The role of peace education in building a peaceful Haitian society

The conference delivered by Roland Joseph at the Université Publique du Sud-Est in Jacmel (UPSEJ), Haiti, on the theme “Le rôle de l’éducation à la paix dans la construction d’une société haïtienne pacifique” (The role of peace education in the construction of a peaceful Haitian society) on Saturday, May 18, 2024, sponsored by the International Peace Bureau (IPB).

Hello everyone! First, I would like to thank Dr. Kiria Despinos for this introduction. I would like to express my gratitude to the staff of the Université Publique du Sud-Est in Jacmel (UPSEJ), particularly to the rector, Dr. Magadala Jean Baptiste, for inviting me to deliver this lecture on a theme which is of particular importance in a critical context where our country is facing an unprecedented phenomenon of violence and killing. I am glad to see the presence of all the professors, deans, students, and staff members. I think it is essential that students and scholars reflect on the need for a peaceful and non-killing Haitian society.

The topic “The role of peace education in the construction of a peaceful Haitian society” is important for teachers, professors, and students of all UPSEJ departments, particularly for the Faculty of Sciences of ‘education. The rector told me that interest in this subject extends to the entire system of Universités Publiques en Région (UPR). This is a positive sign for our campaign to integrate peace education into the Haitian school system. I, therefore, encourage other universities, such as the l’Université d’État d’Haiti (UEH), as well as private universities across the country, to reflect on the phenomenon of violence and killing plaguing the capital area and certain regions of the country.

Now, I will begin my intervention by focusing on at least three points. First, I will define some key concepts such as peace, negative peace, positive peace, violence, direct violence, and structural violence, drawing on the work of Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, who is considered to be the founder of the discipline of peace studies. Next, I will briefly explain peace education as an academic discipline taught in many universities worldwide. Finally, I will address what should be the content of teaching peace in the Haitian context.

Definition of peace!

We talk about peace everywhere: in the Church, at work, in politics, in the family, at school, etc. This term is generally used in the sense of its Latin origin, pax, which means peace, tranquility, and rest. However, peace is not limited to a simple absence of war and violence.

Johan Galtung, Norwegian sociologist and founding father of the discipline of peace and conflict studies, provides an in-depth definition of this notion. For Galtung, “the concept of peace refers to a positive definition which includes the search for social justice and the fight against any “structural violence” which results from the practice of state power” (Graines de Paix, n.d.a). In other words, structural violence is any constraint on human potential due to economic and political structures (Galtung, 1969). Matthew Sparke, a professor at the University of Washington, pointed out that:

Violence “is ‘structural’ in the sense that the suffering is not produced by direct one-on-one acts of violence such as spousal abuse, lynching or torture – although even these kinds of inter-personal violence are clearly tied to social structures (including patriarchy, white supremacy, and militarism) that extend beyond the individuals involved” (Sparke, n.d). In other words, structural violence is anything “that destroys men in their psychological, physical, and spiritual being in an anonymous manner and without them being personally attacked by weapons” (Graines Peace, n.d.b, para 1).

What you need to take away from Galtung’s conceptualization is that negative peace means the absence of physical violence or war, while positive peace means the absence of structural and cultural violence. Cultural violence is defined as any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form (Galtung, 1990).

In general, people pay much more attention to direct violence than to structural violence. For example, in Haiti, traditional journalists, as well as social media influencers, inform the public daily about kidnappings, murders, or assassinations of innocent people in Port-à-Prince. However, most of them have not sought to understand that this phenomenon of direct violence is the result of structural violence characterized by unequal access to resources, political power, education, corruption, health, or social justice.

We cannot achieve a peaceful Haitian society if we do not study violence in its entirety. To understand violence in its entirety, we must prioritize research on violence and peace in different universities and initiate the teaching of peace in the Haitian education system. Initiating the teaching of peace in the Haitian education system means understanding the relationship between structural violence and physical violence. As long as we do not have this critical debate in our society, we risk calling on external actors every five years to help us combat the phenomenon of direct violence when the real problem is not direct violence but rather structural and cultural violence.

At the end of World War II, Archibald MacLeish, an American poet and writer, said: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. » (Jones, 2007, para. 1). These words are used today in the preamble to the Constitutive Act of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). If I tried to transpose this statement into the Haitian context, I would say that since social injustice, intolerance, lack of spirit of dialogue, rejection of peace, corruption, and killing begin in the minds of some Haitians, we must also build the defenses of negative and positive peace in their minds. There is no other way to achieve this: through a national peace education awareness campaign, from kindergarten to university.

What do we mean by peace education?

The definitions I just mentioned of peace and violence can give you a general idea of ​​what peace education means. Peace education, in one way or another, encompasses negative peace and positive peace in the sense that it aims to combat physical and structural violence.

As Dr. Tony Jenkins, coordinator of the Global Campaign for Peace Education (GCPE), points out in his definition published on the website of this organization, “Peace education has its origins in responses to evolving social, political, and ecological crises and concerns of violence and injustice” (Jenkins, 2019, p. 1).

Professor Jenkins adds that peace education is “an academic field of inquiry, and the practice(s) of teaching and learning, oriented toward and for the elimination of all forms of violence, and the establishment of a culture of peace” (Jenkins, 2019, p. 1). For decades, many researchers and scholars around the world have engaged in this new academic discipline, exploring techniques to equip students and individuals in communities with the tools to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence or murder.

Another definition I would like to highlight is that provided by Susan Fountain, cited on the Global Campaign for Peace Education website. She defines peace education as: “A process to promote knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to bring about behavioral changes that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural, peacefully resolve conflicts and create the conditions likely to lead to peace both within an individual and between people and groups at the national and international levels” (Fountain, 1999, p. 1; Global Campaign for peace education, n.d).

When discussing peace education, we must also refer to Maria Montessori, an Italian educator and doctor well known for her teaching method based on the natural learning of children. According to Montessori, “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live” (World Campaign for Peace Education, n.d). Other researchers such as Ian Harris, Loreta Navarro-Castro, Jasmin Nario-Galace, Betty A. Reardon, and Cheryl Duckworth, to name a few, have made outstanding contributions to this field.

I had the privilege of taking a peace education course during my doctoral studies at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Florida with Dr. Cheryl Duckworth. It is this course that particularly inspired me to advocate for the teaching of peace in Haiti to combat the phenomenon of direct and indirect violence. As I mentioned at the beginning, universities in the UPR system, including UPSEJ, are interested in embarking on this initiative.

Peace education in the Haitian context.

A peace education course generally depends on the socio-political context of the society in question. Teaching such a course in the Haitian context will not, in fact, have the same content as the development of a peace education course in the Canadian or American context.

In preparing for this talk, I tried to go back to when I was in primary school in the 90s to see if I had taken any courses related to peace education. The first thing that comes to mind is the book « J’aime Haiti: Instruction Civique et Morale, » required by most public and private schools in Haiti and by the Ministry of National Education. It is a book that teaches Haitian schoolchildren everything they need to know to serve their country well. We should continue to use it not only in schools but also in other community groups.

As I do not own this book, I discovered on a Facebook page entitled « J’aime Haiti: Instruction Civique et Morale» certain notions that remind me of a section of the book dealing with the national motto and concepts like Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. On this Facebook page, the definitions of these three concepts were presented as follows (J’aime Haïti: Instruction Civique et Morale, n.d):

1) Liberty is the right to do what does not harm others or the right that everyone has to act with a view to achieving an end just.

2) Equality consists of neither favoring nor disfavoring anyone before the law, which must be the same for everyone.  

3) Fraternity is a feeling that leads us to consider others as our brothers and to do them all the good we can. »

I’m not sure if teachers continue to use this book in their programs. I believe its use would be beneficial as part of a peace education course in Haiti. If we instill these moral values ​​in Haitian children from an early age, it will help to train responsible citizens and leaders for the transformation of a peaceful Haitian society.

Another element of content in a peace education course is corruption. This should be an essential element in the development of a peace education course in the Haitian context because endemic corruption represents one of the forms of structural violence that plagues our society.

It is imperative to teach Haitian children to respect the property of others. Thus, when they access positions tomorrow, such as president, representative, senator, mayor, CASEC, ASEC, minister, director general, or any other function within the State or the private sector, they will not be inclined to embezzle funds. We must instill in our children that every penny embezzled or stolen from state coffers ultimately constitutes theft from hungry and poorly housed Haitians, those living on the homeless streets, and all children deprived of an education. It is crucial to teach them that public service is not a path to personal wealth. Being a public servant implies a commitment to serving and defending the interests of all Haitians without distinction.

Teaching leadership skills and encouraging students to organize themselves to make decisions can also be an essential aspect of a Haitian peace education course. Public and private schools and universities should hold elections to allow students to choose representatives to represent them in their school’s government. This committee or government could be composed of a president, a vice-president, or a prime minister, as well as parliamentarians. This approach could promote the development of a culture of dialogue, tolerance, and organization, which is crucial as Haiti faces a serious leadership crisis, and many of our political leaders come from our educational system. It is, therefore, essential to instill in them leadership skills and tolerance for electoral failure from an early age. The refusal to accept electoral defeat contributed significantly to political instability and violence in Haiti for decades.

The last element I want to mention is the peace education approach based on the principles of non-killing. Let me take a few minutes to explain the origin of this concept and why it is important to integrate it as part of a peace education program in the Haitian context. The concept of “nonkilling” was developed by the American political scientist Glenn D. Paige through his seminal book entitled “Nonkilling Global Political Science.” This book has already been translated into over 38 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, French, and Haitian Creole. In this book, the result of nearly three decades of research, Paige challenges the foundations of political science based on killing and violence by asking a simple question. The question is: Is a nonkilling global society possible? (Paige, 2002, p. 22). His answer to this question is: Yes, a nonkilling global society is possible! Now, how does Paige define a non-killing society? He defines a non-killing society in the following way:

It is a human community, smallest to largest, local to global, characterized by no killing of humans and no threats to kill; no weapons designed to kill humans and no justifications for using them; and no conditions of society dependent upon threat or use of killing force for maintenance or change. (Paige, 2002, p. 21).

My former professor of political and cultural anthropology, Dr. Max Paul, mentioned in his introduction to the French version of this book that “Professor Paige demonstrates that the emergence of a nonviolent society, without killing, devoid of all desire of threatening to kill and take the life of an individual or a group of individuals, is thinkable and possible» (Paul, 2005, p. 14). Paige asks: What is the basis for thinking that a non-killing society is possible? Why is it possible to think that human beings are capable of universal respect for life? (Paige, 2002).

One of Paige’s answers to these questions is that “most humans do not kill. Of all humans now alive—and of all who have ever lived—only a minority are killers” (Paige, 2002, p. 39). For Paige, “If human beings are by nature killers, if even half of humanity were inescapably homicidal, then the family in its various forms could not exist. Fathers would kill mothers; mothers, fathers; parents, children; and children, parents” (Paige, 2002, p. 40).

Paige’s scientific work on non-killing theory contradicts some researchers’ thesis, according to which man is by nature violent and murderous. Paige’s three decades of research go some way to reinforcing the Seville “Declaration on Violence” of May 16, 1986, where a group of specialists in “the disciplines of animal behavior, behavioral genetics, biological anthropology, ethnology, neurophysiology, physical anthropology, political psychology, psychiatry, psychobiology, psychology, social psychology, and sociology” show, from their scientific research, that Human beings are not by nature violent. I would like to share with you a summary of these researchers’ statements, as cited by Paige in his seminal book on non-killing political science. They state:

It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited the tendency to make war from our animal ancestors…. It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature…. It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution, there has been a selection of aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior…. It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a “violent brain” …. It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by ‘instinct’ or any single motivation (Paige, 2002, p. 50).

We must educate our children in ways that help them discover their capacity to resolve or transform conflict without resorting to killing and violence. Non-killing education can change the perception that humans are incapable of peaceful coexistence. We all have the capacity to live together. Living in a non-killing Haitian society does not mean the total absence of conflicts between us. As Paige points out, “This does not assume that such a society is unbounded, undifferentiated, or conflict-free, but only that its structure and processes do not derive from or depend upon killing” (Paige, 2002, p. 22). In other words, living together means that we respect each other despite our differences and that we use neither verbal nor physical violence to resolve or transform conflicts that may arise between us.

As I have emphasized throughout this presentation, the goal of peace or non-killing education is to eliminate killing and other forms of violence, whether physical, structural, or cultural. I believe that the current socio-political context of our country requires this type of teaching, especially given the involvement of certain children and adolescents in armed groups. Most armed gang leaders in Haiti recruit children and adolescents aged 10 to 15 to carry out acts of violence, terror, and kidnapping against innocent people.

Last April, the Minister of the Éducation nationale et de la Formation Professionnelle, Mr. Nesmy Manigat, was invited to Washington by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to participate in a round table on the theme “Quality Education for Security and Economic Growth.” During his intervention, the Minister emphasized that “Today, it is increasingly recognized that quality education can promote mutual respect, tolerance and critical thinking necessary for peace, security, and reconciliation after conflicts, without forgetting that it also contributes to facilitating the financial inclusion of citizens” (Loop Haiti, 2024, para. 3). He insisted on the urgency of taking measures not only to guarantee the right to education of thousands of children but also to prevent the recruitment of some of them by armed gangs (Loop Haiti, 2024). This is a very good sign for our awareness campaign for the teaching of peace in schools in Haiti. I hope the minister and other concerned authorities will take appropriate measures to initiate peace education in different schools in Haiti.

It is, therefore, urgent to introduce the teaching of peace in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, universities, and institutions such as the Church. It is essential to provide these children, adolescents, and young people not only with techniques for peaceful conflict resolution but also to instill in them values ​​such as respect for the lives of others. The Haitian state or government has a crucial role to play in this process.

On this, I would like to thank once again the rector, Dre. Magdala Jean-Baptiste, for understanding the importance of opening the debate on the teaching of peace here at the UPSEJ. I am glad that the rector has already sent the message to nine other public universities, and the rectors of these universities have welcomed this initiative. This concludes my intervention. Thank you to all of you. I’ll hand the microphone to Dr. Kiria Despinos for comments and questions.


Fountain, S. (1999). Peace education in UNICEF. UNICEF.

Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, peace, and peace research. Journal of peace research, 6(3), 167-191.

Galtung, J. (1990). Cultural violence. Journal of peace research, 27(3), 291-305.

Graines Paix. (n.d.a). Biographie. Retrieved from

Graines Paix. (n.d.b). Violence Structurelle. Retrieved from

Gatelier, K. (2012). Violence Structurelle. Retrieved from

Global Campaign for Peace Education. (n.d). Qu’est-ce que l’éducation à la paix ? retrieved from

J’aime Haïti : Instruction Civique et Morale » (n.d). Retrieved from

Jenkins T. (2019) Éducation complète à la paix. Dans : Peters M. (éd.) Encyclopédie de la formation des enseignants. Springer, Singapour.

Jenkins T. (2019). Comprehensive peace education. In: Peters M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Teacher Education. Springer, Singapore. (p. 1).  

Jones, R. (2007). Constructing The Defenses of Peace. Retrieved from

Loop Haiti. (2024). Manigat plaide pour une éducation au service de la paix en Haïti. Retrieved from

Paige, G. D. (2002). Nonkilling global political science. Xlibris Corporation.

Paige, G. D. (2005). Non-Violence, Non-Meurtre : Vers une Science Politique Nouvelle. Xlibris Corporation.

Sparke, M. (n.d). How Research on Globalization Explains Structural Violence. Retrieved from


Roland Joseph holds a Ph.D. in peace and conflict studies. He is a member of the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and a researcher at the Center for Global Nonkilling (CGNK). Dr. Joseph is the former chair of the Latin America and Caribbean Working Group (LACWG) of the Department of Conflict Resolution Studies at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Florida, United States. His research focuses on non-killing global political science theory and nuclear disarmament.