Journal of
Stellar Peacemaking

©2008 Journal of Stellar Peacemaking
Vol.3 No. 3, 2008




Multiculturalism and Peace Studies:
The Case of Education for Peacekeeping Forces in Brazil

Rejane Pinto Costa, Ph.D. student
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Captain at the Brazilian Army- Brazil

Ana Canen, Ph.D.
Professor, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Researcher of the Brazilian Research Council

The present study posits that an increased mutual dialogue between multiculturalism and peace studies could strengthen multicultural and peace education. It discusses theoretical approaches to those issues, as well as a case study carried out through interviews with Brazilian military agents that have acted in peace missions and documental analysis of the curriculum of their preparation course. The article suggests that partnership between Higher Education and Military Institutions could help broaden the scope of multicultural and peace education in both civil and military educational settings.
Key words: peace studies – multiculturalism – multicultural education-higher education institutions – military institutions- Brazil

Introduction: the perspective of the study

We have witnessed, particularly at the end of the last century, the effects of the world globalization as well as its consequences in different areas of society. Terrorism and intolerance acts that have come upon the USA and the United Kingdom, as well as the threats surrounding the Western countries, aggravated by different kinds of stereotypes towards cultural and ethnic minorities are also a sad reality of the present century. Apart from that, the phenomenon of globalization has changed human, social and cultural relations, bringing with it global and local complexities, as well as issues surrounding identities on the lines of ethnicity, race, gender and so forth.

Against that scenario, the United Nations Millennium Declaration (UNICEF, 1999) reaffirmed the “[…] faith in the Organization and its Charter as indispensable foundations of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.”2 In the same direction, the United Nations claimed the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace, declaring 2001-2010 as the International Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2000-2010).3

As a result, many initiatives have emerged around the world aimed at combating violence, as well as building and disseminating a culture of peace in different areas and segments of society. At the same time, multiculturalism as a theoretical, political and practical perspective aimed at valuing cultural diversity and challenging prejudices and stereotypes (BANKS, 2006; CANEN, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2007; CANEN & GRANT, 1999; CANEN & CANEN, 2005; CANEN & PETERS, 2005; HALL, 2003; LEONARDO, 2005; McLAREN, 1997) has been influencing world attitudes towards cultural differences. Based on the above, the present study is part of a broader research, arguing that there is a strong need to interrelate the concepts of multiculturalism and peace studies in that complex and conflict-laden contemporary world scenario.

We contend that an increased mutual dialogue between multiculturalism and peace studies could strengthen multicultural and peace education, which may contribute to the construction of a culture of peace in the educational arena. The paper highlights the relevance of such an approach in peace operations nowadays, due to the following reasons: firstly, it claims that the nature of conflicts has changed from predictable and regular combats to on-going cultural conflicts that often result in attacks on civilians; secondly, because peace operations have assumed a new dimension today, incorporating new social agents including civilians, that act together with soldiers; thirdly, due to the importance of preventing conflicts through an on-going negotiating strategy that arguably should incorporate the valuing and understanding of disparate cultural view.

It is important to stress at this point that the presence of soldiers to keep peace is not the only way towards achieving that goal. In fact, multicultural schooling in times of conflict and in post-conflict contexts is a crucial avenue towards citizenship education for children, adolescents and adults bereft by violence and war-ridden scenarios. However, in addition to those initiatives, we claim the role of military institutions should shift from merely warfare training towards participating in the global effort towards peace and the valuing of cultural diversity.

Thus, educating soldiers and civilians in a multicultural and peace-oriented viewpoint is crucial so as to equip them to effectively deal with cultural, ethnic, racial, gender and other identity plural markers. That is paramount considering the need for the respect for human rights and citizenship dimensions in highly multicultural societies. Such a perspective can positively minimize conflicts, through peaceful dialogues and mediation processes.

Therefore this paper focuses on the relevance of a multicultural and peace oriented education to prepare military agents to act in peace operations, which can be extended to civilian educational institutions as well. We argue that a dialogue between multiculturalism and peace studies should represent an asset for developing educational practices towards cultural plurality and respect for those considered as ‘different’. In order to develop the argument, we firstly discuss the concepts of multiculturalism and peace studies. Secondly, we delve into the cultural dimension of the training of soldiers to peace missions in Brazil, both from their speeches gleaned from interviews and in the intentions expressed in the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operations in the Brazilian Army (CI Op Paz).4

A qualitative research investigation directed our methodological path (DENZIN & LINCOLN, 1994), through the undertaking of a case study, which relies on interviewing and documental analysis. Interviews were held with military agents who had experienced being in peace operations in order to know their feelings, needs and challenges acting within multicultural scenarios. This strategy of inquiry is especially relevant to research in educational fields because it allows acknowledging actors’ and agents’ different perspectives and voices. On the other hand, documental analysis provides information to the extent to which Brazilian educational institution that prepares peace operations troops has taken into account their multicultural needs other than operational ones. It has been undertaken so as to gauge how far the curriculum has been (or has not been) imbued with a multicultural, peace-oriented direction. That is arguably relevant due to the constant interaction of those groups with different nationalities, cultures, values and languages, during peace operations missions.

The article concludes, suggesting that some government initiatives of partnership between higher education institutions and the military education could help broaden the scope of multicultural and peace education for preparing educators both in civil and military educational settings. The aim is to promote the understanding of cultural diversity and the challenging of the social construction of barriers and frontiers related to cultural differences so as to boost an ever increasing effective approach towards global world peace.

Theoretical framework: multiculturalism and peace studies

Multiculturalism is generally understood as a field that tries to provide answers to cultural diversity and to challenge the construction of differences and prejudices against those perceived as ‘the others’ (BANKS, 2006; CANEN, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2007; CANEN & CANEN, 2005; CANEN & GRANT, 1999; CANEN & PETERS, 2005; HALL, 2003; LEONARDO, 2005; McLAREN, 1997). At the same time, peace studies (ADAMS, 2002; GAULTUNG, 2005; SWEE-HIN, 1997; PARAJON, LOURENÇO & ADAMS, 1996; WARD, 1999) contend that peace is conceived not just as the absence of conflict, but in a positive sense, namely as a co-operation among individuals and groups in order to achieve security, justice and freedom.

These two concepts together seem to offer a possible alternative to improve multicultural and peace education not only in the preparation of soldiers for peace missions, but also for civilian education in an increasingly multicultural and clashing world, touching on similar categories such as discrimination, prejudice, inequality, justice, democracy, and freedom, among others.

We recognize that ‘multiculturalism’ is a term that may be understood in different ways, ranging from the simply folkloric valorization of cultural diversity to the questioning of the construction of identity and difference, with implications and challenges related to all of those approaches, particularly when it is translated into educational practices. (CANEN & CANEN, 2005; CANEN & PETERS, 2005).

In fact, Banks (2006) confirms that multicultural education is an idea that applies to all students, regardless of the groups to which they belong, such as racial, cultural, linguistic or socioeconomic ones. It is designed to attain educational equality and the eradication of all forms of racism and discrimination. Banks (2006) contends that five dimensions should be worked out in multicultural education, namely: content integration (referring to curricular incorporation of ethnic and cultural contents into disciplines and curricular areas); the construction of the process of knowledge (referring to the acknowledgment of the processes whereby cultural underpinnings are incorporated by scientists in the construction of knowledge, depicting cultural bias and perspectives that inform such a construction); the minimization of prejudice (meaning the lessons and activities developed by teachers so as to confront prejudice, such as the presence of culturally diverse teaching staff, as well as the analysis of multiculturally-oriented programs including TV ones); pedagogical equity (meaning the set of methods and teaching styles in order to take into account the various styles of learning within culturally and ethnically diverse students, with a view to raise the likelihood of their educational success); and the social and cultural structure of the school (meaning the cultural organization of the school as a whole geared towards facilitating an inclusive and positive environment for all cultural groups).

Authors such as Canen (1995), Canen & Canen (2005) and Canen & Grant (1999) have developed an approach towards a critical intercultural perspective that aims to deconstruct and challenge stereotypes based on race, gender, class and cultural identity in education and teacher preparation. This approach seeks to promote dialogical strategies to hearing and taking into account different "voices" in educational policies and practices, aiming at celebrating cultural plurality and knowledge for equity.

Multiculturalism touches directly on identity issues, and as described by Hall (2003), in order to challenge homogenizing trends, it advocates a “subversive proliferation of differences”. However, as opposed both to the essencialisation of differences and to the persistent binary systems that accompany them (such as tradition versus modernity, and universalism versus particularism, among others), Hall (2003), Leonardo (2005) and Canen & Peters (2005) suggest the reframing of multiculturalism so as to not only incorporate those tensions, but take into account the provisionary, transient nature of identity construction.

In fact, tensions between universalism and relativism have been subject of many discussions in the academic arena and directly touch on multicultural thinking. In a universalistic perspective, Valdés (1997) claims there are values which are valid for the whole society independently of a specific culture. On the other side, Batalla (1997) points out that it is impossible to sustain a universal foundation which directs attitudes towards different identities. This relativist position does not believe in absolute truths built independently of cultural values which inform them.

In that sense, according to Stronach (1996), Canen and Canen (2005), Hall (2003), and Canen & Peters (2005), multicultural thinking should incorporate categories such as "hybridization" and "shift" of cultural patterns to avoid a stagnant and determinist perception of cultural values as static, universal and essentialized. In accordance, McLaren's multicultural thinking (1997) models awareness of "hybrid citizenship", which should be understood from a multigendered, multiracial and multicultural perspective. Comprehensive education for citizenship in a democratic society incorporates the multicultural concept of hybrid citizenship.

Therefore, according to the above-mentioned authors, it is possible to notice the implications of the universalism and relativism in a multicultural context, especially in schools. This is not different in the military educational system, which struggles between the maintenance of its main values and foundations- discipline and hierarchy- and the staff’s cultural plurality that act within that institution. Indeed, the Brazilian Army originated in and by cultural diversity, namely in the aftermath of a fight where white people, African slaves and first nations struggled together against what they considered at the time as “the Dutch invader”. As a result, the Dutch were sent off in an episode historically called the Guararapes Battle5 , in which the Brazilian Army was born.

As mentioned before, Banks (2006) recognized the cultural organization of schooling as an important dimension to be considered in multicultural education. Likewise, Canen and Canen (2005) called the attention to the importance of dealing with the tensions between the organization’s cultural identity and the staff's cultural plurality, as well as the cultural environment in which the organization operates. These considerations are especially relevant to the Brazilian Army [which may be extended to other Armed Forces], whose cultural identity relies on values and foundations built on discipline and hierarchy, as mentioned before, whilst, at the same time, having to provide answers to the cultural plurality of its staff and military agents, as well as the values and competencies demanded by the post-modern world, particularly in disparate cultural environments in which peace missions will take place. Such aspects evidence the need for educating military agents for their development of multicultural perspectives.

The Army must not lag behind in preparedness for responding appropriately to societal needs. Therefore, it needs to respond to this concern, so as to find the most appropriate ways to educate its soldiers and agents with multicultural competencies and sensitivities as well in the cultural values of its institution. In that context, the relevance of peace studies also emerges as a field of study that is inter-, multi-, and transdiciplinary, thereby involving processes and structures of peace construction and violence reduction (WEIGERT, 1999). In fact, Weigert contends it is not simple to define the categories embraced by peace studies. It is as a tense and intriguing definition as that of multiculturalism. If in the past, during the Cold War period, politicians and scholars believed that a concept of peace as a means to dissuade by power should be enough, today this definition demands a more inclusive perspective, with an increased participation/inclusion of social actors in decision-making and in the distribution of income/resources. In such a contemporary perspective, peace studies have expanded and include issues of security, justice, equality and basic needs values, their main objectives being the understanding of peace and violence. Weigert (1999), based on Gaultung (1969), who in the 60's emphasized the challenge of inequality and the concept of structural violence in peace studies, presented a distinction between positive and negative violence; positive as the absence of structural violence and the presence of social justice, and negative as simply the absence of war.

Gaultung (op. cit.) extended the concept of structural violence for those countries where poverty prevails as the result of political and social violence. His acknowledged transcend method (GAULTUNG, 2006) conceives mediation and negotiation as a tool to solve conflicts peacefully. This allows transcending from negative to positive peace. The author also distinguished three different types of justice: punitive, restorative and transitory, positing that the concepts of peace studies are intimately related to the definitions of justice. This way, while the punitive justice relies on punishment, the restorative justice relies on individual and collective actions to heal the damages and harm caused by conflicts (EGLASH, 1975; JACCOUD, 2005). Peaceful techniques of mediation should be used to get positive results and to reintegrate the victim and the aggressor socially. (PINTO, 2005).

According to Melo (2008, p.170), transitory justice “[...] functions in between a singular process of transition or peace consolidation, conditioned by political compromises and practical embarrassment in normal situations (MELO, 2008, p. 170 in NEWMAN, 2002, p.31).” Melo (op. cit.) points out that, according to the human security commission report, the transitory justice is one of the strategies that searches the truths about the human rights’ violations and tries to obtain both justice to the victims and penalties to the aggressors. Transitory justice focuses on strategies that are used by the societies to overcome human rights’ violations they have suffered in the past towards the construction of a more democratic, fair and peaceful future.

At this point it is relevant to show the relation between the concepts of multiculturalism and peace studies so as to pinpoint some of the connections between them. The conservative multiculturalism (McLAREN, 1997) might be associated to punitive justice due to the fact that minorities (victims) are submitted to the dominant cultures (many times the aggressors), often in the context of cultural shocks and conflicts. The critical multiculturalism might arguably be related to restorative justice, because it understands the role of minority groups (victims) as that of leading extensive social fights for identity construction against homogeneous and ethnocentric societies (the probable aggressors). Through critical multiculturalism, silenced power relations within societies may be reviewed and reinterpreted in order to find their own legal spaces (restorative justice). Last but not least, the liberal humanistic multiculturalism (McLAREN, 1997) should be related to transitory justice, because it believes on the possibility of overcoming and repairing social, cultural and economic inequalities through the intellectual equality among identities, racial and otherwise (social strategy), in order to achieve democracy.

We recommend that multicultural and peace education contribute to military educational systems by building on the Army’s cultural values and foundations and, at the same time, by reframing them in the context of pluralism and postmodern needs. It is relevant, therefore, to call the attention to the importance of a partnership between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Military Educational ones. It could represent a fruitful avenue for both: for the Army [extended for other Armed Forces], because it may be supported by academic research and findings [in this case, multicultural research]; and for the HEIs, by enhancing its academic production through military agents’ practices within disparate cultural environments. The possibility of a fruitful cooperation between HEIs in partnership with Military Institutions would boost knowledge in the area and hopefully enhance peace and multicultural education in a deeply conflict-ridden and multicultural world.

The recognized ethnic mix found in countries carrying out peace operations, such as Brazil, should allow a fertile field for reflections by HEIs and Brazilian educators, as well as by teachers [military and civilian ones], and by all those who are aware of the relevance and implications of education to minimize social, ethnic and cultural conflicts. That aim could be achieved by building a culture of peace through the consolidation and affirmation of cultural and ethnic diversity, as well as through the development of multicultural and peace education, so as to not only minimize social conflicts, but also make future generations sensitive to values of tolerance, acceptance and respect in a peace-building perspective. In the same direction, the recognized Brazilian diplomatic history in dealing with external conflicts would add an interesting dimension to the study (HAGE, 2004).

Therefore, we claim that due to the need of building a culture of peace in such a violent world, a partnership between HEIs and Military Institutions might contribute to establishment of links that would offer an upgrade to military preparation for interaction in multicultural environments. We contend that such partnerships might help to disseminate multicultural and peace studies in Brazilian peace operations, which would be particularly relevant during peace-building periods, in areas surrounded by conflicts, such as Haiti, where the Brazilian Army currently has a strong role determined by the United Nations.

Identification of Multicultural and Peace-Oriented Concerns in the Army Curriculum

Based on the above considerations, we have firstly analyzed the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operations of the Brazilian Army as explicitly presented in the documentation of The Instruction Center for Peace Operations, which prepares both members of the Brazilian military and civilians (especially journalists who will work in areas of conflict) to act in peace operations. We were interested to gauge the extent to which the curriculum and the syllabus were informed by those multicultural and peace-oriented concerns.

The Center develops different courses for the troops, the staff officers, the military observers and the journalists who will work in areas of conflict. Within the limits of this article, we focus on the preparation of both the troops and the military observers. The first ones were chosen because they represent a group that is always in touch with the population in a tense and stressing context, allowing us to witness the cultural difficulties and opportunities that arose in those situations. The second group was chosen due to the fact that they are not allowed to take any kind of weapons in peace operations; as a result, their real 'weapon' is the ability to negotiate and otherwise nonviolently respond to conflicts. Those two groups of soldiers need preparation for dealing with the multicultural dimensions of their missions, with all associated implications, having arguably to particularly acquire multicultural and peace-oriented competencies that allow them to mediate and to manage conflicts in a peaceful perspective.

In the documental analysis of the curriculum of the referred center, we realized they are mostly operational in essence, even though some parts of it do mention multicultural concerns. We selected below the curriculum of the military observers preparation course in the Center for Instruction to Peace Operations (CI Op Paz)6 that evidence some of the discourses presented in the documentation. In fact, the course has specific objectives, in which culturally oriented sensitivities emerge, such as: describe the importance of cooperation and integration of components in a mission; understanding the relationships and roles of the different components; recognizing the consequences of inappropriate actions to the rules / standards of conduct; recognizing the importance of different cultural events in the Peace Operations; understanding the various cultural contexts; develop skills for working in multicultural environments; identify the principles of civil-military coordination; indicate the skills of communication and negotiation; identify how to develop the relationship with the press in the Missions of Peace; identify the impact that exists in their respective roles [men and women] to building peace; describe how to handle tense domestic situations amongst the team members in a multicultural and multinational environment; raise awareness of the situations that can happen when individuals from different cultural and political environments live for long periods together; explain the main concepts related to the multicultural environment; describe and explain the main concepts of loyalty and respect in the team’s place; use appropriate language according to various situations.” (CI Op Paz’s subject plan, 2007)

Indeed, as can be noted in the documentation, some of the objectives clearly point to a multicultural awareness, highlighting the need to understand cultural diversity in order to act in culturally disparate situations, which touches on a general multicultural perspective (Banks, 2006; Canen & Canen, 2005; McLaren, 1997; Hall, 2003). However, they do not seem to explicitly incorporate the discussions and concepts related to multiculturalism and peace studies, as discussed in the theoretical part of this article.

In order to develop the curriculum, the Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) sends 17 Standard Generic Training Modules (SGTM)7 to all Centers in the world in charge of soldiers’ preparation to peace operations, and these are the modules that have been presented during the course under study. We analyzed the intentions expressed in the following ones, due to their intimate connection to our research theme: SGTM 5 (about the code of conduct), and SGTM 11 ( about communication and negotiation). SGTM 5 deals with the “Attitudes and Behaviors of the United Nations Peacekeepers” and is further divided into the following sub-modules: 5A- ‘Code of Conduct, 5 B- ‘Cultural Awareness’, 5C- ‘Gender & Peacekeeping’ and 5D- ‘Child Protection’. In the limits of this article, we focus on the 5B dimension, although the 5C and 5D ones also touched on cultural issues, albeit indirectly.

Some of the curriculum topics of those modules seem to be clearly underlied by multicultural perspectives more aligned to a liberal, folkloric approach, that values cultural diversity but silencing cultural conflicts and prejudices which are included in critical- and post-colonial multicultural education (Canen & Canen, 2005; Banks, 2006; Leonardo, 2005; McLaren, 1997; Hall, 203). The following excerpts may be important to illustrate the point:


SGTM 5b (Cultural Awareness) intends “to help United Nations peacekeepers to improve their ability to work and live in a multicultural environment” (SGTM b, p.1, 2008)
(…) today's missions are multi-culturally composed and take place in diverse cultural contexts. Culture is a sensitive topic. It provides understanding of groups/individuals beliefs, values and behavior and how they are interpreted.” (op. cit.)
(…) after completing module 5b, peacekeepers should understand how to be culturally aware and how to work effectively within a multicultural environment.” (op. cit.); [...] should be able to: explain what cultural differences are; give at least two examples of cultural differences from real life; and explain how to deal with awkward or problematic situations that have arisen from cultural differences, through examples.” (op. cit.).
(…) to provide UN peacekeepers the information required to improve their ability to work and live in a multi-cultural environment” (op. cit.),
(…) the following structure for a lesson plan is suggested: what is culture?; understanding cultural differences; dealing with cultural differences; and case studies.” (op. cit.., p. 2)


However, in other points, a more critical multicultural approach can be perceived, as in the following excerpt:


a cycle of prejudice begins when we start judging other cultures by our own set of standards to define the world around us. Lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to learn can result in an unintentional conflict/misunderstanding. (...) The only way to break this cycle is to be aware of cultural differences and try to understand their origins.(op. cit., p. 4).

It is also stated that:

“cultural awareness is increased by giving you the most common examples, how culture may be different in a new mission area. This is the first step to handle cultural differences positively, avoid conflicts due to misperception and to make you interact positively with host cultures.” (op. cit., p.5)


SGTM 11, related to “ Negotiation & Communication” also seems to be informed by multicultural concerns at certain points, such as the following:


(…) peacekeepers typically communicate with people from another culture, without a common language, often under threatening or tense situations (...). Peacekeepers also need to manage conflict among friends and colleagues who are stressed by the situation, between civilian, police and military peacekeepers with different cultures, religions and languages [...]. (SGTM, 11 p.1, 2008)


(…) peacekeepers assist the parties to implement the cease-fire or peace agreement by monitoring the cease-fire and by helping them to avoid a return to violent conflict. (…) Skilful negotiation can obtain the voluntary cooperation of the parties in conflict and thus improves the prospects of achieving a sustainable peace. (SGTM 11, p. 8, 2008)


(…) Successful communication and negotiation depend on how well peacekeepers understand the following three principles: 1) understand the mandate and role of the UN in the conflict (your interests); (…) 2) understand the interest(s) of the other party(s) (...); 3) understand the cultural/historical context within which you operate (…) so that you can avoid critical cultural mistakes and improve your credibility and acceptability. (SGTM 11, p. 8, 2008)


(…) Show respect and do nothing to offend. The foundation of cross-cultural communication is respect. The golden rule is to do nothing that would be offensive to another culture. If you are professional, humble, friendly and respectful, your chances of not offending anybody are very good. (SGTM 11, p.11, 2008)


By the above illustrations, we can infer that the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operation in the Brazilian Army has a potential for a multicultural training for soldiers to act in the peacekeeping operations. However, those excerpts seem to convey the idea that curriculum touches on more abstract, liberal multicultural terms, even though at some points prejudices and discrimination are mentioned. Likewise, peacekeeping seems to be more in line with a restorative approach (EGLASH, 1975 as cited inJACCOUD, 2005), rather than a more permanent perspective.

However, components such as the SGTM 5B8 announce a multicultural perspective with the aim “to provide UN peacekeepers with the information required to improve their ability to work and live in a multi-cultural environment” (SGTM, p. 1). That module also states that “at the end of this Module the peacekeeper should be familiar with the concepts of cultural awareness and how to work effectively within a multicultural environment.” (p. 1). Therefore, at least at the level of intentions, the curriculum points out the importance of cultural issues in an era marked by the expansion and the complex nature of modern peacekeeping operations. It reminds its readers that peacekeepers represent the United Nations and their own countries; therefore, a positive or negative attitude will impact directly on the mission success.

SGTM 119, on the other hand, deals with communication and negotiation in the United Nations peace operations. As previously discussed, it points out that those issues should be understood and practised in relation to the content of the other modules. It prescribes that “[…] the primary task is to manage conflict so that it does not become violent. Where it has escalated into violence, our task is to contain and defuse the situation so that it is once more non-violent.” (SGTM 11, p. 1). According to SGTM 11, “success in conflict management and prevention depends on communicating, negotiation and mediation with and among the parties to the conflict and other stakeholders.” (op.cit., p.1). It also points out that:


communication environment in a peacekeeping mission is much more complex than one under normal circumstances. The peacekeeper typically communicates with somebody from another culture, without a common language, often under threatening or tense situations in a context where people are stressed and easily irritated. (op. cit., 1)


It seems to be clear from the above excerpts related to the cultural-awareness dimension that issues such as communication, understanding of different cultures and languages, as well as a perspective of empathy towards “the other” are present, indicating multicultural and peace studies sensibilities (BANKS, 2006; CANEN & COSTA, 2007; CANEN & CANEN, 2005; CLARKE-HABIBI, 2005; UNITED NATIONS, 1999). A more explicit and concrete mention of multicultural and peace studies would be likely to contribute to a better understanding and incorporation of these instructions, arguably enriching and strengthening the preparation of military agents for peacekeeping missions. As can be remembered, Gaultung (1969), cited by Weigert (1999), claims peace studies is a multidisciplinary field that crosses different areas, having to be studied in a more complex approach.

Feelings, Needs and Challenges in Peace Operations: The Perspective of Military Actors

The importance of mediation in conflict resolution is strictly connected to a multicultural attitude towards those perceived as different, highlighting the straight imbrications of multiculturalism and peace studies. Bearing that in mind, we have also analyzed how the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operation in the Brazilian Army has been mediated by those who were targeted by it. We have therefore tried to glean the sense made of that preparation by thirty Brazilian military agents who had experienced different peace missions, including the following ones: the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH); the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III); and the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Interviews held with those subjects were instrumental in conveying their feelings, needs and challenges. Those interviews were carried out in 2006 and 2007, with the aid of a tape recorder. It is important to note that the interviewees included soldiers, who carry out given orders, up to generals and commanding staff, who work in the political and strategic planning of the missions. For ethical reasons, their names were omitted in this narrative.

In the limits of this article, some of the answers provided by the interviewees provide a glimpse of their ideas concerning the extent to which they felt the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operation in the Brazilian Army helped them feel prepared to act in disparate cultural contexts. Initially, most of them seemed to believe in the natural “knack” of Brazilian military agents towards understanding cultural diversity and effectively dealing with it (Costa & Canen, 2008), regardless of multicultural and peace-oriented education:


(...) Brazilian people have always been a little bit extroverted [...] it's not the characteristic of other people [...] they are more serious people [...], they are closed up (...) This question of maintaining security is a positive aspect, but it is a bigger issue that includes Brazil as a whole [...] However, smaller actions such as social-civilian activities, contact with the people, day-by-day constant talking, helps to make them [the host country] feel Brazil as a friend country that is there [in Haiti] to help. (soldier 1, from MINUSTAH).
(…)I think Brazil, more specifically the Brazilian soldier, has this easiness [to go along with other people], a very big empathy. So the important thing is to have respect to a person [...] to treat people [well], regardless of their social condition, to treat [people] as human beings, with dignity [...]. That helps the troop a lot and it has helped Brazilian troop, because I myself have witnessed it there. We should mainly respect the human beings and their needs. [...] I think that is inherent to the nature of Brazilian people, because we, our society in general, is multiracial, so we deal with differences a lot, we have a bigger acceptance of differences[...]. (soldier 8, from MINUSTAH)


Others, however, felt the need to express their feelings as related to the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peacekeeping in the Brazilian Army curriculum, in terms of the extent to which they felt some aspects could be worked out more intensely for a multicultural, peace-oriented perspective:


In the MINUSTAH command there are more than 20 different countries, there are several people and more than 20 countries from extremely different cultures [...] if you do not have respect [...] it really is very difficult to live together [...]. I think it would have been interesting if we had worked with those concepts [of respect, for instance] right away in the course, independently of the peace mission [...]. We should have known the reality [cultural one] we would have to face, and that really would have made things easier [...]. If one can make this preparation [cultural one] [...], it would be excellent, because everybody could get there with no traumas, no stress, otherwise you hear about differences, but you will actually feel them only when you get there, and that surely is completely different. (soldier 1, from MINUSTAH)

[I think there were] errors during our preparation in Brazil. We should have had a picture of those [belonging to different cultures] who were going to work with us [in the peace mission], we should have been called the attention to their peculiarities [...]. (soldier 2, from UNPROFOR)

[...] when a country sends its Army to integrate a peace operation together with other countries, it cannot run the risk of not thinking about cultural plurality, because that can be a big problem for the soldiers’ performance [...]. (soldier 4, from MINUSTAH)

Knowledge of the countries' history, culture and custom [...] is very important. During the preparation [for the peace missions], the troop has to know a little about the countries' cultures which are taking part in the mission, so as not to be taken by surprise in situations that could otherwise be embarrassing to our own culture [...]. (soldier 6, from MINUSTAH)

Specific orientation on negotiation, negotiating techniques have not been presented to us, and I think they are essential in this kind of process. (soldier 7, from UNAVEM III)


As shown by the above excerpts, it seems that despite having developed their own strategies to deal with cultural differences, the interviewees expressed their feelings about the relevancy of being adequately prepared to act in operations where they are exposed to cultural plurality in their daily routines. The above data seem to point out that a more structured preparation on the lines of linking multicultural education and peace studies strategies could boost their efficiency in dealing with cultural plurality, and could represent an asset to the Brazilian Army curriculum development. Even though some of the topics the interviewees identified as lacking in their preparation were present in the modules and in the curriculum objectives and topics, as discussed in the previous section, it seemed evident that they were not highlighted during instruction with the curriculum and mediation practices.

That appeared to be understood by the subjects of the study, as plainly expressed in the following excerpts:


(...) to listen is very difficult (...). If everybody learns to listen, there won't be struggles, but we, in general, do not know to listen (...). It's country “a” wishing to impose itself on country “b”, country “c” imposing itself on country “d”, and so on (...). I think the idea that must underlie [our preparation] is exactly to accept the differences (...). (soldier 1, from MINUSTAH)


(...) I think the Army should develop a programme towards reinforcing this conception [respect and acceptance towards the different] (...) not everybody has this experience of respecting another culture. In some ways, we could also integrate people’s cultural backgrounds to the scientific, more organized, more directed knowledge. If we adjust these two factors, we can improve our performance in order to have the soldiers doing it consciously rather than unconsciously. (soldier 8, from MINUSTAH)


Other testimonies of soldiers about the curriculum can be important at this point:

There is a 50 minute instruction. It is mainly theoretical: do like that, culture is this, it is that (…). There aren’t practical exercises (…). There should be someone from another culture who could be there for a programme (…). What happened was a 50 minute theoretical instruction about this [cultural issue] (soldier 1, from MINUTASH).


I think soldiers should have been advised on the following lines: you are going to a mission where there are problems which you will not solve as you are used to, but you will have to solve them, even by not really solving them (…) (soldier 4 from MINUSTAH)


Concerning negotiation techniques we have learned (...), I think we should have had a more complete study: we should have studied the culture of the country where we have to act, the culture of the political parties there, we should know deeply the history of the conflict, all regional problems…All that cultural part should have been known. Another aspect that would have been useful would be to introduce, into the training of the personnel, topics on argumentation, which argument to use, when to use it, all those techniques of negotiation that exist. (soldier 7, of UNAVEM III)


It would have been interesting (...) to talk to the trainees exactly what they are bound to face, in terms of challenges and cultural aspects…surely there are many aspects that won't be the same among the countries, but those pieces of information are important in order for us not to have a cultural shock . (soldier 5, from MINUSTAH)


The best preparation concerning the country's cultural aspects should be based on:
first step - instructions should be taught about the country, its history, traditions; second step - experiences of those soldiers who have already acted in PKO related to cultural aspects; step three – there should be “created” case incidents that involve situations related to cultural aspects during the final pre-deployment exercise of the troop. (soldier 10 from MINUSTAH)

As can be noted, even though the soldiers recognized the relevance of the techniques and the training received, they seemed to wish that the curriculum emphasized the multicultural aspects in a more concrete way. However, that may be on the way to improvement, as it was explained to us by one of the main mediators in the curriculum development in the Army, in a recent visit to the referred Center. The following excerpt should be useful in providing an illustration of that progress, in terms of curriculum development, as explained by one of its main mediating actors:


We have come to the conclusion that (...) the soldier is not the only component: there also are the civilians, who are in the day-to-day peace keeping operation, who face the routines, the difficulty of the use of foreign language, and a lot of other things. (...) So, during the training, we set up 04 (four) concurrent fiction case incidents in which we took civilian students from the International Relations Course of a University in São Paulo, as well as journalists from another one (...). In those simulated situations, when a soldier made a mistake, or took the wrong decision, got “shot” or “killed” the commander, the journalist was there to show the news, the international relations person to report and analyse, and, this way, all the wheel moved (...). The exercise became smart. That made a very big change and, from there, with other troops, we worked the same way (...). When you get the soldier to be the “actor”, even without wearing his uniform, if I put him/her in front of a colonel, he/she has never seen in his/her life, he/she will make a mistake…but together with journalists , he/she will become coerced to question, even because the profile of the journalist is completely different. [...] All of our exercise is in the street, is contextualized (...). I think our ability to interact, of having several players (...), should be a competitive advantage of our own, as compared to some of other centers that prepare soldiers to peacekeeping missions(...). The evolution of the curriculum was done inasmuch as things started to become more structured. (interview held with the Head of the Education Division of the Brazilian Center for Instruction to Peace Operations , 10 mar. 2008)


The above excerpt seems to point to a much more integrated, cross-culturally informed curriculum practice, in line with many of the feelings previously expressed by the interviewees as related to the need to be culturally trained to face situations from different perspectives. Another excerpt from the above curriculum mediator also highlights the development of a more culturally informed approach to curriculum development, touching on other markers of identity, such as gender-power relations, as can be noted in the following discourse:


Now sexual abuse, gender, and cultural awareness are discussed, towards a more humanitarian approach (…)] Haiti has moved from peace enforcement, which had started with the United States, towards our action which has begun with peacekeeping, moving now towards peacebuilding. The big focus now is on the humanitarian support, how to live with these 'guys' [...] hence the idea of the Center is to launch this course, the C3M - operation and civil-military coordination - because it is important that our soldiers begin to understand how to deal with the civilian and the humanitarian agencies.”(interview held with the Head of the Education Division of the Center for Instruction to Peace Operations , 10 mar. 2008)


As depicted in the document analysis and the interviews, it seems that albeit a concern with cultural issues and their implications for peace operations in the preparation of soldiers is present in the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operation in the Brazilian Army (undoubtedly a positive feature of the case study), it still is in need of a more structured, academic and systematic reflection. Our visit to that Center in 2008 evidenced that an increased sensitivity to multicultural aspects is undoubtedly a very welcome and auspicious feature. It is important to note that the Brazilian Constitution10 and the National Defense Plan (Brazil, 2005) reinforce the idea that Brazilian participation in peace operations relies on peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building, as defined in the Agenda for Peace.11 For that reason, the Brazilian peace operation acts under Chapter 6 that delineates prescriptions, rather than in Chapter 712, which establishes peace enforcement. These aspects, together with the Brazilian diplomatic tradition, recognized around the world for its competence in mediating and solving conflicts peacefully, show the importance of having military agents adequately and competently prepared for acting in multicultural scenarios.

Once more, it should be pointed out that the presence of soldiers in peacekeeping operations are not the only way in conflict-ridden societies. Multicultural training and peace-oriented perspectives in curriculum could help prepare the army to pave the way towards other more lasting actions within the educational arena beyond the peacekeeping missions.

As shown earlier, the Center has been improving its curriculum in a multicultural sense, as briefly illustrated by the excerpt of a high-level trainer earlier on in this article. It seems to be much more aware of the relevance of cultural issues in the preparation of military agents, which has contributed to the establishment of some partnerships with HEIs in order to help with culturally contextualized activities. We consider that as a positive step, and look forward to the strengthening of stronger partnerships that could take multiculturalism and peace studies produced in the HEIs on board. That could surely help in promoting transformational educational practices both at military and civilian education, towards a more multicultural and peaceful world.


The present study suggests that linking the concepts of multiculturalism and peace studies could contribute to the construction of a culture of peace in the educational arena. It discussed theoretical perspectives on the issue, as well as the extent to which those were present in the preparation of Brazilian military agents that have acted in peace missions, taken as a case study, as gleaned from interviews and document analysis related to the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operation in the Brazilian Army.

In the contemporary world, all segments of society need to think and act globally in order to succeed in their social, cultural and political matters, and the military institution is no exception to that fact. The study demonstrated that although Brazilian officers and military agents do feel that to some degree they effectively deal with cultural diversity and promote peace strategies, both their discourses and documentary analysis related to the Brazilian Army curriculum seem to suggest that a more structured and multiculturally oriented programme could improve their performance. In order to do so, partnerships between military and higher education institutions could be beneficial to both. As pointed out in the present study, such partnerships have just started to become a reality. Likewise, more dynamic, culturally informed developments have been increasingly implemented within the curriculum of the Center of Instruction for Peace Operation in the Brazilian Army. Future research studies could delve into the extent to which those recent developments, as well as partnerships such as the one established between the Brazilian Higher Education Government Council (CAPES) and Military Institutions of Strategic Studies, could represent fruitful sites for multicultural and peace oriented education. It also is important to have in mind that armed forces are being more and more fostered to be learning organizations that continually improve their performance and learn from both previous experiences and continual education, which gives more strength to the case of partnerships with the HEIs.

The present study should arguably add an interesting educational dimension to be extended to civilian educational institutions committed to constructing a culture of peace and multicultural education. In fact, education research in Brazil has been consistently pointing out the discrepancies between students’ cultural backgrounds and official/dominant curriculum as the main source of school failure. Curriculum and pedagogical projects are important instruments because they are the means through which students and teachers can understand how cultural differences are a product of social construction and, therefore, they can be sensitized to act as agents of change.

The relevance of peace education as a tool to minimize conflict through peaceful management cannot be stressed enough. This way, the study may offer insights as to the need for Education to take into account multicultural and peace oriented perspectives for both educational equity and the preparation of future professionals in the values of respect and competence in dealing with cultural diversity. Such an analysis should also raise the need to translate concepts, challenges and potentials of multiculturalism and peace studies into teaching and instructional materials, both for military and civilian students and staff, in peace as well as in conflict-ridden societies.

The study is also important comparatively, by delving into a case study developed in Brazil, which is a multicultural society bereft with socioeconomic disparities that nevertheless has been recognized for its peace-oriented and diplomatic perspective in solving conflicts. (HAGE, 2004).

The notion of a soldier-led peace keeping idea should not have the purpose of indefinitely sustaining itself. Its shortcomings are bound to appear inasmuch as the presence of soldiers may bring to mind perceptions or transitory peace and cultural “invasion”. On the other hand, its advantages lie inasmuch as multiculturally prepared soldiers can smooth the path in conflict-ridden societies towards the empowering of societal collective agents in reconstruction moves towards a lasting peace. That way, the aim of going beyond the need for soldiers to keep peace could be achieved, inasmuch as military actions could help not only control conflicts but help preparing citizens towards peace and multicultural education, which should last long after their missions have been accomplished, through educational perspectives developed by educational and societal agents. Whilst peace operation troops may contribute supporting the construction of a democratic society during their mission, their continuity depends on a sustained multicultural and peace oriented education. That way, military institutions and peace-operation troops may not only receive, but also generate, precious insights in the context of partnerships between both military and higher education institutions. We hope the present study can contribute to increasing that consideration in this area.



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Captain Rejane Pinto Costa is an officer at the Brazilian Army Command and General Staff College. She is a post-graduate and research assistant at the Strategic Studies Center. She has a BA in Languages from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, and a MEd from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. At present, she is a PhD student in Education at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.


Ana Canen is a Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She also is a Researcher for the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq). She holds a Phd in Education from The University of Glasgow. She has been publishing in the area of comparative and multicultural education, institutional evaluation and teacher education. She has also actively participated in long distance teacher education programs.







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