20 May 2019 - It has long been established that the earlier education starts on certain subjects, such as civic rights and duties, the better children tend to absorb the lessons. UNODC's Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration works tirelessly to promote a culture of lawfulness, in particular to younger generations through the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, and in partnership with established education experts such as UNESCO.
In the latest event they convened jointly to continue advancing this important educational agenda, E4J and UNESCO have kicked off their participation at the 28 th Commission for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice with a main side event focusing on strengthening the rule of law through education, the subject of their joint guide for policymakers published this year.
Introducing the panel of experts to the plenary room, Ambassador Maria Assunta Accili Sabbatini, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Italy to the United Nations in Vienna, reflected on the importance of dialogue between the justice and education sectors, to ensure that the general public trusts and respects the laws and its enforcements. "Rule of law is one of the basic conditions for robust sustainable development and secure social environments; it must be rooted in the culture of citizens as well as public institutions, hence the role of education."
Bruno Derbaix, renowned sociologist, educator and author of the book " For a Citizen School," is a strong proponent of teaching citizenship values in schools, especially in their capacity as the first intermediaries between individuals and the state. In his introductory speech at the special event, he remarked: "When schools inculcate an understanding of the principles of justice in their pupils, justice is more effective. As microcosms of the wider world, it is important that schools uphold the principles of human rights." Mr. Derbaix also insisted on the importance of starting early in the educational journey and of empowering young people themselves to teach others about these values, a mission towards which the association ' Les Ambassadeurs d'Expression Citoyenne' is working in Belgium. "If pupils do not gain a thorough understanding of the principles of citizenship, and the rights and duties associated with them," he elaborated, "it is apparent that once they reach adulthood, they will not be able to live by them."
For Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO, the special relationship with the next generation goes beyond basic teaching: "By engaging and empowering young people, education sows the seeds of peaceful, just and inclusive societies," she said. "Our message is that schools must lead by example. If schools do not tackle intolerance and hate at their roots, they become breeding grounds for these problems."
Lucie Angers, General Counsel at the Department of Justice of Canada, shared specific examples of her country's approach to promoting inclusivity and tolerance within the education system: "When kids are disruptive, they are made to work with the other kids in the classrooms to try to deal with the issue. It's a programme that was evaluated as positive because everyone feels responsible."
The significance of spreading a respect for rule of law through a variety of means, and on a variety of themes, was stressed by Marco Teixeira, head of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration: "To a significant extent, many criminal justice practitioners are already working with school to promote the rule of law. Through our field office network, we have supported several countries to develop educational tools on issues such as corruption, human trafficking and organized crime, in partnership with criminal justice institutions." Mr. Teixeira also underlined the importance of cooperation: "By working together, criminal justice practitioners and educators can build bridges, promote a harmonized approach to the issues at hand, and further stimulate young people to think of their contributions to fostering a culture of lawfulness."
The role of youth in achieving this understanding and this participation was deemed to be as essential as that of schools and educators. As Director of the OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning, and in her capacity as Youth Representative to the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, Victoria Ibiwoye stressed the importance of involving young people. "As a young person, I understand the need to exercise my civic rights, because I have seen and felt what it is like to be deprived of quality and inclusive education. I have also seen the power of education breaking the cycle of poverty, transforming lives and building resilient societies."
Ms. Ibiwoye concluded by insisting on the long-term vision on which all present agreed: "When we invest strongly in education, everyone benefits."
Education for Justice
Strengthening the Rule of Law through Education: A Guide for Policymakers