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Peace Agreements: Consociations and Education Reforms

The Taif, Belfast and Ohrid Agreements re-established or established consociational power-sharing to regulate the violent conflicts in Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Macedonia. Evoking the 1943 Lebanese National Pact, the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement and the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution, these peace agreements established the four core features of consociations: executive power-sharing, communal autonomy, proportional representation and mutual veto rights. Through these institutions, all three agreements attempted to ‘recognise the cleavages explicitly and turn them into constructive elements of stable democracy’.25

Chapter 2 explores theoretical and policy debates over the structure and long-term impact of consociations in more detail. The consociations established in Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Macedonia differ in their degree of liberalism. Macedonia closely approximates an ideal liberal consociation, which ‘rewards whatever salient political identities emerge in democratic elections’.26 In contrast, Lebanon approximates a corporate consociation because it accommodates communities according to predetermined, ascriptive identities (religious in this case) and assumes the permanence and internal homogeneity of groups.27 The variance of case studies along the liberal-corporate spectrum makes the findings of this research more widely applicable.

The three consociations are similar, in that they are ‘complex consociations’ which rely on ‘at least one other conflict-regulating strategy or principle [beyond consociational power-sharing] in their design’.28 As Chaps. 2 and 3 show, the Ohrid and Belfast Agreements map territorial autonomy and decentralisation, while the Taif Agreement envisages measures for transition to majoritarian democracy and social integration, most evidently through education reform.

The fact that the peace agreements in question present education reforms as instruments for long-term peace-building and reconciliation, illustrates that schools were perceived as having contributed to violent conflict in Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Macedonia. The Taif Agreement calls for the protection of private institutions, the extension of state control over all schools, the reform of national curricula and the production of unified textbooks for history and civic education.29 These provisions aimed to encourage ‘feelings of unity among citizens and the development of notions of solidarity and fraternity’ as well as to ‘consolidate the process of national cohesion’.30

In contrast, the Belfast Agreement does not provide details for future education reforms, only calling for the promotion of the Irish language and ‘initiatives to facilitate and encourage integrated education’.31 This work confirms that, as McGarry and O’Leary suggest, this is largely because even prior to 1998, Northern Ireland’s education system conformed to ‘consociational’ principles: it allowed choice between Catholic maintained, state controlled (mainly Protestant) and integrated schools, all of which received equal funding.32

Finally, the Albanian insurgency during the 2001 conflict in Macedonia demanded expansion of mother tongue education and state funding for the Albanian-language Tetovo University. Accordingly, the Ohrid Agreement granted official funding to universities teaching in languages spoken by at least 20 % of the population (the Macedonian and Albanian languages). It also guaranteed the rights to compulsory education in the mother tongue and to learning the official state language (Macedonian).33

In sum, the Taif, Belfast and Ohrid Agreements present education reform as a tool for long-term peace-building through amendments of the history education and civic education curricula (in Lebanon), changes in the languages of instruction (in Northern Ireland and Macedonia) and promotion of contact between children of different backgrounds in schools (in Lebanon and Northern Ireland). This suggests that education reform may be a mechanism complementary to constitutional reforms in post-conflict complex consociations. This study analyses the four education reforms mapped in the peace agreements (history education, citizenship education, languages and the structure of the education system) to discern common and diverging approaches to schools in consociations.

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