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WPDI brings young leaders from South Sudan and Uganda in Doha, Qatar, to develop peace strategies in collaboration with EAA

The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) and Protecting Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), the legal advocacy program of the Education Above All (EAA) Foundation brought together young leaders from WPDI’s Youth Peacemaker Network in South Sudan and Uganda to reflect on the role of education for the empowerment of children and youth, notably those affected by conflict. 

Following the launch of their partnership in September 2016, WPDI and EAA-PEIC held a joint workshop in Doha, Qatar, from 24 to 26 October 2016. The purpose was to identify concrete activities aimed at promoting education as a vector of peace and protecting the right to education in times of conflict.

During the workshop, the WPDI youth leaders narrated their stories of growing up and working as peacebuilders and recognized mediators in conflict-affected and post-conflict environments. They contributed directly to the exchanges between WPDI and EAA as full-fledged partners in the realization of our objectives on the ground. The young leaders stressed how important it was to promote education as a response to conflict. Some of them provided the peace clubs they had established in schools as an example to disseminate a culture of peace among students as early as possible.

As mediators who regularly have to engage armed groups in the context of the ongoing civil war in their country, the WPDI youth leaders expressed a keen interest in incorporating some of the research conducted by EAA on international law into their work. Some of them shared the initiatives they had taken to succesfully ask commanders into renouncing to station their troops in schools, lest they rob children and youth from their future by barring them access to education.

The EAA-PEIC team was very impressed to learn that the youth leaders were aware of and are already using the 2015 Safe Schools Declaration endorsed by 56 countries, including South Sudan, in support of the protection and continuation of education in armed conflict.

The stories and initiatives of the youth leaders revealed that the right to education could be challenged by violence and conflict in ways that are often deeply embedded in local circumstances, notably with respect to gender equality, which call for specific and tailired responses. 

Based on these findings, the youth leaders and the experts brainstormed on concrete approaches to promote the right to education in conflict as well as the role of education in fostering a culture of living together in peace. An action-learning strategy was identified through which WPDI and EAA-PEIC would develop joint messages that will enrich the curriculum of its youth leaders, who would be tasked to use them in mediations and to disseminate them in remote communities and in the primary and secondary schools where WPDI will conduct Conflict Resolution Education courses. Feedback on how the leaders will and conceptualise these messages will in turn help WPDI and EAA-PEIC better understand how to enhance access to peace in conflict and post- conflict situations and how to make education work better for peace. 

As for WPDI and EAA, a second workshop is scheduled to be held in northern Uganda in January of next year.  This will be the first meeting where all the young women and men trained by WPDI as peace leaders are united.

Looking back at the trainings we gave to them and how their lives have been transformed in the last 2 years, WPDI is proud of the capacity demonstrated by our youth leaders to act as peacemakers on the ground and as advocates for peace and education before our EAA partners.