Building peace in the minds of men and women

A call for policy-makers to build bridges between the education and the justice sectors

23 May 2019

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© UNODC/Mengting Li

“If we are to prevent crime and promote peaceful and just societies, it starts on the benches of schools - schools are the place where we experience from the earliest age respect, fairness and accountability.”

With these words, UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Education, Stefania Giannini, challenged schools to take the lead in shaping children’s ethical and civic development, not just their academic development.

Addressing participants during a high-level side event to the  28th Commission for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), Ms. Giannini argued, “By engaging and empowering young people, education sows the seeds of peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Our message is that schools must lead by example. If they do not tackle intolerance and hate at their roots, they become breeding grounds for these problems.”

 She also stressed that schools must be transparent, just and accountable, a point that is underscored in UNESCO-UNODC’s recent publication Strengthening the Rule of Law through Education: A Guide for Policymakers.

Responding to the question “Don’t some governments see education as a means of getting children to obey the rules, whether those rules are good or bad?”, Ms. Giannini stressed that education on the Rule of Law nurtured critical thinking, not blind obedience, adding:

‘”Global Citizenship Education is about empowering young people to drive change.”

Victoria Ibiwoye the Director of OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning, and Youth Representative to the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, echoed this point, praising education’s capacity to transform the outlook of individuals, particularly the most disenfranchised:

“I understand the need to exercise my civic rights because I have seen and felt what it feels like to be deprived of quality and inclusive education. I have also seen the power of education breaking the cycle of poverty, transforming lives and building resilient societies.”

Bruno Derbaix, a leading voice on global citizenship education, and author of the book ‘Schools for Active Citizenship’, pointed out that schools are the first place children encounter the principles of justice and citizenship, and lamented that they rarely provide an ideal model of society for their pupils.

“Hypocrisy is doing a lot of damage. Teachers regularly extol the importance of human rights values like freedom and equality, but schools do not put them in to practice on an everyday basis. When pupils behave disruptively, teachers do not take the time to make sure of the facts or have a frank discussion with the students…they do not realize this is an opportunity for an exchange with the class on the principles of citizenship.”

Lucie Angers, Director and General Counsel at the Department of Justice of Canada, reported that a ‘Whole School’ approach to bullying, including the pupils in resolving the problem had had positive outcomes in her country. This approach also taught students how learnt legal norms evolve by allowing them hands-on experience of law making:

“This goes to the very heart of what it is to live in society.”

Marco Teixera, head of the Doha Declaration Global Programme emphasized the critical importance of fostering dialogue between the education and justice sectors in the context of the 2015 Doha Declaration on crime prevention and criminal justice that recognizes the critical importance of education for justice.

He urged policy-makers to work with the widest range of stakeholders possible to make the principles of justice more accessible to young people:

“Our partnership, in cooperation with UNESCO, continues to develop innovative tools and resources to promote a culture of lawfulness around the world.”

The event was organized in the context of the UNESCO/UNODC partnership on Global Citizenship Education for The Rule of Law: Doing the Right Thing, that aims to strengthen the capacity of educators to promote the rule of law through education.