Promoting Peace Education along the Asian Highway (AH) No.1

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(This paper ,an edited version here  was  presented at the Confucius Institute Lecture Hall , Kyoto World Peace Museum, Ritsumeikan University, Japan on the 16th October 2011,Orgd by APPRA ( Asia Pacific Research Associate) on the theme :- New Agenda for Peace Research in the Asia- Pacific. )
By Leban Serto
This paper explores the intersection between the subject of Peace Education and the Asian Highways (AH) which are a series of roads. The main focus is on the AH No 1  and indicating the urgent need to promote the ideals of Peace Education along the AHs, to touch the lives of communities and nations. As laid down  in UNESCO’s (United Nation Educational  Social and Cultural Organization) declaration that – the education for a Culture of Peace to create and encourage peace ‘ in the minds of men and women’ , based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice , solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between men and women. Today, these goals are  advanced by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of Cold War tensions. Towards the creation of a nonviolent 21st Century, the decade of 2001-2010 has been declared as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. The growing movement of Peace Education since Hague Appeal for Peace,(HAP,1999) which launched the Global Campaign for Peace Education (GCPE) has facilitated many seminars; consultations and projects in countries across the Globe. The 50 point Agenda of the HAP ( A/54/98) is now an official document of the United Nations (UN)  is also an important rallying point for promotion of Peace Education. .My personal involvement with the campaign for Peace Education began since 1999 in India. Since I also belonged to the North East India region, through where the AH1 will pass, and it has generated a lot of interest and curiosity, which has made me to work and research on the intersection for   promotion of Peace Education agenda along the AH 1.

The  paper also addresses some concepts of the Peace Education and Peace Agenda which would be best implemented in the region to reach out to the communities along the Highways crossing beyond nations and therefore fulfilling some of the promises as laid down in the in the Charter of the United Nations. UN through its UNESCO, have ratified strong resolutions defining a culture of peace. These have been widely accepted by the international community, including Resolution A/53/243, the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace, which outlines eight critical actions areas ( UNESCO , Education for a culture of peace)  and calls out for actors of peace to act at national, regional and international levels to eliminate the roots of conflict: Fostering a culture of peace through education ;Promoting sustainable economic and social development ;Promoting respect for all human rights ;Ensuring equality between women and men ;Fostering democratic participation; Advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity; Supporting participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge; Promoting international peace and security.

The Background and Asian Highways (AH) Vision for the future: The AH project was initiated by the United Nations in 1959 with the aim of promoting the development of international road transport in the region. AH, the Great Asian Highway is a cooperative project among countries in Asia and Europe and the United Nations, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to improve the highway systems in Asia. It is one of the three pillars of Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development (ALTID) project, endorsed by the ESCAP commission at its forty-eight session in 1992, comprising Asian Highway, Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) and facilitation of land transport projects. The Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on the Asian Highway Network was adopted on November 18, 2003 by the Intergovenmental Meeting; include which identified 55 AH routes among 32 member countries totaling approximately 140,000 km (87,500 miles ) the IGA treaty was signed by 23 countries. In 2007, 28 countries were signatories , which subsequently rose to 32 countries in 2008. A significant part of the funding comes from the larger or advanced nations as well as international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB). AH1 is the longest route of the Asian Highway Network, running 12,845 miles (20,557km) from Tokyo, Japan via Korea, China, Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to the border between Turkey and connecting with Europe via Bulgaria (AH5). In India the AH1 is, 11,432 km (7,145 miles).

The brief description of the Asian Highway projects should develop an immense interest and challenge; though there are also skeptics who think the project is too ambitious and is next to impossible though  the works have commence and discussion and consultation have started. On the other hand, the civil and political strife across nations in some Asian countries is also hindering the progress and work of the Asian Highways. Nonetheless, the challenges remain. Asia, with the North and South Korean stalemate, the fragile situation in Myanmar and insurgency issue in North East India are visible; the war like situation in Pakistan and war in Afghanistan is also causing immense concern. It is a reality that the Asian Highway will pass through these conflict areas and region in near future. The need for Peace Education is felt even more. Therefore the challenge before us is that, it becomes an important rallying point to develop strategies how we could promote peace education not only in these conflicting points but to start from Japan, where the Asian highways  is one of the important  strategic point in Asia.

Challenges and Opportunities
In this connection, my communication with Richard Schneider CEO, of IGE (Institute of Global Education)  narrated “One example of a cross continental effort was the Pan American road from Alaska to the tip of South America. It required cooperation and monumental effort from many countries and took many years. But it was finally done and was altogether successful. He  is of opinion that – “ In building the AH 1 , the participation of every level of society will be required; bricklayer to teachers, religious leaders of every stripe, the common persons and the political leaders, the intelligentsia, musicians, poets and the youth. A new sense of world citizenship will need to emerge and strengthened- Nationalism will need to be tamed and redirected to a sense of the common good.” In my communication with Cora Weiss, the president of Hague Appeal for peace she remarked about the idea of the Peace Education promotion along the Asian highway as – “And the point of the Peace Trail, or Road to Peace, is that increasingly things are being organized not on a state by state basis, but regionally.. and the next form of organization can be the length of a highway, especially one that goes through national boundaries, demonstrating that peace education has/knows no borders.” The idea of Road to Peace or Peace Route going through so many countries, we can see in our imagination of Peace Education camps, schools courses integrated into education schools and universities along the way, and exchange of faculty visiting each other schools.
Uli Jaeger’s laudatory speech in May 2011 at the Becker Peace Prize jointly given to Gavriel Salomon and others , highlighting the work of Salomon and the  concept that “not all Peace Education Program are created equally”. He also talks about the intractable conflict within which one had to make peace with the real enemies and how “complicated conflict is sometimes” and they are not all similar in different parts of the Globe and would definitely need different strategies and approaches. We must develop good research and scientific peace work to benefit the local communities in bridging the gap and building a culture of peace. This brings us to the challenges and opportunities as along the AH , there will be many communities where some are comparatively more advance having democratic systems and on the other hand where some are in deep conflict with complete lack of governance and basic amenities of life, protection of human rights. The Infamous Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent are also along these Highways and there was economic sanction imposed against the Myanmar military Junta and a full scaled war in Afghanistan. There are also immense cultural, ecological, linguistic varieties existing along the Highways and new discoveries will definitely found along the way.

It would definitely be an exciting time and moments in history as we venture out to promote peace education which is so needed along the highways and the countries and communities which are inflicted, affected and torn apart by violation of human rights and lack of social justice and tolerance that are in need of healing and reconciliation.  The value of peace and tolerance are an essential part of quality basic education, Basic education not only provides the skills of literacy and numeracy, but also provides the values and attitudes needed for self- development, improving the quality of life and for active participation in society. Educational and training programs must be available to people at all levels, formally and non-formally. In such programs, the dimensions of peace education must include tolerance, respects for human rights and democracy, international and intercultural understanding, cultural and linguistic diversity .We must also urgently  incorporate the MDG (Millenium Development Goals) 2015 along with the Peace program at hand.
(The Writer is from Manipur and presently serving as co-ordinator of the Peace Studies Dept at Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU) Shillong, available at [email protected])

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