Building peace in the minds of men and women

First Master Class against Racism and Discriminations piloted at UNESCO

12 November 2019

250 students from 13 high schools from the Parisian region and Lyon, 4 plenary speakers, 8 workshops, 21 trainers. One mission: to build the young participants’ capacities in understanding racism and discriminations by becoming trainers in their own schools and communities.

In cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Musée de l’Homme, UNESCO organized the inaugural session of the Master Class Series against Racism and Discriminations held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 7 November 2019. Schools from UNESCO’s Associated Schools Network and students from the French Federation of UNESCO Associations and Clubs participated in the day-long inaugural session.

The Master Class aims to shed light on the growing significance of racism and discriminations in our societies and empower students to become agents of change in their own communities. Moderated by journalist Rokhaya Diallo and the Director of the International Institute of Human Rights and Peace (IDHP) Jonas Bochet, the day kicked off with an interactive discussion featuring Professor Evelyne Heyer, co-curator of the travelling exhibition “Us and Them: From Prejudice to Racism” produced by the Musée de l’Homme, which aimed to understand the different concepts related to racism, the historical events that contributed to racialized systems, and the deconstruction of social versus biological classifications of “race”.

With personal testimonials from judo champion Clarisse Agbegnenou, actress Assa Sylla and actor/writer Alexandre Philip, all committed personalities to the cause of fighting discriminations, the students engaged in a dynamic dialogue that raised questions on contemporary issues and sensibilities.

Parallel workshops were organized in the afternoon on the following themes: “Changing public perceptions of migrants and refugees”; “Intersection of identities: understanding how plural forms of discrimination overlap”, “Combating ordinary discrimination in public spaces: PoliCité’s experience in improving police/youth relations”, and “Racism & stereotypes in the media”. Specialists presented evidence-based research and a wide array of innovative pedagogical methods, from board games to real-time interactive mobile applications to pictogrammes, to engage students using a learning-by-doing approach to understand complex societal realities.

Academics and practitioners who conducted the hands-on workshops included Professor Patrick Simon of the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED), Professor Delphine Dulong of the University of Paris and her team, the UNESCO Chair "Urban Policies and Citizenship" led by Anaïk Purenne and Hélène Balazard together with Samia Bencherifa of the Georges-Lévy Social Center and the PoliCité young leaders, Jonas Bochet and Clémence Bisson from IDHP, as well as representatives from the City of Toulouse (Mustapha Saif, Philippe Marchal and Alain Muboyayi). Illustrative drawings capturing the richness of the debates was provided by the scribe Guillaume Lagane.

Designed as a “Training for Trainers”, the Master Class resulted in the adoption of students’ commitments emerging from the workshops, such as organizing advocacy events and student conferences as well as social media campaigns, which they will implement in their own schools. Aside from a certificate of participation, each student received a practical guide conceived by UNESCO, in cooperation with the Musée de l’Homme, which provides a conceptual framework and a set of practical group exercises that students can use for their training workshops at school. A number of participating schools from UNESCO’s ASPNet have already committed to organize school-wide workshops in the coming months.

With the objective of gaining a wider outreach and impact, this inaugural session will be followed by other sessions, adapted to local contexts, to be organized in 2020 through UNESCO and OHCHR field offices in collaboration with the member cities of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities - ICCAR.