Local Perspectives in the Research and Practice of Peacebuilding

The Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) interviewed our co-founder and Executive Director about Peace Perspectives, in addition to her PhD research and recent publication. The following is an excerpt from the ACUNS website.

In this Professional Development podcast, the 2015 Dissertation Award Winner, Dahlia Simangan, is joined by ACUNS Book Review Editor, Anastasia Ufimtseva, to discuss Dahlia’s experiences as a PhD student and her current work as a founder of Peace Perspectives. Dahlia won the Dissertation Award for her work on “The Limits of Liberal Peacebuilding and Pitfalls of Local Involvement: Cambodia, Kosovo, and Timor-Leste in Retrospect”. Considering the merits and pitfalls of both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches, Dahlia proposes a middle ground that finds a balance between liberal peacebuilding and local involvement.

Since completing her dissertation, Dahlia has been dedicating her time to Peace Perspectives, “an independent, non-profit international organization committed to the promotion of inclusive and lasting peace.” Founded in March 2017 and based in Nepal, the organization operates on the principle that every local peace perspective deserves equal consideration, and promotes small-scale community outreach.

The podcast is available here and the discussion about Peace Perspectives starts at 18:40.

Peace Perspective of Narayan Mahat, Nepal

Field Report by Riyaz Karki
Kapilvastu, Nepal

Narayan Mahat is originally from Arghakhanchi District but now resides at Gorusinghey, Kapilvastu. He served the Indian army for more than 20 years until his retirement last year. He now drives a e-rickshaw for a living. His rickshaw is a sustainable and affordable form of transportation benefitting local people of Gorusinghey for short distance travelling. He also sits as a Secretary in Hindu Hymn Association of Gorusinghey, Kapilvastu.

When asked what peace meant to him, Narayan responded:

If my family members, including myself, are able to exercise our rights fully, I’m at a state of peace.

Narayan believes that peace should start within the family as it is the most basic unit of society. He adds that if a family is happy and at state of peace then neighbours, and ultimately all members of society, get encouraged to live the same.

Nepal, however, is fraught with issues related to family well-being. Nepal’s legal stipulations on the rights of women and children, for example, look excellent on paper but it is often disregarded mainly due to absence of consistent implementation and oversight mechanisms. Civil society organisations are working with the government on how to protect women and children from oppression and exploitation. Peace Perspectives joins in this initiative by echoing the peace aspirations of all Nepalese, including women, children, and other marginalised groups. Learn more about our work and consider donating to our community outreach activities.

Peace Perspective of Jamuna Adhikari, Nepal

Jamuna Adhikari runs a local Bar at Budhhabhumi, Kapilvastu. Her two sons are currently studying at a nearby boarding school. As a student myself, her genuine response to what peace meant for her left me speechless.

When the atmosphere is favorable for my children to get good grades, that is peace for me. That is what gives me peace.

Jamuna has a reason to worry about his children’s performance in school. For example, in 2015, the average marks for core subjects tested for School Leaving Certification (SLC)* in Nepal were barely passing.

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Data from the Office of the Controller for Examination, 2015 (Source: Ministry of Education, Government of Nepal, 2015, p. 12)

Nepal’s educational system faces several issues: poor infrastructures, lack of physical access to schools, insufficient teaching materials, low quality of teaching, outdated curricula, compounded by poverty and social exclusion.

Confronted by these challenges, the Nepalese government is taking positive strides toward improvement of the educational system. In his recent budget presentation to the Parliament, Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel enumerated several plans for education covered by the 2017 budget.

  • “Primary education would be made compulsory and free while secondary education would be gradually made compulsory and free.”
  • “Rs 26.5 billion has been allocated for the School Sector Development Programme.”
  • “Special programmes would be introduced to bring dropout children back.”
  • “The government would adopt a strategy to prepare human resources needed for the national development within the nation.”
  • “Religious educational institutions would be promoted into mainstream.”
  • “More teachers would be appointed for Science, English and Mathematics subjects at community schools.”
  • “The community schools would gradually adopt English medium education.”
  • “Meanwhile, Masters level students would be mobilised for volunteerism for six months in their final year of the study.”

If these plans get implemented, mothers like Jamuna will have at least one less thing to worry about.

Peace Perspectives knows that education is an imperative aspect of peace. The link between education and civil conflict has been established in several studies. For example, in a 2011 study conducted by Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), it was found out that:

  • Increasing education levels overall has pacifying effect
  • Rapid expansion of higher education is not a threat
  • Education inequalities between groups increase conflict risk
  • The content and quality of education might spur conflict
  • Terrorists are well-above-average educated

Peace Perspectives believes that peace education reduces conflict and alleviates socio-economic injustices. Learn more about our work and consider donating to our community outreach activities to help us contribute in addressing some of the educational issues in Nepal.

* SLC is a nationally-administered and monitored qualifying examination for secondary/high school students.

Field Report: Riyaz Karki, Lead Field Researcher, Nepal