How education can strengthen the rule of law


Public trust in institutions is in decline, and institutions need to grow out of their traditional roles and forge a new engagement model that puts people at the centre, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.

The new joint publication by UNESCO and UNODC Strengthening the Rule of Law through Education: A Guide for Policymakers explores the role that education institutions can play in promoting the rule of law and building new forms of engagement based on global citizenship, human rights and inclusion -- all of which are vital to take forward the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Why is it important to promote the rule of law through global citizenship education?

Education institutions have an important role to play in forging this new engagement model with young people and in cultivating a sense of shared responsibility for our common future.  This is why a key pillar of global citizenship education is learning about the rule of law.

The rule of law is essential to develop trustworthy institutions and relationship of mutual trust in institutions, by ensuring they are held accountable, transparent and accessible to all. Promoting the rule of law requires systems, such as governance and justice that safeguard human rights and also citizens that are empowered to participate and engage constructively in society.

Education systems that uphold and promote respect for the rule of law, in adherence with international human rights and fundamental freedoms, nurture mutual trust between learners and public institutions. Moreover, education that adheres to the principles of the rule of law can help develop learners’ ability to critically understand essential elements of accountability, equality and fairness. For instance, schools can model a culture of transparency by having a policy of sharing school data with the public (open school data).

Promoting the rule of law through education also helps learners acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes they need to contribute constructively to society. It allows them to positively shape public institutions and their policies, thereby encouraging non-violent and peaceful avenues of civic engagement.

How can the UNESCO/UNODC guide help policymakers and educators?

Strengthening the Rule of Law through Education: A Guide for Policymakers is intended for education policymakers and other professionals working in the formal education sector, within and outside Ministries of Education, and who are seeking to promote the rule of law and a culture of lawfulness.

The guide may also be of interest to professionals working in non-formal education settings or other sectors – namely the justice, social and health sectors - in the area of crime and violence prevention, who are seeking to work more closely with the education sector.

In particular, the guide offers:

  • An explanation of key concepts, such as the rule of law and a culture of lawfulness, as well as outlining the role of education in upholding and promoting the rule of law;
  • Guidance on how the education sector is able to strengthen and promote the rule of law, for instance, by speaking to the real learning needs of children and youth, and by ensuring that places of learning “practice what they preach”;
  • A map of the necessary support systems needed to strengthen the rule of law at the school and classroom levels and outside formal education settings, including curricular support, classroom pedagogies, teacher training and development and school-family-community partnerships.

To address the needs of this diverse mix of education stakeholders and professionals, the guide blends both theory and practice, and draws on examples from around the world.

A unique partnership that adds value 

By combining their resources and expertise, UNESCO and UNODC are seeking to build the capacities of educators, teachers and policymakers to plan and undertake educational activities that empower learners to take constructive and ethically responsible decisions and actions in their daily lives that support justice, human rights and strong institutions to defend them.

The policy guide will be released as part of the WISE@Paris Forum on “Education Futures: Fostering Learning Societies.  The WISE@Paris Forum brings together teachers, policymakers, and influential experts from all sectors to build the future of education through empowerment and partnership.

In the framework of the WISE@Paris events, UNESCO, UNODC and WISE have joined forces in organising a panel session at UNESCO on Global Citizenship Education for Peaceful and Inclusive Societies, held on 20 February 2019 (4pm-5.30pm) at UNESCO headquarters.  

The session brings together a range of perspectives, to explore how education can foster ethically responsible citizens that actively contribute to building peaceful and inclusive societies.

Speakers include H.E. Mrs Erlinda Hándal Vega, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology from the Republic of El Salvador, Professor Fethi Mansouri, Founding Director of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University, Australia and UNESCO Chair on Cultural Diversity and Social Justice as well as Ms. Onyinye Ough, Executive Director, Step Up for Social Development & Empowerment in Nigeria.

The event is organised in the context of the UNESCO/UNODC partnership, which aims to contribute to advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 16, which call for quality education and the building of peace, justice and strong institutions.