Learning for Peace Primer

Three people stand on a street.
Nico Edwards, fat left, and fellow activists (Photo: Nico Edwards).

In school they taught me about war. About armed conflicts, structural violence and weapons of mass destruction. Peace, on the other hand, was simply something existing between wars, a taken-for-granted condition occurring in the absence of direct, large-scale armed or interstate violence. Omitted from my Swedish schoolbooks and classroom discussions were the resistance and alternative visions that have always come hand in hand with warfare and militarisation. That is, the peace work, in its broadest and deepest sense.

Thinking, doing, being peace means so many things – yet so little of it receives due attention throughout our schooling and in public debate. The absence of a nuanced approach to learning about peace is not unique to Sweden, but rather tells of an experience shared by plenty of my peers around the world, from the Czech Republic to the UK, to Italy, Spain and France, to the US to Colombia to Malaysia. 

With my 15 year old sister in mind, this primer is a response to that lack of nuanced perspectives on what it means to think, do and believe in peace. It tells some of the stories about the myriad ways of doing peace that I wish I had been taught already in high school (or way before). As such, the primer doubles as a call for more efforts to teach and learn peace, and as inspiration for a peace education resource in itself, suggesting examples of what such an education can teach. What do we mean by peace? What can doing peace involve? 

In 2024, we find ourselves yet again in a social-political climate with little to no room in public debate for challenging the 21st century horns of war – those sounding across the globe, beating the drums of geopolitical competition, brinkmanship and arms racing, of apocalypse-politics set for inevitable, impending global disaster. Now more than ever we need to strengthen, guide and promote public education efforts teaching peace – especially among youths, in and out of school. 

Read the Primer

Nico is a researcher with WPF's program, Revitalizing Debate on the Arms Trade, and author of the WPF published report, "Resisting Green Militarism:  Building Movements for Peace and Eco-Social Justice" (2023). She is a second year full-time PHD Student in International Relations and a UKRI ESRC SeNSS student-led studentship awardee (fully funded 2022-2026). Her doctoral research project, supervised by Prof Anna Stavrianakis and Dr Andrea Brock, explores the drivers and implications of the ongoing environmental sustainability pivot in military industry and practice, and zooms in on military sector actors' balancing between strategy and sustainability. Nico has a substantial background in international humanitarian law, political economy and interdisciplinary peace and security studies from SOAS University of London, where her research rigour and critical thinking awarded her the Best Student Profile three out of four years, a wide array of scholarships and grants, and the department-wide Best Dissertation Prize for her postgraduate research on the Arms Trade Treaty. As a recent graduate, Nico entered the field of policy research, parliamentary advocacy and communitarian journalism, becoming an experienced Policy, Program and Communications Officer through placements with various third sector organisations such as Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, La Otra Juventud (Colombia) and PeaceWorks Sweden. She has volunteered for NGOs like Action on Armed Violence, carrying out research and advocacy around victim assistance, collective security and climate action. Next to the PhD, Nico acts as Advisor to Scientists for Global Responsibility, and is recognised as an Emerging Expert with Forum on the Arms Trade.

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