Young women and men have got the creativity, the potential and the capacity to make change happen – for themselves, for their societies, and for the rest of the world. UNESCO’s work with and for youth is committed to empowering young women and men and helping them to work together to drive social innovation and change, participate fully in the development of their societies, eradicate poverty and inequality, and foster a culture of peace.
Youth are not just beneficiaries of this work – they are essential actors in finding solutions to the issues faced by young people in the world today. They have demonstrated energy and leadership across the globe, and they must be fully engaged in social development themselves and supported in this work by their societies.
The United Nations defines ‘youth’ as persons between the ages of 15 and 24. However, we know that the experience of being young can vary enormously across the world and that ‘youth’ is often a fluid and changing category. As such, context is always an essential guide in UNESCO’s definition of youth on specific occasions, and this definition is flexible and can vary between countries and regions.
The partnerships between UNESCO and the Brazilian government have played core roles in designing and implementation national policies on youth, as well as in establishing forums to formulate, implement and monitor programmes focused on youth in the light of the cooperation agreement with the National Youth Department and the National Youth Council.
Data from different sources have consistently shown that young people are the primary victims and agents of violence. To deepen the knowledge on what causes that, in 1997, the UNESCO Brasilia Office established a line of research on youth, violence, and citizenship. Based on the findings of studies carried out up until 2005, the SHS started outlining strategies to manage violence among adolescents and young people and promote their social inclusion.
When it became apparent that acts of violence involving young people increased by 68.2% during weekends, the UNESCO Brasilia Office established a programme in 2000 directed at opening schools on Saturdays and Sundays to provide youngsters and their communities with access to cultural, sports and leisure activities.
The so-called Open School Programme was so successful that in 2004 the Federal Government adopted its methodology as a public policy through a partnership established with the UNESCO Office in Brazil.
The programme has benefited about 4 thousand schools and 4 million individuals all over the country, and has been replicated in Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
Another example is the Criança Esperança Programme implemented by UNESCO since 2004, in partnership with TV Globo, which contribute towards strengthening communities to develop actions for preventing urban violence, disseminating a culture of peace, promoting human rights by providing artistic, cultural, sports activities, capacity-building in various fields to build citizenship, to create job opportunities and generation of income.
The programme plays a key role when it comes to improving the lives of vulnerable groups like African descents, Indigenous peoples, women, children, adolescents, and youth in risky situations – like street children, people living with HIV, drug users, victims of domestic and sexual violence – as well as children and youth with deficiencies.
As a rule, the interventions carried out by NGOs and supported by UNESCO are those aimed at valuing talents in the community and empowering young people to allow them to play a central role in determining their own future. That can be said of the Afroreggae Cultural Group and the Central Única das Favelas (CUFA), which are both renowned worldwide. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), in partnership with the UNESCO Brasilia Office and sponsored by Itaú Cultural and Itaú Social Foundation, has studied the experiences developed by these two mentioned groups, in an attempt to build a methodology to have them replicated.
Violence Prevention Among Young People in Brazil
Crime and violence have increased dramatically in Brazil in recent decades, particularly in large urban areas, leading to more intense public debate on causes and solutions.
The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. Having security means living without fearing the risk of violation of one’s life, liberty, physical integrity or property. Security means not only to be free from actual risks, but also to be able to enjoy the feeling of security. In this respect, human rights are systematically undermined by violence and insecurity.
UNESCO expects to play a primary role in supporting actions of social inclusion to help in the prevention of violence, especially among young people. The attributes and resources to be found in the heart of the Organization’s different areas will be grouped around this objective.
Violence is seen as a violation of fundamental human rights. It is considered a threat to the respect for the principles of liberty and equality. An approach focused on the access to quality education, to decent jobs, to cultural, sports and leisure activities, to digital inclusion and the protection and promotion of human rights and the environment will be implemented as a response to the challenge of preventing violence among youths. Such an approach should also help in creating real opportunities for young people to improve their living conditions and develop their citizenship.
UNESCO makes use of the experience acquired in Brazil over a long period, in the context of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001 – 2010), to conduct long-lasting and effective intersectoral initiatives.
UNESCO has undertaken initiatives targeted at the Brazilian youth through an integrated approach combining quality education, the protection of human rights:
- Technical cooperation with governmental organizations to formulate, implement, monitor, and assess public policies on prevention of violence, mainly among youth, of a social, educational, and cultural nature
- Technical and organizational cooperation with civil society organizations (corporations and NGOs) to outline and implement projects, raise funds, monitor, and assess actions focused on vulnerable social groups
- Provision of advanced theoretical and empirical knowledge on specific issues comprising this cross-cutting theme
- Empowerment of vulnerable social groups, especially youngsters, to foster their protagonist participation in community actions and initiatives in violence prevention
- Mobilization of experts, public managers, and civil society organizations to discuss and improve social, educational and cultural strategies focusing on violence prevention, especially among young people
- Correctional education.