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Organization: Albanian Center for Peace and Disarmament Education, A Transformative Learning Experience
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

"Thank you. We did not believe you in the beginning when we first met, but now we do." Ramazan Qyra, teacher, Gramsh, Albania.

"By being part of the project, we are able to search for better ways to build a society on the principles of tolerance, peace, justice, that are essential in our lives." Ina Idrizi, secondary school pupil, Gramsh, Albania.

The Albanian peace and disarmament education project has been a transformative for all involved. Both the products and the process have been instrumental in this change. After two years we have seen both the teacher and the youth peace education manual have been published; our hardworking teachers and youth leaders have been certified nationally; peace and disarmament education has been incorporated at the national curricula of cross and extra-curricular activities; and the peace education agenda has been pushed at the Balkan level of peace-building through our involvement in a regional conflict prevention process. At the same time we recognize that peace education has just begun its journey in Albania and it will take a long time for it to be firmly established in spirit and in practice in all classrooms in Albania.

What are indicators for evaluation and sustainability?

The teachers' certification helps toward sustaining peace education in Albania after the end of the UN and Hague Appeal for Peace "Peace and Disarmament Education Project". These teachers will be local resource for the Center for Peace and Disarmament Education in Albania that takes over when the UN / HAP project ends. The ministry of Education and Science in Albania and the Institute for Pedagogical Studies will also utilize these teachers for further trainings in peace education in Albania. The certificate that these 8 teachers have received gives them the authority to be trainers of peace education at the local level-schools, communities, etc.

For the past two years of involvement in the peace education project, these teachers have fulfilled the following criteria:
1)      knowledge aptitude in the fields of human security, conflict resolution, human rights, peace and tolerance.
2)      Aptitudes on how to include peace education in curricula through the cross and extracurricular activities. These teachers are authors of many activities, and some of them are published at the Albanian teachers' manual on "toward a culture of peace".
3)      Aptitudes for the methodology of peace education. These teachers have been trained intensively through interactive techniques and methodologies that are the foundation of peace education, and have used these methods in their teaching. The teachers have their own files with their work where they use this methodology.  
4)      Training aptitude that is related to training that they have done in four directions where ISP works with trainers: a) needs assessment of the teacher for the training and its evaluation; b) programming trainings in peace education; c) developing training in peace education workshops, and d) evaluation of the training.
Their certification also sustains the changes in the official curricula, where the peace education is one of the essential elements of cross and extracurricular activities in the schools. The certification of these teachers will help facilitate the training process of other teachers in various districts in Albania. On the other hand, the schools where these teachers are, can be called pilot schools of peace education, and these trainers can use their environment to train other teachers.

On a regional level, our project helped push peace education to the top of the Balkan Agenda for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding. Together with Nansen Dialogue Network and Bulgarian School of Politics, the Albanian Peace and Disarmament Education Project was one of the organizers of the Balkan conference on Conflict Prevention. Out of the eight key themes, peace education was the most important one. Peace education was the workshop with the highest number of participants-20 of them-and the highest number of national recommendations-67 of them. In the Balkan Agenda for Conflict Prevention, peace education comes first in the list of ten recommendations for the international and national actors.

An independent evaluation of our project that compares baseline to final phase results claims that there is:
" An increased awareness on the dangerous impact of weapons on the community.
" A higher appreciation of peaceful conflict resolution skills amongst students.
" Increased confidence and skills in using peaceful conflict resolution skills.
" More emphasis on cooperation with people from different religions and regions.
" Increased awareness of the gender dimension of violence.
" Increased skills and optimism to lower crime and violence in the community.

In order to improve accountability in all level in a country with little trust, we encouraged the schools to propose little projects of their own in the field of peace and disarmament education and we provide the resources for it. To facilitate it and to make the opportunities as open as possible, we have created a mini-project application form through which the pupils, teachers, or any constituency that we work with can apply. We have also trained the main groups we work with in project application and implementation. This way we insure horizontal and participatory approach to our peace education, and prevent dominant individuals from usurping the process.

The independent evaluation also reported that an unintended positive outcome of this project has been the improvement of student's articulation both written and oral through involvement in project activities such as project writing.  A considerable number of students collaborated together and wrote projects that they later implemented themselves.  In this way they gained precious life skills in writing up and presenting concrete projects.

Another unintended consequence was the support for small infrastructure in our communities. Understanding that while working on peace education programming, we needed to address partly the poverty and the lack of materials, we have contributed financial support to the community centers in Gramsh, that organized non-formal educational activities for more than 2000 participants. We also supported schools in Gramsh and Shkodra by contributing computers, sports materials and helping improve green spaces.

We have learned that the quality of the relationship we have formed with the teachers, pupils and educators is the best indicator of whether the activities are going to be successful. Relationship seem to be at least as important as institutionalization in Albania, since people generally tend to distrust a stranger or institution. Openness and trust are hard to get in post-communist Albania nowadays, but they have been key ingredients in our success. We have been open to collaborating with teachers, pupils, and other NGOs and by now we have full trust in each other. Work and partnership become easier this way. We have also learned that despite the systematic treatment of  pupils as passive learners in the Albanian education system, when pupils participate in activities of their own, they take charge and do an incredible job. The power and energy of such youth is very motivating to the whole project crew, albeit sometimes perceived as dangerous by some of the traditional teachers.

In conclusion, the Albanian peace and disarmament education project has had a transformation effect to all its participants. The pupils, teachers, community leaders, and the worked group grew to trust and work with each other in peace. The published materials and the incorporation of peace education in national curricula are probably as important as the fostering of such relationships. We hope that such projects will be replicated and adapted in all member states of the United Nations.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. It was awash with illegal weapons after the civil unrest of 1997 leaving nearly one illegal weapon per 15 people. It is a post-communist society that is going through a problematic transition into a market economy. Its traits are: a) weak civil society, b) weak governance: the state does not fulfill its responsibilities towards citizens particularly pertaining to infrastructure; c) high economic insecurity because of unemployment - around 15 % -  few safety nets, and marginalization of a large percentage of the population; d) high human insecurity resulting from deprivation in both economic and social spheres and e) high emigration rate - with one out of four Albanians leaving the country during the past decade.

This is the context in which we have worked.

We also have faced significant challenges in the implementation of the project.. Some of these included: a culture of impunity and authoritarianism in education and politics, widespread poverty, unstable political and economic situation, lack of motivation of education actors, small human resource pool. A culture of impunity was created in post-communist Albania, where it is considered normal for the people in power to steal and almost none has been punished because of that. We had to temporarily stop working inside one school because the one of our local partners was not trustworthy. The problem of accountability is huge in any project, unfortunately. You have to rely on good and honest partners in order to do the work.

On challenges in a systematic level, poverty and social exclusion has also been rising in Albania. During the last year of the project, there had been an increase in the government controlled prices of energy and fixed telephone and bread. Many people lost hope in Albania and our state, and did not have a vested interest to do something good. Most young people that we would meet in Gramsh and Shkodra wanted to go abroad looking for a better life. It was hard to build something sustainable if the people you work with want to leave the country.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

Why peace education in Albania?

Following a successful physical disarmament project conducted by the UN in cooperation with the Albanian government, the need for sustainable disarmament strategies arose as the social fabric had been punctured by weapon-related instability. A unique partnership was formed between the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs (UNDDA) and the Hague Appeal for Peace (HAP)-an international NGO that works in promoting peace education globally-to engender peace and disarmament education programs in four countries where recent disarmament efforts had occurred: Albania, Peru, Niger, and Cambodia. Local partners in peace education were chosen in each country in order to develop programs fostering disarmament of the minds of youth and children.

The UNDDA/ HAP partnership implemented peace and disarmament education in Albania in the districts of Gramsh and Shkodra over the period starting February 1, 2003 until February 1, 2005. The implementation followed a needs assessment that started with the visit of Hague Appeal for Peace and United Nations representatives in Gramsh and Shkodra, and continued with the formation of the working group in Tirana, Gramsh and Shkodra. This working group fostered the necessary relationships through conversations and contacts with schools, municipalities, and educational directories. The values inherent in our programming were: tolerance, openness, participation, compassion, human rights, children's rights, human dignity, empowerment,  interdependence, and community involvement.

The UNDDA/HAP project was guided by the idea that physical disarmament must be complemented and sustained by a mental disarmament process within communities. According to the recent UN study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education (A/57/124, pg. 1),
The overall purpose of disarmament and non-proliferation education is to impart knowledge and skills to empower individuals to make their contribution, as national and world citizens, to the achievement of general and complete disarmament under effective international control.
Also, according to the Final Document of the World Congress on Disarmament Education (UNESCO 1980) relating to pedagogical objectives:
Disarmament education should apply the most imaginative educational methods, particularly those of participatory learning, geared to each cultural and social situation and level of education. It aims at teaching how to think about disarmament, rather than what to think about it.

The project utilized a participatory approach, since the community must own it in order to be more successful. In this participatory approach, the project differed from top-down development projects that treat local communities as passive beneficiaries. Instead, we promoted the view that people become active agents of change in their communities. The community helped in the design and implementation of the project. The UNDDA/HAP team provided guidance for the working groups, along with professional expertise and financial resources to the project. Developing a peace education initiative with community involvement from the outset kept the focus on the collaborative and cooperative values of peace making, while not reproducing traditional community-based models that oppress other members of the society, like women, children and ethnic minorities. Complementing the community's efforts, meaningful partnerships were explored with other actors, such as UNESCO, UNDP, and local NGOs that have similar goals and objectives.

The principals underlying this project have therefore been the following:

* Community participation is essential in need assessment and project implementation

* Communities have pockets of peacemaking and peace-building that should be affirmed and relied upon

* The best international experience of peace education should be brought to local communities

* The developed Albanian peace education experiences could later be replicated or adapted in national and international settings

* Peace education should be an integral part of national and international curricula

* Peace education should include a disarmament of the mind that sustains the removal of weapons in the communities affected by violence

What are the implementation results?

The Albanian project has had many accomplishments in both process and results. More than 8000 participants have taken part in our peace and disarmament education activities in Albania, that included debating, senate, sports, excursions and culture. In our peace education trainings, we had 260 participants in more than 50 local and national trainings in Gramsh and Shkodra that included 3 summer schools. In addition, eight of our local teachers have been certified by Institute for Pedagogical Studies (ISP) as local trainers in peace education, and five pupils have become youth trainers. ISP is the national institute responsible for pre-university education curricula and training under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Sciences of Albania.

Albanian project has also published materials of peace education. We have translated an international HAP Manual "Learning to Abolish War" into Albanian, and have produced a teacher's manual, a youth manual, three booklets, and more than 20 school newspapers. Our project website, www.cpde.net, and our newly produced CD-Rom shares all our materials in both English and Albanian. We have also contributed a chapter to an ISP publication on extra/ cross curricular activities.

By now, peace and disarmament education has become official part of the national curricula for cross and extra -curricular activities. Extracurricular activities are done or happening outside the normal curriculum of a school, while cross curricular activities involve two or more subjects simultaneously. According to Albanian law at least twenty percent of national curricula for pre-university education have to be cross and extracurricular. Since this is a new law, few teachers are trained to teach through cross and extra-curricular. Since many of the activities in our project's teacher manual were these types of activities, a peace education chapter became part of national manual of ISP that will be used by teachers all over Albania.

While peace education was part of the National Educational Standard already, there was no concrete implementation of peace education in our schools. Our project filled this gap through its programming and now our activities are part of the national curricular materials. In order to assure sustainability of peace education in Albania, we have created a Center for Peace and Disarmament Education (www.cpde.net) that will build upon the successes of the project.

In cooperation with the Institute for Pedagogical Studies (ISP), the Center for Peace and Disarmament Education in Albania (CPDE), has done the final training for eight teachers in Gramsh and Shkodra. These teachers have participated in several peace education trainings during the past two years and have written peace education activities for the teachers' manual "Toward a culture of peace." Now, they have been certified as national trainers in peace education by ISP and CPDE.

What are samples of activities run by schools, and communities?

These activities were developed by schools and communities in cooperation with the project working group, after the initial trainings in peace education. They were normally designed by teachers, pupils, and community leaders, who submitted the idea to the working group as a mini-project application. After the selection, the designers of the activities implemented them locally.

"Tradition of Tolerance in Gramsh"

The project promoted traditional behaviors and patterns that will be the seed for the development of a tolerant peace-loving community. In Gramsh we had the strong partnership of the Cultural Center. Drawing upon the tradition of tolerance in Gramsh, the Cultural Center headed by poet Leidi Shqiponja, developed a program that celebrated the values of respect, tolerance, diversity, forgiveness through poetry, folk theatrical games, singing, and through televised interviews of prominent national figures. The program also included an artistic contest with drawings, poetry and essays for youth. The final performance was a show that was televised by local televisions and an artistic exposition with the best drawings, poetry and essays that stayed open at the Cultural Center for a month.

What I Wished To Change to in My Life Activities

As part of our community-based peace education programming, the Children's Center in Gramsh organized a district-wide event for children during in 2004 that had the following activities:
1)      A contest with folk songs, dance, instruments in 7 regions of the Gramsh district-including the town and all the major villages-and the selection of the best performances for the final spectacle.
2)      A drawing, painting competition with the theme "What I wished to Change".
3)      An artistic spectacle in the Children's Center titled What I wished to change that included the selected texts, songs, dances, and instruments from the 7 regions of the district.
4)      An exposition with the best children's drawings from the district has been open and can be seen at the Children's Center.

"With Women We can Make it"

The Women's NGO in Gramsh headed by the former mayor of Gramsh, Luljeta Dollani, organized an activity in the International Day of March, March 8th, 2004 to celebrate the women leaders in the Gramsh community. In a powerful event, 12 important women leaders from the community discussed on the stage of the Palace of Culture about the important contribution of women in education, politics, disarmament, social services and other important areas. 400 women from the community were part of this event that was televised in local TV as well.

Peace education stands against blood feud violence in Northern Albania

In northern Albania where the state is weaker than in other parts, blood feuds are sometimes considered to be the traditional way to solve murders. The teachers and pupils of "Jordan Misja" school organized an activity titled "A different day" with the orphan kids whose family has been decimated because of the blood feuds in northern Albania. Each kid became friends "buddies" with a "Jordan Misja" pupil who has been participating in our peace education activities. Teachers and pupils of Jordan Misja school also organized a series of activities titled "Missionaries of peace" during which teachers and pupils held meetings with community peacemakers who work to prevent blood feuds, police representatives and judges. Some teachers and pupils in Shkodra have organized visits to the families that have been affected by blood feuds. These visits were filmed and showed in classes in order to promote discussions on the causes and prevention of blood feuds in the region.

"Bridging social-cultural differences" was a series of activities in Shkodra school that organized excursions between countryside pupils and town pupils that fostered a community in the school. The differences are huge in a town as Shkodra where the countryside newcomers live in virtual slums rife with blood feuds and unemployment.

A folk festival was organized in Shkodra in June, that celebrated musical diversity in Northen Albania while emphasizing the tradition of tolerance in Shkodra, Dukagjin and Malesia e Madhe. Five major schools participated in this event that was covered widely by local media.

Some Shkodra pupils and teachers also initiated a series of events to celebrate living Shkodra artists and writers. These artists have contributed a lot to the community during their active years and now are retired. Because of the difficult times in Shkodra, they feel neglected and forgotten. The pupils gave symbolic gifts to the artists, and invited them to the school to share their work.

"Culture and Peace" sports activities were organized by our Shkodra teachers in November and December for 8 high schools in Shkodra to promote fair play and cooperation between schools. Activities included games of soccer, and basketball.

As part of a series on Environment related activities Shkodra teacher trainers organized a seminar on "Ecology and conflict" with geography teachers from 7 high schools in Shkodra. The seminar focused on how environmental degradation can be a potential cause for local and international conflicts.

Traditional dances at the Gramsh dormitory fest

Shkodra Poetry and Pictures for a Peaceful World

Debate Group in Gramsh discussing weapons and security

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

In conclusion, the Albanian peace and disarmament education project has had a transformation effect to all its participants. The pupils, teachers, community leaders, and the worked group grew to trust and work with each other in peace. The published materials and the incorporation of peace education in national curricula are probably as important as the fostering of such relationships. We hope that such projects will be replicated and adapted in all member states of the United Nations.

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

Why the focus on partnership?

The UNDDA/ HAP partnership helped us initially to start the process of peace education programming at the community level. Later on, it provided the crucial support for securing the funding for the implementation of the project. Our international partnership has also provided initial legitimacy to our work at the national and district level. It was easier to go the UNDP-Albania, Ministry of Education, and districts' educational directorates through the connection to the UN and HAP.

The working group in Albania worked a lot to sustain the good initial reputation and to foster relationships in the ground. Apart from the local allies in the Gramsh and Shkodra districts, we relied upon the national resources of the Institute for Pedagogical Studies, Foundation for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, Movement for Disarmament and the Women's Center.

One of the challenges and opportunities of being in the UNDDA / HAP partnership is that there were few written rules on how to go about in this project. Initially, we had the challenge of funding delay that frustrated some of our local partners. We had received the commitment for the funding of the project, but no transfer occurred for around six months. When the funding arrived, we had to be inventive about creating a working framework. Yet, in Albania we knew we could rely on the UNDDA / HAP partners for guidance in both organizational and curricular issues.  

Trust and openness to new ideas were some of the best components of the DDA/ HAP partnership. It allowed local partners to take the necessary risks and shift activities in order to achieve the overall goals in a better way.  For example, in the last quarter of the project, in Albania we faced the opportunity of publishing cross and extracurricular activities into the national curricula, and also certifying teachers as national trainers in peace education. We had not anticipated these line items, yet they were very important. We discussed this with the DDA/HAP headquarters and they encouraged us to work with these new possibilities and go ahead with publishing and teacher certification.

Being part of an international project has contributed to a cosmopolitan vision of peace education in Albania. Throughout our meetings and email exchanges, we would hear about the accomplishments and challenges of the projects in Peru, Cambodia and Niger, and we would know we were not alone. It was inspiring to hear the cooperative sports games that EDUCA has been implementing in Peru, or the peace education campaigns in Niger and Cambodia.

We were also happy to have a good access to professional and technical resources outside the Albania project. Through our meetings and conferences, we have enlarged our networks and had even more access to various resources.  In our office in Albania we have more than 20 education books of peace, disarmament, human security, conflict resolution from the USA, Latin America, West Africa, and so on. We could find many materials online as well. We were local and global at the same time. This has made our work-for pupils, teachers, coordinators and educators-even more exciting. We are thankful for the opportunity to engage in such an interesting project.

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

Postal address of organization

Peace and Disarmament Education Project,
PO BOX 236/1, Tirana, Albania

E-mail address of organization


Website address of organization


Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Education for a culture of peace

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

Highest priority country of action (or international)


Second priority country of action (or international)

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Organization: Albanian Center for Peace and Disarmament Education, A Transformative Learning Experience

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