18 November 2020 – The past year has posed challenges on every facet of life around the world. As reported in the UN SDG Progress Report of 2020, “conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice remain a great threat to sustainable development.” The COVID-19 pandemic is potentially leading to an increase in social unrest and violence, depriving millions of people of their security and human rights.
Since its creation, UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, has looked for innovative ways to support educators in their mission to arm the next generation with the right tools to tackle such challenges. Through its strong partnerships with dedicated institutions, E4J continues to seek multidimensional approaches to strengthen rule of law and crime prevention efforts, and to strengthen academia worldwide as teaching hubs for SDG16, at the core of UNODC’s mission to promote peace, justice and strong institutions.
This month, E4J began disbursing grants to universities around the world to support the ongoing tertiary education efforts in this field. “This marks the start of a new chapter of our work,” said Marco Teixeira, the Doha Programme’s Senior Programme Officer. “It is the first time we are giving grants to universities, thereby completing the work we have started a few years ago.”
The interest in this scheme is high: E4J received applications from universities in 69 countries, a number which demonstrates the interest of higher education in not only continuing to contribute to the goals of SDG16, but also to work with United Nations institutions. As Dr. habil. Mohay Ágoston, of the University of Pécs in Hungary (and one of the grant recipients) explained, “educating university students about internationally relevant challenges to criminal justice systems is a key component of creating and maintaining stable institutions that respect and uphold the rule of law.”
The E4J Grants Programme for Higher Education Institutions will allow the four winning institutions – Nelson Mandela University, South Africa; University of Pécs, Hungary; Fluminense Federal University, Brazil; and King’s College London, UK – to strengthen the capacity of academics at their universities and at partner institutions to teach on issues related to the rule of law, raising awareness of the peer-reviewed material developed and made available by the E4J initiative, and thereby supporting these universities to become hubs for SDG 16 teaching and shaping the future generations of SDG 16 changemakers.
“Crime and violence are far too serious to be confronted in ignorance of the accumulated research on the theme,” commented Prof. Carolina Christoph Grillo, of Fluminense University in Brazil, stressing that “the dissemination of qualified knowledge is crucial to promoting the rule of law.”
Indeed, investing in universities and encouraging them to teach more on rule of law-related topics and the SDGs is key to having a long-lasting impact. For Ambassador Jose Antonio Marcondes de Carvalho, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN in Vienna, “universities and academia play a key role not only in educating the next generation, but also in conducting research and analysis to inform policymaking.”
The E4J Grants Programme is a testament to the importance of strengthening the relationship between the United Nations and higher education institutions, in light of their undoubted potential, expertise and necessary tools to tangibly advance academic knowledge and research on topics of global importance like crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law. With a commitment to teaching on these issues, we can better prepare the judges, prosecutors, policymakers and educators of tomorrow by providing them with knowledge, data and a better understanding of how to deal with challenges that hamper the achievement of the SDGs.
Our next generations needs to be empowered and equipped through education, to better understand the challenges and threats our world is facing, to better understand the impact of crimes such as corruption and organized crime, and to continue supporting the strong institutions needed to uphold and strengthen rule of law worldwide. E4J will continue to support them in this journey.
Education for Justice initiative