decrease in violence and a simultaneous increase in justice. In view of the global potential for violence, however, voices and analyzes from peace research plead for a return to the absence of violence and war as the basic definition of peace.

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As a theoretical foundation for the development of the peace ability of people, societies and states, the "civilizing hexagon" of the Bremen peace researcher Dieter Senghaas is gaining more and more importance in addition to its high relevance for peace studies, especially in the context of political education.

The civilizing hexagon

Senghaas has analyzed the historical development of peace between Western societies over many years. Based on his findings, he formulated six conditions that can guarantee peace:
  1. The monopoly on the use of force rests exclusively with the state and not with tribal leaders or warlords.
  2. The binding of state action to law and order is guaranteed (rule of law).
  3. There are mutual dependencies (interdependencies) and the ability to control spontaneous emotions (affect control).
  4. The possibility of political and social participation is given in the sense of democratic participation.
  5. There is social justice.
  6. The community is based on a culture of constructive conflict management.
Many current school books that have been developed for subjects such as social studies or ethics in secondary education contain information and working instructions on the "hexagon" (hexagon). The thought model is even placed in a tradition with the ideas of peace of the philosophers Immanuel Kant or Thomas Hobbes. The pedagogical development of the "civilizing hexagon" for school and extracurricular educational work in a national and international context is one of the most urgent tasks of peace education today.

Peace education

Peace education as a specialist area seeks educational answers to the persistent readiness to use violence and lack of peace in and between the societies and states of this earth. On the basis of a differentiated concept of peace, it helps to establish cultures of peace. Peace education aims to outlaw war worldwide, to reduce individual, social and political violence and to deal constructively with conflicts. It supports the development of ideas of how people can live peacefully with one another and promotes identities of individuals, groups and communities as peacemakers.

Peace education takes into account the findings and results of peace studies and other relevant disciplines such as neurobiology or media studies when developing independent theoretical approaches and fields of practice. Of particular interest is the question asked in the context of resilience research why some people are more resistant to stressful situations than others and how people can be supported so that they do not resort to violence in seemingly hopeless situations. Peace education takes into account the destructive human potential, but also knows, in harmony with science, about people's ability to cooperate, empathize and learn. It relies on their strength to change or overcome seemingly irreconcilable conflicts of interest and power relations, traditions and structures that encourage violence. Peace education refers to peace-promoting values ​​such as non-violence and human rights. At the same time, she pursues participatory, open learning processes, offers ways of dealing with moral dilemmas regarding the use of (military) force and supports the search for one's own viewpoints and options for action for active non-violence.

Topics and development of peace education

There is still no comprehensive peace science account of the history of peace education in Germany since 1945. Some considerations are based on different historical phases, while others focus on issues that peace education is still concerned with today. The practice of peace education ("peace education", "peace education") has always developed since the Second World War in a close relationship either to global political constellations and upheavals or to internal social challenges. At the international level, for example, the "nuclear arms race" has led to an intensive discussion of the question of how to deal appropriately with children's fears of war in an educational manner. On the other hand, more national issues such as right-wing extremism, xenophobia or depictions of violence in the media have always largely determined the peace education agenda. The resulting variety of topics and approaches can on the one hand be understood as a strength, on the other hand it results in great challenges in the search for a clear (specialist) profile.

Peace education has always dealt with central questions of human coexistence, even if it is more of a niche existence. Because immediately after the Second World War, peace education was not at the center of the re-education pursued by the Allies, i.e. the democratization of the population through education. As early as the 1980s, the educationalist Hermann Röhrs pointed out that the Cold War, with its new enemy images, determined the thinking and acting of those politically and socially responsible too early. After that, there were repeated calls for peace education to be established as a school subject. This could not be achieved either. In addition to committed teachers, it was above all youth associations and peace organizations who took up the impulses of peace education at an early stage with regard to education for international understanding or for dealing with individual and social potential for violence. It should not be forgotten that peace education has always addressed the school and extracurricular areas of education in parallel. While youth associations were among the important target groups for peace education expertise in the 1970s and 1980s, today it is mainly non-governmental organizations.

Methods of Peace Education

The methods of peace education work are very close to those of other, pedagogically related approaches such as education for sustainability or intercultural pedagogy. In peace education, however, methods have been adapted and shaped for their specific objectives over the years. Common principles such as exemplary learning, a change of perspective or everyday orientation can be found in the learning arrangements of peace education as well as the necessary action orientation. Working with best-practice examples of successful peace-building has established itself in numerous model projects in peace education as a form of "exemplary learning". The principle of empowerment was also taken up at an early stage and methodologically developed. Empowerment focuses on the individual: it is about empowering people to perceive and express their own interests. Because strong individuals are the key to social change in terms of empowerment. In view of the living conditions of many people and communities, empowerment has become an essential part of peace education in regions of conflict and war.Nonviolent resistance to poverty, oppression, marginalization, violence and war takes courage, determination and self-confidence.

The fundamental methodological approach of peace education, however, consists in creating spaces for self-reflection and for mutual learning, for encounters and critical discussions. These learning spaces must be developed, designed, tested and evaluated in a way that is appropriate to the target group and the conflict constellations. For this purpose, peace education is often understood as a holistic approach: Accordingly, individual, social and international levels, formal and non-formal education areas are systematically linked and all actors involved are included. One therefore speaks of "multi-track peace education".

Peace education

"When are Germans allowed to kill?" - This was the headline of the news magazine Der SPIEGEL in November 2009 (issue 49). The reason for this provocative question was an article on "The Bundeswehr, Afghanistan and the war in the 21st century". The contribution opened a debate about the consequences of realigning the Bundeswehr as an armed force capable of intervening and ready for action worldwide. The critical examination of current threats to peace and security on the one hand and the peace, security and foreign policy of the Federal Republic of Germany and its allies on the other hand is more urgent than ever before. This discussion requires substantive support and a pronounced culture of dispute and conflict. This can also be seen in the question of how security policy issues in schools should be informed and discussed. The framework agreements that some federal states have concluded with the Bundeswehr since 2008, which facilitate access for youth officers to schools and the training and further education of teachers, are highly controversial. Peace organizations, trade unions and some education experts criticize the fact that the "cooperation agreements" are about politically desired, preferential treatment of an institution or its representatives. This does not stand for civil, but for military-based approaches to international conflict management. Initiatives are called for to develop peace education in schools that is independent of the Bundeswehr, so that non-military options for action can also be adequately presented in schools (e.g.; It is the task of political education in general and peace education in particular to develop learning spaces for this important debate. On the one hand, these should adhere to a clear value orientation (peace, nonviolence) and at the same time initiate open learning processes and meet the criteria of political education such as the requirement of controversy, prohibition of overcoming or current requirement (Beutelsbach consensus). The extent to which these arrangements can systematically find their way into the school sector is a question that is also decided in the political arena.