The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly recognises the strong impact violence and insecurity have on development and vice versa, stating that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”. The Agenda 2030 therefore includes peace as a cross-cutting focus area alongside four other critical areas – people, prosperity, planet, and partnerships; and has its own “peace goal”, SDG 16 of Peace, Justice and String Institutions.
However, there is a third essential component inextricably linked to both peace and development and acting as an enabler for both, which is education. At UNITAR, we actively use web-based learning and education to mobilise, inspire, and connect our beneficiaries to meaningfully contribute to Goal 16. Through our collaborative partnerships with higher educational institutions in peace and security studies, we are committed to advocate for the peace dimension of the SDGs. Remarkably, peace is integrated in 36 targets from seven other SDGs in order to directly and comprehensively measure various aspects of peace, inclusion or access to justice. Only a third of these targets are found in Goal 16 itself.
Why the focus on online learning? In a world of persistent vast economic and social imbalances, accessible online solutions are sometimes the only way to reach remote areas with poorly developed infrastructure, or crisis-affected areas where physical movement might be challenging and dangerous. Digital programmes equally benefit those who should be ceaselessly present in the field providing critical services to local populations: midwives, civil society leaders, electoral experts, peacekeepers and volunteers providing humanitarian assistance – under no circumstances these groups can be excluded from learning and professional development opportunities.
The development of innovative web-based learning tools is all the more urgent as we are all making every effort to deliver real value to communities across the globe while continuing to operate under the reality of the current global health crisis.
Over the years, the mixed team of experts from UNITAR and our partner universities have connected and inspired hundreds of outstanding individuals who are driving positive change in their communities across the globe. All of it – with the help of digital tools.
In South Sudan, Judith Draleru, a United Nations Volunteer from Uganda and an alumna of the online Master in Conflict, Peace and Security (former Conflictology), dedicates her knowledge, time, and commitment to reducing preventable deaths and improving maternal and child health through mentoring and training. An experienced midwife, she provides reproductive health services such as family planning, antenatal care, labour, delivery, postnatal care, management of complications, as well as services related to sexual and gender-based violence, clinical management of rape, adolescent and youth friendly interventions, community awareness, and home visits. Without peace and security, the work of midwives is negatively affected and maternal and new-born deaths increase. The online degree with UNITAR and Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has helped Judith to analyse situations she faces at work, prevent and solve conflicts between staff, put students at ease, and advocate for peace:
“I have come to understand that violence is not inescapable, we only need to understand why people behave this way and meet their needs […] The philosophy behind the global peace movement tells us that everyone is important and that all of us have something to contribute".
In Yemen, Hisham Al-Omeisy, conflict analyst, opinion leader and alumnus of the same online programme, delivers virtual capacity-building programmes to youth leaders from across Yemen within
the project “Make A Place for Yemeni Youth (MAP)”. Publicly outspoken for human rights and against injustice and violence, Hisham provides commentary and analysis on the ever-shifting conflict in Yemen and works on building – online and offline – coalitions for peace. In 2020, in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, Hisham and his team used the whole range of available tools and software like Zoom, Duo, Google Meet and other to maintain their networks and move the majority of their capacity-building programmes and seminars online. As a result, the challenge has only advanced their efforts, allowing to virtually engage local communities into existing project teams to continue promoting human rights and active citizenship.
“It was a very enriching learning experience where I learned from both teachers and students who shared a wealth of knowledge and wisdom from practical experiences. This was extremely useful when applied to my work in designing peace initiatives, capacity building programmes, and even sustainable development projects," – told us Hisham about his learning journey.
In the United States, Henry Atem Oben, alumnus of the Master in Electoral Policy and Administration (MEPA), is leading the U.S. International Center for Electoral Support (USICES) – an NGO that supports the capacity building of local election officials in developing democracies. USICES provides technical assistance and operational support to Election Management Bodies and key stakeholders within the electoral assistance framework with a view of building voter trust and confidence in elections, promoting voting rights, diffusing social tensions and preventing conflicts. The initiative was in its early stages when Henry decided to study with UNITAR:
"The broader view is what I find truly awesome about MEPA. There is no definition of democracy as American or democracy as South African. Democracy is not limited to a particular country, and this should always be born in mind while selecting course materials.”
In Geneva, Orsolya Bader, international professional working for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and participant in the online Master in Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding, supports sustainable and inclusive development through bringing digital technologies to the most remote areas.
“Now more than ever, the world needs to be able to rely on ICTs. I am fortunate to contribute my knowledge and skills I have gained throughout the UNITAR course to the work of ITU, who through activities, initiatives and partnerships is helping countries to fully utilise digital technologies to respond to and recover from COVID-19, as well as to build preparedness for similar future global emergencies.“ – Orsolya told us as part of the “Voices of Sustaining Peace” campaign last fall.
What unites all these changemakers scattered around the world? The key to their impact is the combination of commitment and applied knowledge; of selfless dedication to the advancement of the lives of others and passion for self-development and learning; of a warm heart and cool head. The positive change and the multiplication of knowledge triggered by our students like Judith, Hisham, Henry and Orsolya, and many others in their communities, are our triggers to innovate and improve further. They are also the key to the sustainability of our impact.
Advancing both peace and development through their interlinkages and through tailored, convenient and accessible education is what eventually will help us to successfully build back better after the crisis. Because the crisis is finite, and our possibilities are endless.
Would you like to become part of this vibrant international community? Our students and alumni never stop learning from each other and actively utilise the networks and connections created within and across our academic programmes. Learn more about the available opportunities here or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.