Defining Peace Through the Next Generation

What is Peace in the eyes of a child who has seen only violence?

On April 17, 2012, Katinka Nicou, founder of Integrate Hands, a non-profit organization focused on empowering children in post-conflict societies through transformational education, as well as engaging business influencers and policy makers to enable their possibilities, presented a discussion on a peace-building through education at Columbia Global Centers, Turkey Office. (Sponsored by Rabee Securities)  

During her presentation, Katinka Nicou gave a short introduction to why traditional Peace Building efforts are insufficient to foster sustainable peace, and how education can reshape a society’s destiny from the bottom up, sharing examples from projects in Iraq.

As the Arab Spring has swept across the Middle East over the last year, less attention has been paid to Iraq’s young democracy and its challenges. With one of the largest youth bulges in the region, Iraq’s future is yet to be defined through the minds of the millions of children who will ultimately
own it.

Over 50% of Iraq’s population is under 18; only 21% of children are enrolled in school; no national curriculum exists to help schools meet international standards; and despite economic development and foreign investment, 57% of the youth are unemployed, making them susceptible to recruitment by armed groups and insurgencies.

Is their democracy sustainable when the worldview of this majority of the population seems one of limited, if any, concept of a democratic political system? Most importantly, will they receive the educational foundation for independent thought and critical discourse, or the individual empowerment that is necessary for democratic citizenship?

It is as much a priority of international security as it is the responsibility of international stakeholders to help Iraq’s young plant the seeds for their future, a future they can own.