Education to support a Peace-Building Commonwealth


The annual Commonwealth Day Westminister Seminar, hosted by the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, titled “Education to support a Peace-Building Commonwealth” was held in Committee Room 10, Palace of Westminster on 13th March 2017.

Host: The Rt Hon Lord (Tom) McNally of Blackpool, CEC Parliamentary Patron

At a time of increasing instability and uncertainty in the world, the Commonwealth with its rich diversity of nations offers strength and hope for all its members. The Commonwealth theme for 2017, ‘A peace-building Commonwealth’, reaffirms the Commonwealth Charter principle that ‘international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all’. This year’s CEC Commonwealth Day Conference explored the complex relationships between education and societies in transformation and/or that have experienced conflict.


Achaleke Christian is a peace advocate and activist from Cameroon who was a victim of violence and radicalisation in his childhood. Achaleke has over nine years of experience with civil society actors involved in over 100 youth empowerment and peace building initiatives. He is currently a Chevening Scholar, studying International Development (Conflict, Security and Development) at the University of Birmingham. Achaleke is the Coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network and National Coordinator of Local Youth Corner Cameroon. In 2016, he was named the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, and the winner of the Commonwealth Youth Award of Excellence for Development Work.

Jonathan Cohen is Executive Director of Conciliation Resources, an independent NGO working with people in conflict to prevent violence, resolve conflicts and promote peaceful societies ( Jonathan joined Conciliation Resources in 1997 supporting cross-conflict dialogue and confidence building initiatives in the Caucasus. In 2008 became Director of Programmes overseeing work in the Caucasus, Colombia, West Africa, East Central Africa, the Philippines, Fiji and India/Pakistan in relation to Kashmir. Previously he served as Deputy Director of the Foundation on Inter-Ethnic Relations in The Hague, working with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

Lord Tom McNally is former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. He was active in student politics (at University College, London), was appointed International Secretary of the Labour Party in 1969; and became a researcher and adviser to the then Foreign Secretary. Lord McNally entered Parliament as an MP in 1979 and was a Minister in the Justice Department in the last government. As Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, he became an active promoter of policies covering rights and inclusion. He also pledged to position the party as ‘the voice of conscience and reform on issues such as civil liberties, human rights, changes in the legal system and access to justice’.

Alastair Niven LVO OBE was Principal of Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, and worked at the British Council and Arts Council England as Director of Literature in both organisations.  He has held posts at the Universities of Ghana, Leeds, Stirling, London (SOAS) and Aarhus. Alastair has many Commonwealth links: was a Commonwealth Scholar, is a Trustee of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, chaired the Commonwealth Writers Prize advisory committee and edited The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Alastair was a judge of the Man Booker Prize, President of English PEN and chair of the UK Council for International Student Affairs. He is Chairman of the Board of The Annual Register, an annual record of world events founded by Edmund Burke in 1758.

Dr Joanna Nurse is Head of Health and Education for the Commonwealth Secretariat. Joanna qualified in medicine, worked initially as a GP and specialised in public health. She has held posts with the Department of Health (UK) and WHO. Joanna has worked on policy development and programme delivery at national and international levels across Latin America, India, Central Asia and Europe. Joanna has advanced the development of a Global Public Health Charter as part of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. Her professional interests cover community development, inequalities, health promotion, injury prevention, disabilities, sexual health, environmental health, sustainable development and climate change.

Professor Alan Smith holds the UNESCO Chair at Ulster University. He has worked in Nigeria, Indonesia and Hong Kong and authored a DFID report on ‘Education, Conflict and International Development’. He has completed research on education, conflict and peace building for DFID, GTZ, Norad, International Alert, Save the Children, UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank in the Basque Country, Bosnia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe. He was a UK representative to the Council of Europe on Education for Democratic Citizenship and a member of an external advisory group on civic engagement established by the World Bank President. He was a contributing author and adviser to the Education for All, Global Monitoring Report (2011) and to the UNICEF Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy programme.

This was a Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) Event, with many thanks to support from the University of Ulster and Concillation Resources.

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