Open Access Capstone
Lasting peace requires more than signing a formal political agreement between adversaries. Genuine peace-building in the post-conflict settings must also include efforts aimed at reconciling opposing groups or nations.
Peace-building measures will necessarily involve formal and non-formal education and training programs aimed at changing negative attitudes and perceptions of the other side, as well as fostering peaceful coexistence and reconciliation between former belligerent parties. These activities fall under broader category of peace education as a coexistence and reconciliation tool. Peace education programs should be implemented both within formal educational systems and at the society-level.
Peace education programs in the regions of intractable conflict should pay particular attention to the socio-psychological aspects of the conflict. Among the goals of peace education are gradual legitimization of the other side's collective narrative, critical assessment of one's group role in the conflict, developing empathy and trust toward other group in an effort to narrow psychological distance between opposing groups, and in this way creating grounds for inter-group dialogue and understanding.
The fact that peace education programs deal with deep-rooted beliefs and attitudes makes the implementation of such programs challenging, because of the underlying contextual and situational factors that stimulate inter-group conflict. Negative attitudes and perceptions on many occasions are ideologically sustained and used to support the political objectives of ruling elites. Artificial maintenance of negative perceptions of other groups is internalized by the ingroup thus making any changes in perceptions and attitudes hard to achieve.
Peace education programs in the context of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan will are likely to produce only limited results if implemented amidst on-going conflict. The fact that the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan in general and the current conflict are deeply embedded in the historical narratives can potentially hinder reconciliation efforts even after the formal end of the conflict.
Thus peace education programs in this region should concentrate among other things on fostering discussion and reconsideration at the intra-societal and inter-societal level of these underlying factors that reinforce negative perceptions and attitudes. Critical assessment of the costs and benefits of the linkage between historiography and present-day foreign policy agenda is necessary.
In the context of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan development of the peace education programs at the society level should precede or be implemented simultaneously with the work on changing and introducing new curriculum.