3 December 2019 - Academic conferences present scholars with opportunities not just to exchange important ideas, but also to question and challenge them; through this dynamic process, theories are worked and reworked, eventually forming a solid framework that applies in practice, beyond theory. For the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, such interactive conferences are an essential step in UNODC's drive to fulfil the internationally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG16 for peace, justice and strong institutions which falls under UNODC's remit.
This October, UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer Bianca Kopp presented an overview of E4J's achievements at an important gathering of crime prevention practitioners, giving a précis of E4J's ground-breaking work on the tertiary level. In a keynote speech at the launch of the 19 th World Congress of Criminology held in Doha, Ms. Kopp reminded over 300 international criminologists, academics, law enforcement professionals and government representatives that E4J's journey had begun in Doha in 2015 at the 13 th Crime Congress, with the adoption of the first document in which Member States highlighted the importance of education for crime prevention and for strengthening the rule of law - the Doha Declaration.
Since then, in the development of its unique tertiary modules, E4J has worked with hundreds of lecturers from more than 550 universities around the world. This important cooperation between universities and UNODC was emphasized at the conference, with Dr. Melissa Deehring, Assistant Professor at Qatar University and an E4J Champion, describing her positive experience of working with UNODC and using the E4J university modules in her classes.
The reinforced cooperation between higher education institutions and international organizations like UNODC, and the notion of partnership between them, was also at the centre of discussions in Mexico during last month's "Transforming Higher Education for the Future" conference, organized by the renowned International Association of Universities (IAU) with which UNODC has been working closely since 2017.
For Hilligje van't Land, Secretary General of IAU, the E4J initiative is to be commended as "an excellent example on how to avoid remaining in self-contained silos that academics, experts from international organizations and policymakers are typically working in." She told participants: "In order to confront the challenges of tomorrow, bridges between these different stakeholders need to be built to support the exchange of ideas and to make a difference."
With its slogan "Inspire Change Together," E4J strongly believes that bringing academics, scholars and experts together is necessary to strengthen rule of law and support the implementation of SDG 16. It has already brought together hundreds of academics from different disciplines, from more than 120 countries, to create the distinctive, peer-reviewed E4J University Module Series addressing some of the world's most pressing issues, and to support lecturers the world over by facilitating their teaching on rule of law related topics.
E4J also believes that the prospect of making an impact on education can only be enhanced by supporting the next generation, and by encouraging the participation of younger scholars at important conferences; their voices must not only be heard, but also be taken into consideration when discussing how higher education should adapt to modern challenges and help empower future leaders. To this end, two academic paper competitions were recently launched by UNODC and two of its partners - the IAU and the International Society of Criminology (ISC) - inviting the winning young scholars to present their papers in Qatar and Mexico respectively.
The award ceremonies for the winners of the academic paper competition were a highlight at both conferences. In Qatar, ten scholars presented their research in a six-minute Ted Talk format to the entire conference, delivering concise summaries of their findings and discussing potential implications of that research for the future. Likewise, in Mexico, the winners shared their visions on the main elements that should be addressed to transform higher education.
These invigorating young voices at education conferences have an amplified effect on youth. Julia Zabbu, Junior Lecturer at Uganda Christian University and a winner at the IAU conference, made a particularly poignant remark: "For young people like us, there is always a yearning for mentorship, and this conference had a myriad of academics for mentorship. It was very inspirational for me to be offered a space to interact with accomplished academics."
There is no debate on the fact that education plays a crucial role in empowering the next generation to face challenges, especially with regards to crime. Angelina Stanojoska, Assistant Professor at University St. Kliment Ohridski in North Macedonia, and an E4J winner at the ISC Conference, noted: "The prevention and suppression of crime is only possible by researching and understanding its etiology; that is why educating young people using criminology is an important part of that process."
For Efoe Dosseh-Anyron, Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Lomé in Togo, the experience will resonate beyond the confines of his time at the conference: "This conference will concretely affect my profession through the role that I will play, on my terms, for the promotion of a superior course design adapted to the challenges of the century. I am very grateful to UNODC and IAU for the confidence placed in me, allowing me from the beginning of my career to be a player of change through my commitment to the mission of their institutions."
Education for Justice Tertiary Education