The brain, human evolution, the universe and beyond our insignificance

I wanted to write about conflict management but came across some other interesting ideas which will lead me towards conflict management and even resolution.

First if war starts in the mind then we should first understand the brain and then work on its adaptation:


Check out a new animation from New Scientist

brain interactive

And Stephen Hawking  has been ruminating on human evolution

We are now entering a new phase, of what Hawking calls “self designed evolution,” in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. “At first,” he continues “these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between them. Nevertheless, I am sure that during the next century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression.”


If the human race manages to redesign itself, to reduce or eliminate the risk of self-destruction, we will probably reach out to the stars and colonize other planets. But this will be done, Hawking believes, with intelligent machines based on mechanical and electronic components, rather than macromolecules, which could eventually replace DNA based life, just as DNA may have replaced an earlier form of life.

Casey Kazan

And while we are considering reaching out to the stars, anyone who has a rather inflated view of him/herself  should take a look through the Hubble telescope and consider how insignificant they are in comparison to the ‘big picture’

Next post on issues around conflict, conflict management and training


FREE training guide -Post Conflict Educational Reconstruction and Development in Africa

You can find this free training guide and other resources from Inter – Agency Network for Education in Emergencies INEE

Professional Training Course Syllabi

Post Conflict Educational Reconstruction and Development in AfricaTraining Guide, Workbook, Presentations 1-11 and Presentations 12-22. 27 February – 5 March, 2009, Osaka International Centre of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) with UNESCO and IIEP.

Mise en page 1

This Training Guide and accompanying PowerPoint presentations and workbook was designed as a resource to help facilitate the workshop ‘Educational reconstruction in post-conflict situations: access and inclusion.’ The Training Guide provides guidance and material for a workshop lasting up to six days.

The content has been divided into six themes:

1. Setting the stage
2. Rapid response
3. Access and inclusion
4. Quality issues in early post-conflict
5. Curriculum issues
6. Lessons learned

The materials are modular and have been designed so that sessions can be extracted and used in various combinations, or as stand-alone learning activities.

This course is built on the principles of a rights-based approach. As a result, the activities and sessions reflect this by being participatory and inter-active and they provide a ‘safe space’ for the analysis of situations which we regularly face when working in education in early reconstruction settings.

UN Announces Launch of World’s First Tuition-Free, Online University – news from INEE

The Inter Agency for Education in Emergencies INEE publish a newsletter -her e are three articles from the recent edition,June 2009. Perhaps with better, more humanitarian approaches to education, perhaps we are likely to get fewer conflicts and therefore fewer emergencies effecting children. It is worth hoping and acting!

UN Announces Launch of World’s First Tuition-Free, Online University

(UN News Centre)

A leading arm of the United Nations working to spread the benefits of information technology today announced the launch of the first ever tuition-free online university.

As part of this year’s focus on education, the UN Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development (<“”>GAID) presented the newly formed University of the People, a non-profit institution offering higher education to the masses.

“This year the Global Alliance has focused its attention on education [and] how ICT can advance education goals around the world,” a spokesperson for GAID told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

For hundreds of millions of people around the world higher education is no more than a dream, Shai Reshef, the founder of the University of the People, told reporters. They are constrained by finances, the lack of institutions in their region, or they are not able to leave home to study at a university for personal reasons.

The only charge to students is a $15 to $50 admission fee, depending on their country of origin, and a processing fee for every test ranging from $10 to $100. For the University to sustain its operation, it needs 15,000 students and $6 million, of which Mr. Reshef has donated $1 million of his own money.

For the full story click here

Over a trillion dollars is spent on arms each year -some of those arms are directed at schools.
Take a look at this article:

INTERVIEW: Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict on Attacks On Schools and Education within Humanitarian Response


Radhika Coomaraswamy recently spoke with EduInfo in New York about attacks on schools and other grave violations against children. Ms. Coomaraswamy was appointed to her position by the UN Secretary-General and serves as a moral voice and independent advocate for the rights and protection of children affected by armed conflict.

The following portion of a May 2009 interview with Ms. Coomaraswamy (provided by UNESCO) is of particular relevance to the INEE community:

Attacks on schools are among the grave violations covered in the Secretary-General’s annual report published last month. Are we witnessing an escalation of such attacks?

Our Report covers six grave violations of international humanitarian law, of which attacks on schools and hospitals are one. The increasing number of incidents of violence directed against schools, teachers and girls going to school is an alarming new development. We are very concerned about attacks on schools by aerial bombardment, the direct targeting of schools, teachers and students, or the use of schools for military activities. These attacks represent a violation of international humanitarian law and perpetrators must be held accountable for such actions.

What is your reading of attacks on schools?

At some point we have to deal with the fundamental issue that some people believe that girls should not go to school, that science should not be taught to girls or that government secular education is evil. We must find strategies to counter those fundamental prejudices. This is a big task that cannot only be addressed at UN level. It is also about getting a majority of people living in places where schools are being attacked to continue believing in education and advocating for it.

When I was in Afghanistan I spoke with Aisha, a ten-year old girl. Her parents’ house was damaged in an aerial bombardment; she lost several relatives; her school was attacked and some of her teachers were killed. She told me how she was determined to go back to school and did. She said that school gave her courage and a sense of strength and security. In North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I met with a 12-year-old girl who had joined the Mai Mai militia because her parents could no longer pay for school and because she thought carrying a gun would protect her from being raped. However, as with thousands of other children in Congo, she was sexually violated and abused by her commanders. Recently Mai Mai groups have entered into the peace process and Adila was released. She is now in an NGO Transit Centre and has just gone back to school. Her eyes lit up when she told me that she plans to be a school teacher.

Education is not yet a high priority in many humanitarian crises. How do you make a case for it?

The basic attitude is that if you have a humanitarian crisis, the immediate response is usually about food, shelter, water sanitation and if possible health issues. But emergency programs should also include education for children because it is a fundamental right and because it helps the situation. Children need safety and routine. This can prevent them from being recruited into armed groups. It is known that refugee camps and camps for internally displaced people are one of the main recruiting grounds because kids drift away and have nothing to do. Former child soldiers have also testified how going back to school has helped them to build trust and regain a sense of humanity. It is important to advance the notion of schools as zones of peace that all parties respect and where kids can feel secure.

TOOLKIT: I Painted Peace – Handbook on Peace Building with and for Children and Young People

(Save the Children) Save the Children is pleased to share I Painted Peace – a Handbook on Peace Building with and for Children and Young People with the INEE community.  In this handbook you will find examples of peace building from children and young people in four different countries. They present experiences, achievements and plans. It is hoped that the handbook can be useful for children and young people in other countries in their efforts to contributing to peace.

The handbook is important as it recognises children’s role as agents of peace. The idea behind I Painted Peace is to encourage more adults to listen to girls’ and boys’ voices carefully and seriously and to work with them as partners in creating and sustaining peace. In this way, the handbook helps to promote children’s participation leading to the better fulfillment of children’s rights.

Section II of the handbook specifically addresses school based peace building initiatives.  It cites specific examples of peace focused curriculum and activities that help contribute to safe learning communities.

To access this document, please click here:

For access to the Global Report on the Evaluation of children’s participation in armed conflict, post conflict and peace building, please click here:

In the last decade, more than 2 million children have died as a direct result of armed conflict and more than three times that number have been permanently disabled or injured. Exposure to violence and chaos directly affects a child’s physical, intellectual and emotional growth, while also robbing them of an education.

From a recent UNICEF mail out, the continuing punishment of children in conflicts around the world cannot be ignored….

UNICEF partners with local communities to rehabilitate schools and rebuild a protective environment for children threatened by violence and war. UNICEF is so trusted that it has been able to negotiate cease-fire Days of Tranquility and Corridors of Peace in a number of ongoing conflict areas in order to immunize millions of children against killer diseases. In Darfur, UNICEF immunized 1.3 million children and provided 98,000 insecticide-treated bed nets to fight malaria during such cease-fires. To learn more about the conflict in Darfur, please click here.

Country led evaluations – new free videos!

These new videos have been posted on the UNICEF CEE/CIS site:

Country-led M&E systems.
Better evidence, better policies, better results

Watch and listen to international keynote speakers talking on Country-led M&E Systems

UNICEF CEE/CIS, IDEAS and DevInfo, in partnership with WFP, OECD/DAC Network on Development evaluation and IOCE, are pleased to make available, every month and free of charge, the videos of international keynote speakers presenting the latest thinking on Country-led M&E Systems.

June 2009
Country-led M&E systems. Better evidence, better policies, better results

Enhancing evidence-based policy making through
Country-Led M&E Systems
Marco Segone, Regional Chief, Monitoring and Evaluation, UNICEF CEE/CIS

The role of national, regional and international evaluation organizations
in strengthening country-led M&E systems
Oumoul Ba-Tall
, President, IOCE

Country-led Development EvaluationThe Donor Role in Supporting Partner
Ownership and Capacity

Hans Lundgren, Manager, OECD/DAC Network on Development evaluation

Country-led impact evaluation: A survey of development practitioners

Denis Jobin
, Vice President, IDEAS

The country led evaluation (CLE) paradox

Robert Picciotto
, King’s College, and former Director General, Evaluation, World Bank


Previous Speakers

May 2009
Where is development evaluation going?

Robert Picciotto
, King’s College, and former Director General, Evaluation, World Bank.

September 2009
Tools to strengthen Country-led M&E systems.  Good practices in using DevInfo

Marco Segone, Regional Chief, Monitoring and Evaluation, UNICEF CEE/CIS; Nicolas Pron, Global DevInfo Administrator; Farhod Khamidov, M&E Specialist, UNICEF Tajikistan.


October 2009
Developing evaluation capacities

Caroline Heider
, Director, Office of Evaluation, World Food Programme


November 2009

Building a country-wide M&E system in Sri Lanka
Dhara Wijayatikale
– Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, Sri Lanka.

Monitoring and evaluation in South Africa
Indran Naidoo
– Deputy-Director General, Office of the Public Service Commission, Republic of South Africa.

Building results-based M&E systems. The case of Botswana
Collie Monkge
– Vision 2016 Coordinator, Botswana


December 2009

M&E in Zambia. The case of the Zambia Evaluation Association
John Njovu
, Chairman, Zambia Evaluation Association, Zambia.

M & E in Pakistan. The case of the Pakistan Evaluation Network
Khadija Khan
, Chair, Pakistan Evaluation Network.

1. These videos are a selection of key sessions on Country-led M&E Systems organized at  the Global IDEAS Conference held in March 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
2. The opinions expressed are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of
UNICEF. The videos and presentations have not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility forerrors. The designations in these videos and presentations  do not imply an opinion on legal status of any country or territory, or of its authorities, of the delimitations of frontiers.

The ugly face of democracy – fascism on the rise? The Failure of Education

The ugly face of democracy – fascism on the rise?

The Failure of Education

Having had a lifetime of education – first as a student, then a teacher, then a teacher trainer and now an education specialist, always working towards the ideal ‘democratic’ classroom and for basic human rights, it dismays me to see the situation in the UK.  The situation I am talking about is the election of two members of the british fascist party , the BNP, as members of the European Parliament. It is a failure of the electoral system in that although these candidates received fewer votes than in earlier elections, they won because other potential voters could not be bothered to turn out and freely express their opinion. Most of all, it is a failure of the education system of which I was a part.

We have failed to educate people in the importance of voting (people have died to gain this vote for others) and to understand (and read) the policy platform  on which a candidate is standing.

We have failed to provide media education so that people can understand the bias and prejudice  in reporting and electioneering, the strategies used to sell newspapers and magazines, and to understand the need for evidence to back up  argument.

We have failed to provide education that enlightens, broadens the mind, reduces prejudice, increases tolerance and provides the skills for fighting for rights without using violence.

The main political parties are taking ordinary voters for granted and deserve the shame that should be heaped upon them for allowing facsists to gain some ‘respectability’ even though their policies are not respectable.

World Environment Day – a war of the worlds?

World Environment Day  – 5th June 2009

Which world do you inhabit -a ‘tree -hugging’ world or a ‘fight you’ world? Read on….

tree hugger
tree hugger

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day’s agenda is to:

  1. Give a human face to environmental issues;
  2. Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;
  3. Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;
  4. Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.
increasing surface temperatures
increasing surface temperatures

The theme for WED 2009 is ‘Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change’. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.

climate change-can you control it?
climate change-can you control it?

While the United Nations tries to alert people about the potential environmental crisis looming ahead  -the ‘Nations’  part of the UN prefers to spend their money on arms production and use, than pay their dues to the UN.

Global military expenditure now stands at over $1.2 trillion in annual expenditure and has been rising in recent years.

Global arms spending
Global arms spending

Indeed, compare the military spending with the entire budget of the United Nations:

The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $20 billion each year, or about $3 for each of the world’s inhabitants. This is a very small sum compared to most government budgets and it is just a tiny fraction of the world’s military spending. Yet for nearly two decades, the UN has faced  financial difficulties and it has been forced to cut back on important programs in all areas. Many member states have not paid their full dues and have cut their donations to the UN’s voluntary funds. As of August 31, 2008, members’ arrears to the Regular Budget topped $919 million, of which the United States alone owed $846 million (92% of the regular budget arrears) and of course is the world’s biggest spenders on arms.

Summarizing some key details from chapter 5 of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2008 Year Book on Armaments, Disarmament and International Security for 2007:

  • World Military Expenditure in 2007 is estimated to have reached $1.339 trillion in current dollars (just over $1.2 trillion in 2005 constant dollars, as per above graph);
  • This represents a 6 per cent increase in real terms since 2006 and a 45 per cent increase over the 10-year period since 1998;
  • This corresponds to 2.5 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP), or $202 for each person in the world;

Of course with a billion people living in poverty, living on $365 per year or less, they may prefer  their governments spend their tax dollars in a different way. What about spending more on education and health?

UNESCO stated that governments of the world invested the equivalent of PPP$ 2.46 trillion in education in 2004 (or 1.97 trillion if converted into U.S. dollars on the basis of market exchange rates). This figure represents 4.4% of global GDP in PPP$. PPPs (purchasing power parities) are rates of currency conversion which eliminate differences in price levels among countries.

Total global expenditure for health US$ 4.1 trillion + Total global expenditure for health per person per year: US$ 639

So back to WED -what about spending on the environment?Guardian headlined in 2008

“Huge increase in spending on water urged to avert global catastrophe”

HEP Dam Chile.EPA
HEP Dam Chile.EPA

Countries across the world will have to dramatically increase investment in dams, pipes and other water infrastructure to avoid widespread flooding, drought and disease even before climate change accelerates these problems, experts have warned.

Global sea level rise?
Global sea level rise?

Investment needs to be at least doubled from the current level of $80bn (£45.5bn) a year, an international congress was told this week, and one leading authority said spending needed to rise to 1.5% of gross domestic product just “to be able to cope with the current climate” – one thousand times the current level.

The warnings follow a summer of dramatic events, from hurricane flooding in the Caribbean and the east coast of America to desperate measures in drought-stricken Mediterranean countries, including importing water by ship.

Rich nations suffer huge under-investment, but the threat of poor infrastructure to populations in developing countries is even greater, said Dr Olcay Unver, director of the United Nations’ Global Water Assessment Unit.

So serious is the problem that next year the UN’s World Water Assessment Report will make one of its main messages the need for investment to “accelerate substantially”, said Unver.

“You can’t justify the deaths of so many children because of lack of infrastructure or lost productive time of people [who are] intellectually or physically incapacitated because of simple lack of access to safe water or sanitation,” he added.

Dr Glen Daigger, senior vice-president of the International Water Association, said there was growing evidence that spending on clean water and sanitation was the single greatest contribution to reducing disease and death. The UN has identified dams for hydropower and irrigation as leading drivers of sustainable economic growth in developing countries. “Water and sanitation is clearly a better investment than medical intervention, but it’s not sexy,” added Daigger.

So on WED Governments could do some thinking -where do we get the money to attempt to start solving some of the big questions about the environment -and the step before that is to raise enough awareness so that action can be taken to pressurise Governments to act on your behalf…and the penguins!

Antarctic penguins
Antarctic penguins


Students learn what they live!

Build bridges not walls
Build bridges not walls

Image ref. International School for Global Understanding, Mostar


Human Rights Education provides us with opportunities for considering capacity building as well as sustainable development. Capacity building because implementing Human Rights legislation as well as accepted norms still seem a long way off and sustainable development because communities will have difficulty in sustaining themselves , without conflict, if basic human rights (particularly Child Rights) are not ensured for all.


Democratic and peace orientated classrooms, where everyone’s rights are understood, protected and ensured can provide opportunities for skills to be learned and practiced.

Teachers can be helped to improve their own classroom organisation and management skills through exploring the work of the following organisations:

Human Rights Education Associates
logoHREA The human rights education associates site draws together international resources to expand human rights education. Educators can take part in online courses and interactive tutorials. The electronic library provides curriculum and community-organizing resources.

The Research in Human Rights Education Paper Series intends to foster and disseminate research and evaluation in the practice of human rights education, training and learning. Through the Research in Human Rights Education Papers HREA hopes to encourage more research on the impact of human rights education and make the results available to practitioners, to academics and to funders.

Human Rights Training for Adults: What Twenty-Six Evaluation Studies Say About Design, Implementation and Follow-Up
Katharine Teleki, August 2007 (Issue no. 1), 35 pages

HREA training courses

HREA organises training for a range of professionals groups, including human rights defenders, development workers, educators, legal professionals, law enforcement officials, social workers, health professionals, and journalists.

Distance Learning Programme

In the third trimester of 2009 the new distance learning courses L’Information et la documentation en droits de l’homme, Minority Rights, Indigenous Peoples and International Law, and National Human Rights Institutions will be offered.

Distributed Learning Programme for Human Rights Defenders

Introductory Human Rights Courses via E-Learning



Amnesty International believes that learning about human rights is the first step toward respecting, promoting and defending the rights of all people. Teaching human rights means both conveying ideas and information concerning human rights and nurturing the values and attitudes that lead to the support of those rights.

About Human Rights Education »


Teachers Without Borders is an international network of educators in more than 80 countries. It partners with parents, corporations, and local and global agencies to promote educational initiatives tied to economic and ecological sustainability. Key programs include teacher training and curricular development that preserve cultural diversity and foster global understanding.



Rethinking Schools

This group has been a staunch supporter of human rights education for the last 20 years in a very practical way -from looking at assessment and maths teaching to rethinking the way history is taught e.g. Rethinking Columbus




Educators for Social Responsibility

Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) helps educators create safe, caring, respectful, and productive learning environments. They also help educators work with young people to develop the social skills, emotional competencies, and qualities of character they need to succeed in school and become contributing members of their communities.
Find out about Adventures in Peacemaking, an activity-based program for early childhood and after-school settings, and Partners in Learning for middle schools to help develop safe and respectful learning environments. Since 9.11, Project Renewal has reached out to over 27 schools impacted by the events to aid in trauma recovery and community rebuilding. Learn  about their Online Teacher Center.