Building peace, at the heart of our society

Everyone can invest in a society that favors dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Schools and civil society play a determining role in raising awareness, reconciling collective memory, cultivating democracy and cooperation between individuals, communities and States.

Within our democracies, everyone can contribute to building peace and encourage citizens to practice listening and democratic dialogue, whether within a family, a neighborhood, or an association, a school or a wider community. History shows that greater democratic participation decreases the likelihood that societies will resolve conflicts through violence and war. However, peace and democracy are being built at all levels of society!

In Europe, since the end of the Second World War, States and civil society have been able to build and invest in institutions – local, national and international – to develop democracy, cooperation, mediation and peaceful and legal processes of conflict resolution.

However, peace is never guaranteed and we must constantly act on all available levers to maintain dialogue. This is why the United Nations General Assembly adopted, on January 15, 1998, the notion of “culture of peace”: “The culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, behaviors and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by addressing their roots through dialogue and negotiation between individuals, groups and States” .

Today, the geopolitical balance is confronted with a global war in Ukraine and a reconfiguration of alliances between powers. In a fragile context, international organizations created to prevent conflicts – such as the UN – must imagine new models of cooperation between States to build a new balance favorable to peace (read the portrait of Pierre Hazan below in this number).

If we, as simple citizens, may feel overwhelmed – and even frightened – by the war in Ukraine, it is essential to remember that everyone can act at their own level to build peace. at the heart of our society.

“It is essential to remember that everyone can act at their own level to build peace at the heart of our society. »

School can develop essential skills

In France, the famous neuropsychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik recently published a work in which he identifies emotional lack in children as a factor in adult violence.[1]. He therefore calls for teaching empathy at school to prevent violence on a societal scale.

The educational space is in fact a vector of emancipation, where students and teachers become agents of change, becoming aware of past and present inequities and prejudices. This involves helping students analyze and transform their vision of the world, defined by cultural, family, historical, religious and societal influences, in order to build a new common vision shared with other students.

Let us emphasize from the outset that the school is an institution of our society and, as such, often reproduces its inequalities, its discrimination, its conflicts of values and even its social violence: school harassment, vandalism, conflicts between students and teachers. , lack of public resources, exhaustion of the teaching staff, etc.

But there is no shortage of goodwill and educational tools to meet the challenge: discussion groups to defuse situations of harassment, working groups to improve “living together” in the class and school, positive impetus from management of the establishment, …

With these tools and assets, the school can therefore help children to first know themselves, to appreciate themselves, to understand and to consider with sympathy the notions of justice, equality, freedom, tolerance, of democracy and make them want to work for a more humane, more united world.

To achieve this, schools must develop the capacity to recognize and accept the values required for common life, and to appreciate other cultures; the ability to dialogue and modify one's judgment; ability to resolve conflicts constructively[2].

“The school can develop the ability to dialogue and modify its judgment; abilities to resolve conflicts constructively.”

A model program in New York

The City of New York has implemented a project that is now a benchmark: the Creative Conflict Resolution Program (RCCP), funded by New York public schools and by an independent non-profit organization.[3]. He understands :

  • A program of study, from kindergarten to the beginning of secondary school, which consists of teaching several key techniques such as active listening, assertiveness, cooperation, recognition of diversity, critical thinking... skills practiced in particular through role play and group discussion, ensuring participation and interactivity.
  • Continuing training and ongoing technical assistance for teachers.
  • A mediation program provided by the students: in the event of a conflict in the playground, for example, students wearing a “mediator” vest offer to find a solution together.
  • Training for parents who are called upon to lead, in turn, workshops intended for other parents.
  • Training of administrative staff, so that, in the exercise of their functions, they promote the implementation of the program

Note that in Europe, schools with active pedagogy often implement participatory conflict mediation processes.

“In Belgium, many popular education and continuing education actors raise awareness and mobilize citizens for democracy, social justice, solidarity and peace. »

Continuing education in action

Beyond schools, all of civil society also plays a determining role in building peace at the heart of our society. In Belgium, many popular education and continuing education actors raise awareness and mobilize citizens for democracy, social justice, solidarity and peace. Associations – such as Justice & Peace – develop educational tools that allow actors in society to address, in public, the challenges of a fairer world.

Also, actors from the cultural world stage our Humanity in images, in music, in text, in shows, etc. to open our senses and our emotions to a common, desirable and peaceful imagination.

The immigrantsthey share the values of their host country

“Immigrants share the dominant values of their host country”, reveals a large survey carried out in 35 European countries between 2017 and 2020, focusing on the meaning that individuals give to family, work, leisure, relationships at home. others, religion and politics[4].

The political scientist Bernard Denni, who participated in this sociological survey, summarizes the conclusions: 

“The mixing of norms and values between natives, immigrantses and foreigners, against a backdrop of social inequalities, is not always a smooth river and generates inevitable tensions. But these analyzes do not reveal any divides between the values of natives and those of immigrants justifying a feeling of threat.[5].

Indeed, people of foreign origin and natives share traditional values in the East and South of Europe, and values of personal emancipation in the North and West of Europe.

“Immigration policies should further favor these sociological mechanisms by which immigrants become Europeans like any other. », concludes Bernard Denni.

In reality, xenophobic speeches (“Immigrants represent a threat”), used by far-right parties, taken up by right-wing parties and over-publicized by certain media, aim to create a climate of fear and a political divide to capture the electoral votes of citizens who feel downgraded and precarious in a society lacking reference points. To build peace and maintain social cohesion, it is therefore, more than ever, a question of investing in education, social justice and solidarity within an inclusive project for the benefit of all citizens.

Friendship, a vector of peace?

From Antiquity to today, friendship has played different roles within our societies. In the eyes of the ancient Greeks, friendship was the principle that held societies, even the entire Universe, together. During troubled times, from Roman times to the Middle Ages, friendship was political: lords and notables had to find trusted allies to exercise power.

Gestures of friendship have become codified. Originally, shaking hands demonstrated to the person you were talking to that you were not holding a hidden weapon in your hand.

In our contemporary societies, where old social structures (couple, family, professional relationships, neighborhood relationships, parties, unions, etc.) are weakened, friendship now embodies a private, lasting and reliable relationship, on which we can count on over the course of time. of life.

But friendship also has a civilizing effect, as a shield against violence and extremism. People who experience rejection and exclusion in their daily lives are more likely to join radical groups, according to a Swedish study. A recent Swiss study also shows that people who are less satisfied with their friendships, or who suffer from loneliness, justify violence much more easily to fight injustice or defend their beliefs.[6].

Conversely, the study shows that friendship encourages social engagement and therefore plays a beneficial role for the community. In this context, philologist Ivy Schweitzer refers to friendship as a “democratic civil practice.”

Christophe Haveaux.

[1] “Forty thieves in emotional deprivation”, Boris Cyrulnik, September 2023, Odile Jacob editions.

[2] “Education for peace, why, how, the role of the school”, Saliou Sarr, professor, trainer, president of EIP/Senegal and member of the educational team of CIFEDHOP (International Peace Training Center teaching of human rights and peace in Geneva, Switzerland).

[3] “The Resolving Conflict Creatively Program: How We Know It Works”, Jennifer Selfridge

[4] European Values Study:

[5] Le Monde, 08/28/2023[6] Study available here: https://engagement·migros·ch/fr  > News and projects > Live together > Friendship under the microscope. Direct link: https://engagement·migros·ch/fr/news-projets/vivre-ensemble/etude-sur-l-amitie


In the news

Stay informed

Subscribe to our online newsletter and receive complete monthly information.

Get involved with us!

Our queer news in your inbox?

Complete this form to be kept up to date with our educational news (training, educational tools, etc.)

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Firstname name