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The year, 2019, marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace. The Culture of Peace and Non-violence as advanced by UNESCO includes a commitment to promote conflict prevention; peace education and education for non-violence; tolerance, acceptance, and mutual respect; and intercultural and interfaith dialogue and reconciliation, among other principles.

Education and the protection of cultural heritage are critical to the promotion of the Culture of Peace. Properly structured, peace education can influence behaviors and attitudes from the earliest stages of human development, promoting a culture of inclusivity as the basis for interactions. Geographic sites and objects of cultural heritage, such as ancient landmarks, art, or other antiquities, are symbols of unity over time. Their protection represents a recognition of cultural diversity and a commitment to strive for peaceful coexistence.

Including peace education as a core principle of national curricula centered on teaching practical skills related to nonviolence, conflict resolution, human rights, and civic participation can form a critical part of building a sustainable peace.

The year 2019 is a critical year for conflict settings in many parts of the world. Will Iraq at last turn the page on a generation of conflict to make significant progress on the difficult task of post-conflict reconstruction and recovery? Will the parties to the conflict in Yemen implement the Stockholm Agreement and work further to produce an enduring peace? Will the February peace agreement signed in the Central African Republican be successfully brought to the whole people throughout the country? And how can the international community contribute to the establishment of a sustainable peace in Iraq, Yemen, CAR, and beyond?

In societies such as the Central African Republic, Iraq, or Yemen that have been struck by deep divisions, a critical part of post-conflict recovery will entail training in how to manage internal conflict without resorting to violence. How can international actors best support this effort at the national and local levels?
Every society is defined in large measure by its collective heritage – the culture, traditions, and artifacts passed on from previous generations. We define ourselves by our history and the stories we tell ourselves about that history, which is often represented in cultural and physical artifacts, like art and architecture.

The long-term recovery of Iraq, Yemen, and the Central African Republic will require a commitment to safeguard cultural heritage. It will require physical protection and investment in post-conflict reconstruction and recovery where possible. And it will require educating the young on the value of their cultural heritage and the benefits of preservation as part of a curriculum of peace education.  

The World Forum for the Culture of Peace, organized by the Albabtain Cultural Foundation, did bring together high-level officials from government and international organizations, academics, and members of civil society to discuss the Culture of Peace, Education, and the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

What is the role of the international community in protecting cultural heritage? What concrete projects can be established to move forward with building a sustainable peace in the Middle East and Central African regions?

How can peace education best be incorporated into the post-conflict plans for sustaining peace? How can investment in post-conflict reconstruction and recovery best assist the Iraqi, Yemeni, and Central African people with the long-term protection of their cultural heritage? And how will this help build an inclusive, sustainable peace? 

Participants discussed these issues and more. Discussions provided analysis on how to make the culture of peace a practical and tangible reality, suggested concrete projects, and identified real solutions to current challenges.

Session One

Post-conflict reconstruction and recovery requires the protection of cultural heritage and peace education as a part of the process of national reconciliation. Broad international support is required for success. How can the international community best provide that support? Session I of the World Forum for the Culture of Peace featured High-level interventions from national and international representatives.

Session Two

Historians have long known Iraq as a “cradle of civilization,” and Yemen is home to a unique architectural beauty and historical significance. Iraq is home to more than 10,000 cultural heritage sites, ranging from the 5,500-year-old cities of Sumer to archaeological remains of the Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Parthian cultures. 

People have inhabited the area of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, for over 2,500 years. By one count, there are 103 mosques and over 6,000 houses in Sana’a built before the 11th century. War and violent extremism have put this all at risk. Six of the fifty-four World Heritage sites listed by UNESCO as “endangered” are in Iraq and Yemen. Catastrophic losses have already been sustained. How can these sites be best protected and where necessary rebuilt? How will the protection of cultural heritage factor into plans to be build a sustainable peace in Iraq and Yemen? How can international actors best support this nationally-led process?

Session Three

Educational institutions hold a fundamental role in building a culture of peace. “Through education,” said Ban Ki Moon, “we teach children not to hate.  Through education, we raise leaders who act with wisdom and compassion.  Through education, we establish a true, lasting culture of peace.” This session addressed the challenge of promoting the culture of peace through education with a special focus on the Central African Republic.

Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony identified concrete projects for promoting the Culture of Peace through education and the Protection of Cultural Heritage. At the beginning of this ceremony Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain presented a series of education manuals to teach the Culture of Peace for the Security of Future Generations as part of a broad curricula on peace for diverse education levels.

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