The event was held alongside a United Nations event and was attended by a number of important figures and representatives of international organizations, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations Assistant for partnerships in the Middle East and Central Asia, Rashid Khalikov, and involving the participation and support of the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations, which provided all the facilities and technical and logistical support for the event.
Mr/Mohammed bin Ali Al-Ghamdi, Executive Director for International Development at QC, said that the event met with considerable praise, pointing to the importance of QC’s desire to highlight the role of education in promoting social harmony in post-conflict areas such as Somalia, Sri Lanka and Bosnia.
Rashid Khalikov congratulated QC on its efforts and thanked the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar's for its contribution.
He added “Education during emergencies is a human subject, pointing out that the provision of education decreases the risk of violence and conflict. He then highlighted that the importance of education should not stop at children and young people but it should reach parents equally for the life continuation feeling it provides.
Program of the session
The session was initiated by Al-Ghamdi who welcomed the attendees before playing an introductory video about QC, followed by the submission of papers by experts from international organizations and institutions and academics from four universities. The first axis provided a general background on the event theme of ‘The role of education in promoting social harmony’, the second was entitled ‘what is expected from education in terms of the re-modeling of social harmony in the post-conflict areas?’, the third included case studies from Somalia, Sri Lanka and the fourth and last discussion covered education and its impact on conflicts as well as society.
The first axis
“The role of education in promoting social harmony, the main theme of this event, covers a range of issues, namely: the reality of conflicts across the world and their effects, conflict resolution and peace-sustainability efforts, conflict and issues connected to social cohesion, education and the promotion of social harmony and the challenges facing the harnessing of education in promoting social harmony,” Al Ghamdi said, concluding that the first axis posed a range of questions, answered by the following axes.
The second axis
the second axis was presented by Dr/Mohammed Sharqawi, Professor of Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, and included a definition of social harmony in terms of academic and research based social theories. Sharqawi discussed the relationships between social harmony, identity, economic interests, marital status and belonging to a group or community.
Prof.Sharqawi spoke of a Bosnian case, providing a practical example of how to adapt the tool of education in order to achieve and promote social harmony in a country like Bosnia, which suffered from ethnic and religious conflict for over five years, leading to the murder and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and tearing apart the social fabric of the communities.
The session ended with proposals for education re-modeling before social harmony by focusing on three key factors: redesign of the curriculum and reviewing the curricula of existing decisions, by focusing on primary and secondary education as a sustainable Peace factor, and finally, promoting and spreading the culture of equal citizenship.
The third axis
As for case studies, Mr.Abdul Rahman Sharif, Head of Non-Governmental organizations in Somalia, used Somalia as a model, including background on the country and explaining that in reality the country is divided into three areas; Somaliland (independent), Portland (autonomous) and southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu.
Sharif spoke about the conflict in Somalia and the different types of conflict. His paper considered the implications of the collapse of the education system in many areas of Somalia. He went on to consider some of the initiatives in the revival of the educational process and the use of different types of education as tools to promote social harmony and a culture of peace, ending with recommendations and proposals on strengthening and unifying the educational system in order to promote a culture of peace and social harmony.
Miss/Stephanie Licht, head of evaluation and follow-up in the German agency GIZ, gave a presentation on the Sri Lankan case, covering the German experience through the program supported by the German government and which has been in place since 2005, i.e. during and after the conflict. The program achieved outstanding results in terms of social harmony through education. The Sri Lankan situation can be characterised by its similarity to the current conflicts in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen in terms of ethnic, religious, sectarian and ethnic diversity, with differences in culture, religious beliefs and even language.
The program focused on secondary education, where numerous approaches and curricula were used at the beginning of the program through its application to a sample of schools reached 200 schools before ruling out a combination of these approaches that have proven to be of no importance or unfeasible in achieving social harmony, along with the adoption of approaches, which contributed to its promotion.
Among the most important program success factors were the contribution and participation of the government and its complete conviction of the program importance, the desire of local authorities for the success of the program, the contribution and participation of local communities in the program and their interaction with it, and finally the use and adoption of a multi-level approach (government, region (province), schools) during the design and application.
The program focused on three issues involving curriculum design: social and psychological care (to address the effects of violence and conflict on the target groups), education of the second nationality (Sinhala, Tamil) in secondary education, and peace and the values of education. At the end of the paper Licht spoke of the positive results achieved, backing them up with numbers and statistics.
The fourth axis
Axes four and five were introduced by Dr. Alan Codman, President of the International Institute of Education in New York. Codman presented some important information about education and the conflict-affected and vulnerable, particularly students and teachers.
He spoke of the importance of involving local people in the planning of finding solutions to the problems of education in their respective countries, as well as the need to be supportive of the political administration of the educational process and to support the importance of the resumption of education in conflict zones.
Codman’s talk focused on three key issues in education in conflict zones: protecting teachers, the training and enabling of teachers in places of conflict and focusing on the dropout of students and their immediate return and reintegration into education.