Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO hosts international workshop to train policy-makers to address antisemitism in and through education

12 July 2019

drupal1507.jpg

© UNESCO/Fabrice Gentile

Antisemitism is a global human rights issue. Education is a powerful tool to address and prevent it. Based on this premise, UNESCO in partnership with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) – hosted a two-day workshop to strengthen the capacity of policy-makers and education stakeholders to address contemporary antisemitism in and through education, in Paris, France 10 – 11 July 2019.

Following a first workshop (held on 21-22 May 2019 in Warsaw, Poland), the ‘International workshop on addressing antisemitism in and through education’ marked the second in its series and the first of its kind – that is with a global reach –  to be hosted by a United Nations agency.

The workshop brought together government officials and education stakeholders from 27 countries across all UNESCO regions: with representatives from Afghanistan, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, France, Gambia, Germany, Grenada, Ireland, Latvia, Maldives, Mali, Mauretania, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uruguay and Zambia. This diversity in country and stakeholder representation underlines the global interest in confronting antisemitism, which statistics have proven to be on the rise worldwide and prevalent regardless of the presence of a Jewish community.

In his opening remarks, Alexander Leicht, Chief of the Section of Global Citizenship and Peace Education at UNESCO stated, “antisemitism is a complex phenomenon that has mutated over time and that often takes tacit and coded forms. Via social media, antisemitic messages can spread freely and anonymously, creating a situation in which open antisemitism has become increasingly mainstreamed and socially acceptable. Education is a powerful tool to address this concerning trend”.

Hence, UNESCO’s work and commitment to promoting education as a tool to build resilience of learners to antisemitic stereotypes, to raise awareness for the harmful effects of discriminatory rhetoric and to empower them to reject all forms of prejudice is fundamental. 

Christie Edwards, Deputy Head of the ODIHR Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, further underlined the important role of education in addressing antisemitism: ‘Education policymakers’ role in the fight against antisemitism cannot be understated. We hope that ODIHR and UNESCO’s efforts to strengthen the capacity of education to address antisemitism will encourage decisive action towards creating safer and more tolerant societies. A new generation of learners empowered to recognise and reject antisemitism in all its forms will be crucial to combating this prejudice.”

The workshop commenced with a session open to Permanent Delegations and invited guests, which included a round table discussion on “Why is it important to address antisemitism globally?”, with contributions from Malek Boutih, Ethics advisor at Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, Menachem Rosensaft, General Counsel of the World Jewish Congress, and Robert Williams, Chair of  the  International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial.

Aimed at education policy-makers, notably those responsible for curriculum development and teacher training, the workshop sought to define key concepts related to Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and the prevention of violent extremism through education (PVE-E), as well as enhance the understanding of antisemitism, and reflect on the possible role of education in preventive efforts.

The two-day workshop introduced participants to educational approaches and practices that strengthen learners’ resiliency in the face of violent extremism in general and antisemitism in particular; as well as provide them with the opportunity to exchange ideas on implementation strategies at the sub-regional and country levels, commonalities and country-specific approaches. In this context, participants were presented with the UNESCO/OSCE guidelines for policymakers on “Addressing Antisemitism through Education” as well as with the website “AboutHolocaust.org”, a joint initiative by the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO to address Holocaust denial and distortion online.

In addition, as part of the workshop, participants visited the Memorial de la Shoah and attended an evening reception in the presence of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, UNESCO Honorary Ambassadors and Special Envoys for Education about the History of Holocaust and Genocide Prevention. In the last session, participants had an opportunity to discuss the linkages between policy-making and educational practices toward addressing antisemitism through education at their national level, with a view to develop follow-up activities.

In an effort to reach more countries, it is envisioned that this series of international capacity building workshops will continue, with a third workshop in the near future.

UNESCO remains strongly committed to the prevention of antisemitism as part of the Organization’s global programmes on preventing violent extremism through education (PVE-E) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED). In this context, UNESCO promotes education systems that address antisemitism in and through education and build the resilience of young people to extremist ideologies and prejudice. In support of this goal, UNESCO builds the capacities of education policy-makers and teachers though guidelines, targeted trainings and the development of educational materials. For more information, get an overview of the policy guide’s main recommendations via this leaflet or access the full publication.