Universities and peace building

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Murtaza Noor

EACH year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September for strengthening the ideals of peace among all nations and people. The theme of International Day of Peace for the year 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.” The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were unanimously adopted by the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN) at a significant summit of the world’s leaders in September 2015.
The new aspiring 2030 agenda calls on countries to undertake concrete steps to achieve these goals over the next fifteen years through collaborative efforts. These goals aim to end poverty, injustice, inequalities and ensure prosperity for all. Education is the key to uniting nations, bringing human beings closely together. It is important to recognize the crucial role of education in contributing to building a culture of peace and harmony and of tertiary education in building a knowledge economy
Being hub of ideas, innovation and knowledge creation, universities have vital role to inculcate the values of responsible citizenship, peace, tolerance, harmony and coexistence among the youth. In this regard, inter university experience sharing within and outside Pakistan, promotion of extra-curricular and sport activities, formation of student societies and effective university community linkage can also be greatly helpful.
Pakistan is facing with multiple political, ethnic, religious, sectarian and environmental conflicts, which also requires attention in research and teaching at Pakistani universities. Peace and conflict resolution as vital preconditions for sustainable economic growth, democracy and development. Very few Pakistani universities are offering courses on understanding violence, extremism, terrorism and conflict resolution.
There is also dire need to build institutional frameworks and partnerships to support universities and research institutes towards contributing for the development of individuals, groups and communities. These linkages ought to be predicated on an exchange of knowledge and experience with regard to conflict and conflict resolution.
The campus based events should be organised to celebrate International Peace Day during the month of September each year to raise the awareness among university youth about importance of peace and their role in this regard. The universities should also effectively utilise the campus FM radio stations to broadcast special programs and discussions to disseminate the message about peace building. Due to wider outreach, transmission by campus radio stations can also be an effective mode to target nearby communities.
To accomplish this task, a roadmap on Strengthening Social Sciences has been Pakistan prepared by Inter University Consortium for Promotion for Social Sciences (IUCPSS), an autonomous alliance of about 30 Pakistani universities in the year 2015 also calls for promotion of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and inclusion of topics related to rights and duties of citizens and constitutional provisions on human rights and peaceful techniques of resolution of conflicts in curriculum. Implementation of this comprehensive roadmap and learning from best international practices in higher education sector can also be grateful for enhancing role of Pakistani universities in peace building.
— The writer is freelance columnist, associated with education sector, based in Islamabad.