Friday, September 01, 2006

Regional Conference-Workshop on Disseminating Peace in Southeast Asia

The attainment of peace is an ongoing task that is part of the unfinished project of democratization in many parts of the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Broadly, the concept of peace as not merely the absence of conflict, but also the presence of harmony, equity and justice within and between societies is fast gaining acceptance in conflict-ridden areas. “Positive peace” involves the elimination of the root causes of war, violence, and injustice and the conscious effort to build a society which reflects these commitments. Thus, it entails the promotion of a culture of peace in order to dispel the attitudes, emotions and ways of thinking which breed conflicts. In this sense, while peacebuilding is an attempt to develop more just and democratic systems, it is a process that can actually be undertaken even prior to conflict settlement or resolution.

Educational institutions play a big part in molding the minds of the young generation. It is where values such as respect and tolerance for diversity may be learned. Hence, propagating the messages of peace and promoting a culture on nonviolence through education should be encouraged. In implementing peace education through the formal school curriculum, history textbooks become the most accessible source of information to young individuals about their community’s collective past. These textbooks largely inform their sense of self and their sense of belonging to that wider community of peoples called the nation. Mainstream media is another institution that has a significant role in forming individual as well as collective values. With its omnipresence and capacity to shape and transmit popular culture, media can be used to spread peace messages.

It is in this context that a regional workshop on disseminating peace in Southeast Asia is being organized. The workshop will provide an opportunity for scholars, activists, policymakers, and journalists to share their knowledge and experiences and to eventually cull from these, culturally-sensitive approaches to peacebuilding through education and media. The workshop will concentrate on Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, due to their similarities in terms of: (1) influential role of the military and militarist thinking, (2) process of democratization and state consolidation, and (3) presence of peacebuilding activities, grounded on comparable historical experience. On the other hand, the workshop participants will also learn from the distinct experiences that each country may offer due to differences in the existence and activeness of civil society, as well as insurgencies that challenge the state.


The objectives of the “Regional Conference-Workshop on Disseminating Peace in Southeast Asia” are:

  1. To provide a venue where scholars, activists, educators, and journalists in the region can share and consolidate their insights and experiences on how peace messages can be disseminated through formal education and mainstream media in Southeast Asia;
  2. To enhance awareness and understanding of different or similar approaches to peacebuilding through the abovementioned channels; and
  3. To come up with a comprehensive framework of action for the region.

Workshop Design

The project is a two-day intensive conference-workshop, with five panel sessions and three small group discussions. The focal point of each session will be the sharing of experiences among the participants, especially on opportunities, problems, and lessons learned. Resource persons will be invited merely to provide a general idea of the topic and set the parameters of the discussion. Each panel will have a moderator and a rapporteur. The small group discussions will be a venue to develop a framework of action on peacebuilding through the media and formal education, based on the inputs from the sessions.


Peacebuilding in Southeast Asia. This session will provide an overview of the concept of peacebuilding in the Southeast Asia and the various activities undertaken by government and nongovernment, both local and international, organizations to attain such. It will try to “map out” the actors and analyze the context for peacebuilding in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic region. While it attempts to provide a regional slant, particular focus is given to Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

Media as a Peacebuilding Tool: Prospects for Peace Journalism. As evidenced by the skew or frame of news stories, the media is often used to advance a war agenda. Media coverage of conflicts tends to exaggerate battles and at the same time downplays the underlying causes of conflict that is so crucial to peacebuilding. Why media is more predisposed to highlight the wretchedness that goes along with violence rather than the optimism that peace processes create is attributed to the fact that mainstream media are generally profit-seeking and predatory, and unfortunately, violence has a huge market. On the other hand, if steadfast in its role, media can provide early warning of potential outbreaks of conflict, monitor human rights and foster stability by providing essential information about humanitarian initiatives. An emerging concept and practice, for instance, is the proactive use of media in conflict situations, where journalists are taking into consideration the capacity of their news accounts to resolve differences and encourage reconciliation, and not just their value in sales and ratings. In effect, journalists not only play the role of observer and documenter of events, but that of a peacebuilder as well. This session will analyze the double-edged role of mainstream media in times of conflict and explore the potential of transforming it into an instrument of peace.

Guide Questions:

  1. How has mainstream media covered conflicts and peacebuilding activities in Southeast Asia? How has the public received such kind of reportage?
  2. Is the political, economic, and sociocultural environment in Southeast Asia supportive of peace journalism? How can the commercial and predatory character of the media industry affect the prospects for peace journalism?
  3. What does media as an instrument of peace entail? Does it mean journalists resolving conflicts or mediating? How could they do this and still maintain objectivity? What responsibilities do journalists bear concerning peace and conflicts?

Integrating Peace Education into the School Curriculum. Peace education is an important aspect in seeking lasting peace as part of a national development agenda. While it hinges on the principle of promoting a culture of nonviolent response to conflict, it depends on social, political, and cultural contexts for it to be appropriate and effective. In Southeast Asia, peace education has been initiated largely as a response to armed conflicts between governments and rebel forces. In the Philippines, in line with the integration of peace education in the formal education curriculum, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in partnership with the Department of Education developed new sets of peace education teaching modules for public elementary and secondary schools and trained 669 administrators and teachers representing 317 schools nationwide on such exemplars. A parallel effort is also undertaken by member-schools of the Peace Education Network, although they have not limited themselves to schools-based programs. On the other hand, universities and colleges in Thailand are already offering peace and conflict studies as a major or field of specialization, separate from political science, human rights or international studies. The approach is multi-disciplinary with the goal of producing a new generation of peace workers and generating indigenous methods of peacebuilding in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Southeast Asia. This session aims to provide a venue for educators at the primary and secondary levels to discuss the opportunities and problems of integrating peace education into the formal school curriculum.

Guide Questions:

  1. Does the political, economic, and sociocultural environment in Southeast Asia supportive of peace education in primary and secondary levels? What are the different types of programs currently implemented? What were the outcomes of these initiatives?
  2. What are the challenges in integrating peace education into the formal school curriculum? Given this scenario, what should be the key components of peace education programs that are appropriate, feasible, and culturally-sensitive?

The Role of History Textbooks in Fostering Peace and Mutual Understanding. Claude Lévi-Strauss asserts that history is never only history of; it is always history for. If textbooks then are erroneous and incomplete, if they foster bigoted views, or privilege one group of people and religion, then present conflict will be justified and perpetuated and new ones will be launched. History in that form tyrannizes the consciousness of individuals and rationalizes inequality and repression. History in this form sabotages the present and imperils the future of a nation. The purpose of this workshop is to assess how Southeast Asia and its peoples are discursively depicted and reproduced in elementary, high school, and college history textbooks. This assessment will be done with the corollary objective of providing a critique of this very same literature vis-à-vis the precepts of multicultural education that aims to foster peace in a multicultural society. The realizations from this workshop will serve as the stepping stone in offering new histories for the peoples of Southeast Asia. Thus in the end, even how history is written, taught, appreciated, and ideologically deployed in these countries will be reconfigured.

Guide Questions:

  1. Do history textbooks in Southeast Asia contain erroneous and incomplete information which might foster bigoted views, or privileges one group of people and/or religion over the other? Do history textbooks in Southeast Asia give more emphasis on valor acquired in war and other conflicts than on acts that fosters peace and mutual understanding? Is there room for peace and mutual understanding in the pages of history textbooks in Southeast Asia?
  2. How do writers and publishers of history textbooks in Southeast Asia define “peace” and “mutual understanding”? Can these concepts be productively used in writing textbooks? What are the theoretical and practical issues that must be taken in consideration if “peace” and “mutual understanding” will be made an integral part of the narratives contained in the history textbooks?

Jakarta Post on the Regional Conference-Workshop on Disseminating Peace in Southeast Asia

Click this link to download the full proceedings in PDF.

No comments:

Post a Comment