In the aftermath of armed conflict, education can play an important role in peacebuilding. In addition to the clear humanitarian and development benefits, the reconstruction of a country’s education system can help prevent a return to violence and boost the legitimacy of democratic institutions. This contribution depends not only on rebuilding schools, bringing children and youth back into the system, and promoting values of tolerance and peace through curricula. It also depends, critically, on the sensitivity of these efforts to the legacies of past human rights abuses.

From 2013-2016, ICTJ and UNICEF collaborated on a research project that aimed to articulate the links between transitional justice and education in peacebuilding contexts. The objective was to develop a better understanding of how transitional justice can shape the reform of education systems by ensuring programs are sensitive to the legacies of the past, how it can facilitate the reintegration of children and youth into society, and how education can engage younger generations in the work of transitional justice.

Research Results

In September 2015, ICTJ and UNICEF published Education and Transitional Justice in Peacebuilding Contexts, a report that highlights the main findings of the extensive research and provides policymakers and practitioners with practical guidance for linking education to the development of transitional justice measures.

In November 2016, we presented a selection of the commissioned papers in the edited volume, Transitional Justice and Education: Learning Peace, published the Social Science Research Council and available for download or purchase.

A series of five web pieces based on chapters from the book are available here:

Explore our Transitional Justice and Education Web Series

Additionally, ICTJ Senior Research Associate Roger Duthie, former Senior Research Associate Clara Ramírez-Barat, and Friedrich Affolter, Peacebuilding Program Manager at UNICEF discussed the project on a podcast available here.

Project Aims

The research project sought to answer two main questions:

  • How can transitional justice contribute to peacebuilding by shaping the reform of education systems and by facilitating the reintegration of children and youth into those systems?

  • How can education promote transitional justice by expanding its outreach agenda and helping to transform a culture of impunity into one of human rights and democracy by engaging younger generations?

An important part of this approach was therefore identifying ways in which transitional justice and education could reinforce each other. But it also meant considering the tensions and obstacles that any attempt to coordinate education initiatives and transitional justice processes might entail.

The research was organized around three different thematic clusters studying a wide variety of experiences and geographical contexts.

The first cluster, on post-conflict education reconstruction and transitional justice, looked at the ways in which different countries have used transitional justice as a framework to promote reforms in the education system. These reforms involved curricula, school governance and culture, and teacher training programs.

The second cluster, on reparations and education, examined the opportunities in and challenges to designing and implementing reparations programs that provide educational benefits to victims of human rights violations. It looked specifically at ways in which such programs could benefit rehabilitation and reintegration processes.

The third cluster, on outreach, education, and sustainability, considered how educational activities can be used to engage children and youth in transitional justice, and how locally-based outreach activities and informal educative initiatives can play a role in addressing the past.