The 2018 World Congress on Justice for Children: “Strengthening Justice Systems for Children: Challenges, including disengagement from violent extremism” took place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 28 to 30 May 2018. The event was co-organized by a consortium of international associations together with UNESCO’s Information for All Programme (IFAP).
This World Congress brought together Ministers of Justice, Supreme Court judges, magistrates, lawyers, experts as well as representatives of the civil society, public and private institutions, academia and young people. It reviewed the progress made in ensuring the effective protection of the rights of children worldwide. Participants also debated the challenges related to the disengagement of young people from antisocial behavior and violent extremism.
The Congress was opened by Avril Calder, President of the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates (AYMJF). UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General Moez Chakchouk and the Chair of Information for All Programme and Deputy Permanent Delegate of Grenada to UNESCO Chafica Haddad also took part in the inauguration session of the Congress.
In his opening speech, Mr Chakchouk stressed the relevance of the Congress theme for UNESCO and underscored that violent extremism is an affront to the principles of the United Nations, embodied in universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“Security responses must be combined with preventive global and local actions, building on the transformative force of education, the sciences, culture, information and communication,” said Mr Chakchouk. “Through concrete initiatives to foster youth empowerment through ICTs, as well as critical thinking, tolerance and respect for universal values, UNESCO is equipping young people with the necessary knowledge and Media and Information Literacy (MIL) skills to expand their choices, to build new forms of global citizenship, and to become more resilient to manipulation through the Internet and social media.”
In her opening remarks, Ms Chafica Haddad highlighted the decision of IFAP to put the issue of radicalization of youth in cyberspace as one of its main priorities: “We expect that this Congress will contribute to sharing promising practices and innovative approaches aimed at reducing the number of young people involved in radicalization schemes leading to violence,” she added.
In the framework of the Congress, UNESCO also organized a workshop on “The Challenges of Child Protection on the DarkNet”, on 29 May. The workshop was moderated by Boyan Radoykov, from UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division. Panelists included Ms Chafica Haddad IFAP Chair, Ernesto Rodrigues, Director of the Latin American Youth Center (CELAJU), Nacira Salvan, Cercle des femmes de la cybersécurité (France) and Quentin Aoustin, Association Point de Contact (France).
With some 900 participants from 97 countries, this World Congress fully achieved its objectives and was timely organized so as to feed with its outcomes the 6th review of the UN counter terrorism Convention. In her closing remarks Ms Chafica Haddad, Chair of IFAP thanked the consortium of supportive institutions for realizing this high-level world congress and underlined that “disarming processes of radicalization leading to violence must begin with education, with the promotion of human rights, the rule of law, and with dialogue across all lines”.
As a conclusion, the common understanding was that it is not enough to counter violent extremism. A form of ‘soft power’ is required to prevent its emergence and the threats driven by distorted interpretations of culture, hatred and ignorance. The disarming process of radicalization must start as early as possible, on the benches of schools and it is urgent to educate even more children and Internet users about ethical online behaviour, privacy issues and the risks associated with the disclosure of personal data and other potentially sensitive information through social media. In this spirit, UNESCO’s IFAP is fully engaged in building resilience through information and media skills, supporting counter-narratives and online coalitions, and – more broadly - youth participation and empowerment.