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Creating a Culture of Peace

Page history last edited by Meghan Flaherty 13 years, 6 months ago



According to the United Nations, "The Culture of Peace is a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations" (UNESCO, 2010). Building a culture of peace in your school essentially means striving to manifest peace education in action and behaviour in daily life. A key component of peace education is modelling these values, attitudes, behaviours and ways of life, by turning knowledge and theory into action.


When students are learning through peace education, the techniques of their education should reflect the values that this education imparts.  Students who learn that their opinions are valued but are not given a mechanism within the school to express their opinions will see the contradiction and may not learn the necessary aspects of peace education.  For this reason, it is essential to not only teach about peace within the classrooms but to create a culture of peace in the school.  This means that all of the values that have been defined throughout this curriculum must be incorporated into activities and interactions throughout the school.  Below are various techniques for how to build a culture of peace in your school, and suggestions based on how schools have created a culture of peace effectively.  These suggestions can help guide you in determining how to implement such a culture in your classroom and in your school.  Please note that although this curriculum separates the process for building a culture of peace into stages of assessment, vision, and strategies, in practice these stages can be integrated into a single discussion or day of brainstorming.  Teaching a culture of peace does not mean teaching students to eschew violence by avoiding disagreements and conflict.  Rather teaching a culture of peace is about teaching students self-inquiry, mindfulness and relationship building, in spite of disagreements and/or conflict. 


As you read this section, think of the following questions:


  • What is the current culture of peace like in my school?
  • What would the ideal culture of peace be like in my school?
  • What are some strategies that I can use to help promote a culture of peace?
  • What are the challenges to a culture of peace in my school? Community? 
  • How can my school be a catalyst for building a culture of peace in the greater community? 


Culture of Peace Assessment

The first step in creating a culture of peace in the school is to assess the current culture of peace. In his book World Peace Through the Town Hall, David Adams (2009) explains how culture of peace assessment can be carried out at the local level. He provides a comprehensive framework which can be adapted and applied to school settings. Adams (2009) emphasizes the importance of the assessment process as being community-driven and -educating. This means that the assessment process should be led by community members and inclusive of all community members, and through this process all community members will come to a greater understanding about a culture of peace. In a school setting, this means that all members - students, teachers, administrators, non-academic staff, parents - should be involved in assessing the current culture and envisioning what an ideal culture of peace would look like.


The first step in culture of peace assessment is defining the culture of peace. The earlier section on culture of peace explores several different frameworks that can be used to guide community members towards a culture of peace concept for their setting. Adams (2009) advocates for using the UNESCO model for a universally-accepted approach and applicability. For example, to adapt the UNESCO model to the school context, the area of international peace and security could be changed to local peace and security. As this process is educative, it is important for the community to understand the concepts of a culture of peace, and to define a culture of peace as relevant to them. 


Once you have determined the framework or definition for a culture of peace, you can use an assessment tool to guide your inquiry. Possible tools include questionnaires, art projects, class discussions, and focus groups. Here are some examples of questionnaires that can be used to assess the culture of peace. The questions outlined below can also be used in other types of assessment formats.

1) Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace have developed a culture of peace assessment tool that can be used to develop indicators for culture of peace assessment. This tool can be used on its own, or it can be used to develop indicators, which would then be used in another questionnaire or data collection method.


2) Another questionnaire strategy is to take your school’s "temperature" on peace, human rights, multiculturalism, or any of the other sub-categories within this peace curriculum.  The University for Minnesota Human Rights Center has developed a human rights temperature questionnaire, which can be found here. There is a questionnarie in which students, teachers, staff, administrators and parents/guardians are asked to assess (on a scale of 1 to 4) if various rights from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are part of their school’s culture.  These questions can easily be adapted to relate to any other area of peace education as well as to the reality of your school.  


3) You can also develop your own survey, based on your community's definition of a culture of peace. Here are some sample questions to assess a culture of peace. These questions address the values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life per the UNESCO definition of a culture of peace. Also, as schools seek to develop student’s knowledge, each section also includes a question about knowledge. Therefore, each section includes questions about knowledge, values, skills, and behaviors (how the knowledge, values, and skills play out in day-to-day life).

These questions are addressed to “community members.” However, the questionnaire should be adapted for different groups of the community that would have commonalities in their experience, for example, students, teachers, staff, parents, etc.

While these questions are in the form of a questionnaire, this is just one way that community members can be involved in the assessment. Some people prefer to participate in writing, as perhaps they communicate most effectively in writing, or they prefer anonymity. However, additional methodologies should be included, such as interviews, group discussions or focus groups. These questions could serve to guide for interviews or discussion. In a culture of peace assessment, using different modes of assessment allows community members to participate in different ways, and would strengthen the overall assessment process.

The following categories are based on the UNESCO culture of peace framework (category 8 is changed from “international peace and security” to “local peace and security”). The main strength of this framework is that it is most universally recognized, as it was developed in the United Nations. However, as a community, you may wish to include additional components used in other models. Please see the Culture of Peace page for additional models.

It should be noted that a culture of peace is a constant process, and thus requires continuous (perhaps annual) assessment in order to progress. If such an assessment is carried out annually, you can monitor your progress towards a culture of peace, and adopt policies and programs that strengthen the areas where your are already strong, and support the areas where the culture of peace may be weaker.


Culture of Peace Assessment Sample Questions:
1. Education

  • Do community members develop knowledge about peace?
  • Do community members value peace?
  • Do community members develop skills for peace in the classroom (i.e, nonviolent communication, conflict resolution, etc)?
  • Do community members behave peacefully in the classroom? In common areas?
  • How are peace education principles integrated across the curriculum?
  • Are peace education pedagogies used?
  • What is the student-teacher relationship like?

2. Sustainable Economic and Social Development

  • Do community members learn about sustainable development?
  • Do community members value sustainable development?
  • Do community members develop skills for living sustainable development?
  • Do community members behave in ways that promote sustainable development?

3. Human Rights

  • Do community members develop knowledge about human rights?
  • Do community members value human rights?
  • Do community members develop skills to promote human rights?
  • Do community members behave in ways that promote their own human rights? the rights of others?

4. Equality between men and women

  • Do community members develop knowledge about gender equality?
  • Do community members value gender equality?
  • Do community members develop skills to promote gender equality?
  • Do community members behave in ways that promote gender equality?

5. Democratic participation

  • Do community members develop knowledge about democratic participation?
  • Do community members value gender democratic participation?
  • Do community members develop skills to promote democratic participation?
  • Do community members have the opportunity to participate democratically in decisions that affect them?

6. Participatory communication and the free flow of information

  • Do community members develop knowledge about democratic participation?
  • Do community members value gender democratic participation?
  • Do community members develop skills to promote democratic participation?
  • Do community members have the opportunity to participate democratically in decisions that affect them?

7. Understanding, tolerance* and solidarity

  • Do community members develop knowledge about understanding? tolerance? solidarity?
  • Do community members value understanding? tolerance? solidarity?
  • Do community members develop skills to promote understanding? tolerance? solidarity?
  • Do community members behave in ways that promote understanding? tolerance? solidarity?

8. Local peace and security

  • Do community members develop knowledge to promote local peace and security (i.e., conflict resolution, knowledge about safety)?
  • Do community members value local peace, security, and safety?
  • Do members develop skills to promote local peace, security, and safety (i.e, conflict resolution skills, safetly skills)?
  • Do members behave in ways that promote local peace, security and safety?

*You may wish to change the term “tolerance” to “respect” or “acceptance”. Sometimes “tolerance” may have a negative connotation (i.e., to put up with something). In any case, all of the terms used in these questions should be clearly defined and/or changed as relevant to the community.


Culture of Peace Vision

After completing the first step of culture of peace assessment, the community should envision what an ideal culture of peace would look like. Techniques used in futures education could be used to guide the community towards a collective vision of a culture of peace. For example, you could hold a one-day workshop through which community members would envision an ideal culture of peace. Questions about each program area for a culture of peace could guide the workshop, such as:


  • What would education look like under a culture of peace?
  • What would our school look like if sustainable development principles (such as those in the Earth Charter) were integrated?
  • What would our school look like if human rights were respected and promoted across the community?
  • What would our school look like with perfect gender equality?
  • What would our school look like with participatory communication and a free flow of information? What would community-wide communication look like in a culture of peace? What would interpersonal communication look like in a culture of peace? 
  • What would our school look like if understanding, tolerance, and solidarity were integrated?
  • What would our school look like with increased democratic participation?
  • What would our school look like with increased local peace, security, and safety? 


These questions can also be expanded to encourage students to envision what a culture of peace in their community beyond school walls would look like (i.e. family, town, city, country).


The arts could be used as a creative technique to envision the culture of peace. For example, you could ask students to draw a picture of what the culture of peace would look like, and then ask students to share their drawings and talk about them.


Strategies for a culture of peace in your school
Once you have established where you are on the culture of peace spectrum and where you want to go, you need to develop strategies for how to progress towards a culture of peace. Here are some suggestions for how to promote a culture of peace in your school. A culture of peace can be promoted in many ways, and you should think as creatively as possible.

One idea for the overall promotion of a culture of peace would be to highlight one culture of peace area per month, and to focus activities on that area for the month (for example, you could use March as Gender Equality month, in conjunction with International Women’s Day).

1. Education

  • Integrate peace education pedagogies in all subject areas
  • Allow lots of space for student-led activities, dialogue
  • Ensure that the materials learned are applied to students’ lives
  • Incorporate service learning, experiential learning
  • Create a balanced, equal relationship between all community members, and all community members value the knowledge of others
  • Develop a school charter/classroom charter with the students that adheres to the culture of peace principles, and that everyone can agree to

2. Sustainable Economic and Social Development

3. Human Rights

  • Celebrate International Human Rights Day (December 10)
  • Ensure that your school is accessible to people of different abilities
  • Promote free speech in conjunction with participatory information and the free flow of information
  • Hold workshops/events on diversity, equality, discrimination, and other human rights-related themes
  • Incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) into the curriculum

4. Equality between men and women

  • Celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8)
  • Mainstream gender equality in the curriculum
  • Ensure that girls are receiving equal access to education and resources (for example, if you live in an area where girls’ enrollment is low, work towards increasing girls’ enrollment)
  • Work toward gender equality in staff 

5. Democratic participation

  • Encourage democratic decision making at all levels of the school (i.e, student body, have student representatives on committees)
  • Promote the democratic participation of students in their learning process
  • Take a field trip to local government offices for students to learn about the democratic process in action in their community 

6. Participatory communication and the free flow of information

  • Develop varied methods of communication (web site, newsletter, announcements, radio broadcasts, etc, depending on the media available in your area). Promote student involvement in communications, such as through a student web site, newsletter, newspaper, radio show, etc.
  • Integrate nonviolent communication training and skill-building for all community members 

7. Understanding, tolerance and solidarity

  • Integrate multicultural understanding programs as part of the curriculum or extracurricular activities
  • Promote solidarity by finding a “sister school” in another part of the world (can be done through a pen pal exchange between students, or if computers are accessible, online; See World Wise Schools for pen pal resources)
  • Integrate anti-racism education into the curriculum 

8. Local peace and security

  • Celebrate International Day of Peace (September 21)
  • Integrate nonviolent conflict resolution training for all community members
  • Develop a peer mediation program 


Culture of Peace Examples from Around the World

Cooperation in Northern Ireland and the Middle East: Reports from the United Nations that focus on creating a culture of peace emphasize the importance of placing students together who are typically separated by society.  This can be through giving girls and boy equal opportunities or via placing students from groups that are in conflict (example: Israelis and Palestinians) in the same location.  The idea is that when students work together within a school setting they will create a peace that will emanate into the larger society.  The United Nations recommends that any projects in which students must work together (see the section on Cooperative Learning for more on how to work together) can promote a culture of peace.  These activities can range from planting trees together or to planning trips, especially to areas that experience conflict(whether that conflict is completely different or incredibly similar to what the students experience in their home country).  One example can be seen in a group of youth from Northern Ireland (both Protestant and Catholic youth) who traveled to the Middle East to meet with Arab and Israeli youth and share experiences and solutions to the violence that they see in their lives (Global Youth Solidarity Fund and Programme, 2006). 


Senegal: In Senegal Oxfam International has funded a successful program for teaching peace education to elementary school students (Hufstader, 2007).  For them, creating a culture of peace within the school happens when the students are actively integrated into the structure of the school.  A student government body, which includes a minister of human rights, helps organize activities that promote peace within the school culture.  School administrators and instructor, as well as peer mediators, also intervene when disagreements turn violent (in language or in actions) and work with all parties to develop a solution. 


Mexico: Throughout Latin America, with the help of UNESCO, schools have take on programs to promote a culture of peace to address the juvenille violence that exists throughout the region.  In Mexico a primary school adopted a program which incorporated creating a culture of peace among its student body and also ensuring that the parents understood and worked with the culture of peace (UNESCO Santiago, 2001).  The students and their parents worked with various peace concepts for a period of time via reflections, drawings, games, lectures and analysis.  The school had great success in incorporating the values of peace into both the educational and the broader community.  A school in Aguascalientes, Mexico implemented school-wide workshops to discuss the human right of education for all, especially ensuring that marginalized communities had access. Through these workshops students also created an environment in which their opinions were listened to and valued and in which students grew to value civic participation as an integral aspect of both their education and their future.   


Norway:  Within Norway some schools have used music to create cross-cultural peace (Skyllstad, 2000).  Norway has a large immigrant population (mostly refugees and asylum seekers) and experiences tensions as related to the heterogeneous population.  Therefore, some schools decided to adopt inter-ethnic musical programs to promote a culture of peace within their schools.  Music is an example of an activity that works because it requires students from various backgrounds to work together.  When students work together to create music they create something that is greater than what either of them could have done alone.  They also bond and improve social skills.  Research of inter-ethnic music programs in Norway shows that they were incredibly successful in promoting a culture of peace within the schools where they were implemented.


Rwanda: In the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, many NGOs have taken up the cause of promoting a culture of peace, both within the schools and outside the formal education system (Institut fur Friedenspadagogkik, 2010). These programs focus on creating structures that promote justice and national reconstruction. The programs are also currently moving towards incorporating more aspects of communication and conflict resolution skills. These education programs have been important in rebuilding Rwanda as a society based in peace, rather than conflict.


Challenges to Creating a Culture of Peace and How To Address Them (Wells, 2003) 


Materials and Time Constraints: One problem that those who teach peace encounter is that traditional textbooks or other materials ignore the contributions of peace makers and the ideas of peace. Most history books focus on the battle (not the peace) that was waged. Additionally, school curriculums may require teachers to focus on violent aspects. This entire curriculum is designed to provide teachers with the resources needed to help address the lack of books and information. With regards to curriculum, teachers must work to be creative in determining how to connect peace to whatever the student are learning about. The Advocates for Human Rights have shown great success in connecting their human rights curriculums to various Minnesota State Standards (a system that guides the curriculum in the United States). To see how they have achieved this, visit their website at http://www.mnadvocates.org/ .


Basic Needs: One of the biggest impediments to all education is when students' basic needs are not met. This can be especially true for peace education since violence is a common result of poverty, and often time poverty is the result of structural violence (see Negative and Positive Peace). Students' basic needs include food, water and shelter, and also basic safety. Teachers who work with students who encounter barriers to fulfilling their basic needs must work to empower students additionally, given the lack of agency they feel from poverty and/or war. Additionally, within peace education, teachers can work with students to create change regarding the situations that they face. LVEP (Living Values Education Program) started a program to teach peace to children in refugee camps (Tillman, 2001).  Tillman (2001) describes this program as it was implemented in a Karen refugee camp. There were concerns expressed that by teaching peace the refugees would be seen as surrendering, which would lead to their death. Therefore, peace education in the context of violence was framed with regards to rebuilding the country when the conflict was over. The LVEP program trained teachers to go and teach a culture of peace to the members of their camps. The teachers were trained to lead children in reflection activities in a safe environment and to experience peace, love and respect within the classroom. The students also discussed conflict and how it comes about, both from their personal perspectives and international perspectives. 


Internal Peace/Inner Peace/Personal Peace  As mentioned above, peace is often neglected in education. However, internal peace is ignored to a greater extent.  Therefore teachers must ensure that they are approaching their students with a holistic perspective so that students learn the important of internal peace as well as external peace. Both the Flower model and the Integral model (see Culture of Peace section) include personal or inner peace as components to a culture of peace. Some techniques for the promotion of internal peace include: journaling; time for reflection (individually, in pairs or as a group); silent period/meditation; breathing exercises; art; yoga. The techniques used should be culturally appropriate for the setting in which you are teaching. However, as different techniques resonate with different people, you should expose students to as many different techniques as possible, and then perhaps set aside "personal peace" time, during which students could elect to engage in their preferred method of practicing personal peace. Furthermore, students should be encouraged to practice personal peace throughout their days and their lives, not just during the designated practice time. Incorporating these practices will create a more peaceful classroom environment.


Beyond the School Walls

While building a culture of peace in your school is the first step, it is important that this project does not just stop at the school walls, but rather extends to the greater community. Once you have started to build a comprehensive culture of peace program at your school, you can begin to extend this program to the outside community. One example would be to start a Peace Zone around the school, perhaps using a one-block or two-block (100-200 meter) radius. A peace zone would be more than a weapons-free zone, but rather a zone where nonviolence, justice, equality, and environmental sustainability are promoted. 


The school can also use service learning opportunities to integrate culture of peace principles in the community. For example, the school could host a community event for promoting human rights or environmental sustainability, or students could promote international understanding and solidarity by holding a fundraiser for a marginalized or at-risk community. There are many ways that the school can be a catalyst and model for a community culture of peace - the only limit is your creativity!


Additional Resources

UN Culture of Peace pamphlet: http://www.un.org/events/UNART/panel_culture_of_peace04.pdf

Victory over Violence: http://www.vov.com/cultureofpeace/indexh.php?mod=main&id=27

Sample International Peace Day Activities: http://www.cultureofpeace.com/calendar/peaceday/ngo/kids.htm

Culture of Peace Initiative: http://cultureofpeace.org/cpi_projects_blog/

Creating a Culture of Peace: http://www.creatingacultureofpeace.org/

For an exploration of the culture of peace at the university level, please see Exploring the Culture of Peace at the University for Peace (Knox Cubbon, 2010).

Taking Your Human Rights Temperature: http://www.hrusa.org/thisismyhome/project/temp.shtml and http://www.hrusa.org/hrmaterials/temperature/default.shtm



Adams, D. (2009). World Peace Through the Town Hall. Self-published Available at:     



Global Youth Solidarity Fund and Programme. (2006). Youth Cooperation for Culture of Peace and Dialogue [Pamphlet]. Retrieved from:



Hufstader, C. (2007). Building a culture of peace in Senegal . Retrieved from Oxfam

     America website: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/articles/building-a-culture-of-peace-in-senegal


Institut fur Friedenspadagokik. (2010). Training in Teaching Methods in order to Reinforce a Culture of Peace in Schools - Rwanda. Retrieved from: 



Skyllstad, K. (2000). Creating a Culture of Peace The Performing Arts in Interethnic Negotiations.

     In Intercultural Communications, November, issue 4. Retrieved from http://www.immi.se/intercultural/nr4/skyllstad.htm


Tillman, D. G. (2001). Educating for a Culture of Peace In Refugee Camps. In Childhood Education: International Focus Issue. Retrieved from:



UNESCO. (2010). Culture of Peace: What is It? (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www3.unesco.org/iycp/uk/uk_sum_cp.htm


UNESCO Santiago. (2001). Cultura de Paz en la Escuela: Mejores Prácticas en la Prevención y Tratamiento de la Violencia Escola [The

     culture of peace in schools. Best practices in the prevention and treatment of school violence]. Retrieved from:



University of Minnesota Human RIghts Resource Center. (2010). Taking Your Human Rights Temperature. Retrieved from Minnesota Department of

     Human Rights, University of Minnesota Human Rights Resource Center website: http://www.hrusa.org/thisismyhome/project/temp.shtml


Wells, L. C. (2003). A Culture of Teaching Peace. Presented to the UNESCO Conference on Intercultural Education in Finland on June 16, 2003.

    Retrieved from: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0616-01.htm


Comments (3)

Meghan Flaherty said

at 12:04 am on Aug 6, 2010

I thought this section was very well done, and I especially thought the guiding questions at the beginning and the specific strategies for a culture of peace were very helpful.
Some suggestions I had...
1. I think we should include some alternative assessment options than the questionnaire format. Structures such as art and group forums are mentioned elsewhere, but not in the assessment section. Also, if the idea is to conduct paper-based surveys, the question must be addressed of who is going to compile and analyze the data from that? Considering the resources such a task would take is especially why we should suggest alternate approaches (e.g. in student classrooms, teacher meetings, parent meetings these communities as groups discuss and produce shared assessments).
2. Though it is necessary for our curriculum's organizational purposes to break up the assessment/vision/strategy phases, it might be helpful to mention in an introductory way that in practice these do not have to be completely separate entities. For instance, a class could hold a discussion that in one sitting incorporated all three stages.
3. Under the 'Culture of Peace Vision' section we could suggest that visions don't necessarily have to be limited to the school, but could be expanded to broader levels such as town, city, country...
4. Under the 'Sustainable Economic and Social Development' strategies section, I wasn't sure what the Earth Charter was, and it isn't linked to anything.. this could just be my lack of knowledge? Or we might need to add a link to what this is.
5. Under the 'Equality between Women and Men' strategies section we could add a bullet point regarding working toward gender equality in staff.
Overall a really great section though!

Meghan Flaherty said

at 12:13 am on Aug 6, 2010

Oh, forgot, I'm not sure where/if this would fit in, but reading this section I was reminded of a program we did at my high school modeled off of Link Crew's (http://www.boomerangproject.com/link) freshman orientation/welcome program. Our program was called BRIDGES (Building Relationships in Diverse Groups to Empower Students and Staff). Led by two student leaders (juniors/seniors) and a teacher leader, randomly mixed groups of about 25 students from all four grade levels met together for one hour a week during school. The foremost purpose was to build a stronger sense of community within the school, but the secondary purpose was to provide a forum to address and discuss all sorts of issues that often escape classroom attention but are incredibly relevant to students: health, diversity, stereotypes, bullying, racism, etc.
I'm not sure how this could be incorporated into the curriculum, perhaps as an example, perhaps as a listed resource? But at least the basic concept of a welcome program for new students into a school would be a great strategy for building a culture of peace.
Article about the BRIDGES program: http://www.misd.k12.wa.us/news/e-connections/bridges.html

Stephanie Knox said

at 12:30 pm on Aug 7, 2010

Hi Meghan,
These are great suggestions - do you want to go ahead and add/change as you see fit? I'm really happy to have your thoughtful contributions to this page.

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