17 March 2021 – The responsibility of preparing the next generation to become tomorrow’s fulfilled citizens, policymakers and leaders is one that UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) initiative takes very seriously. This month, it has been recognized by Secretary-General António Guterres and awarded his 2020 Secretary-General Award in the category ‘Innovation.’
“Every year, it is my honour to recognize inspiring and exemplary work of Secretariat staff members who have contributed above and beyond the call of duty or advanced projects with great impact and innovative potential,” said Mr. Guterres. “In the ‘Innovation’ category, we honour the Education for Justice initiative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for directly engaging children, youth, teachers and academics.”
Since its formation in 2016 as one of the components of UNODC’s Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration – the creation of which was made possible thanks to the generous support of the State of Qatar – E4J has been making strides in introducing the promotion of crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law into curricula through adaptable, accessible and innovative tools.
UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly congratulated the E4J team for the award, calling it “welcome recognition of UNODC’s capabilities and the potential to innovate within our mandates as we contribute to UN system-wide support to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”. She also noted that, “this Award reminds us of the value of thinking creatively about how we deliver, in the current crisis and beyond, to be agile and responsive to needs as we work to leave no one behind.”
E4J’s starting premise is that the understanding of rule of law, in all its parameters, must be holistic and inclusive. With technology, teaching tools, outreach, and partnerships, and by working with thousands of educators, academics and students all over the world, E4J has reimagined and reinvented the ways through which students are can best absorb the lessons that will help them navigate to a peaceful life, empowering them to be engaged members of their communities.
Technological innovations have played a big part in the dissemination of E4J’s educational approach on a wider scale. Mobile apps are such as the video game Chuka, Break the Silence, teaching about gender-based violence, or Zorbs Reloaded, promoting integrity and acceptance, have been engaging primary students in issues not typically covered in school. With hackathons, E4J has brought youth together to create innovative apps for real-life problems, triggering their creativity as they consider how to make the world a better place. With virtual initiatives such as the Lockdown Learners, launched in India in 2020, E4J created a virtual space for students and educators to engage on rule of law topics.
Other innovative E4J tools include The Zorbs, a cartoon series on important values of mutual respect; a Model UN guide integrating crime prevention issues into the renowned simulations; and the San Servolo comic book series engaging teens on corruption, terrorism, and human trafficking.
As for university students, they can delve into some of the top priorities in terms of crime prevention and criminal justice, with over 100 modules that professors can integrate into courses in any field.
At all education levels, the purpose of E4J’s material is to make youth feel invested in their learning process and confident about their current and future roles in their communities. “Youth feel disempowered, and part of that is not knowing how they can contribute to dealing with the ills that they see around them in society, whether it be violence, crime or corruption,” said John Brandolino, Director, Division for Treaty Affairs, UNODC.
Importantly, to improve the accessibility of its teaching resources, E4J has already produced over 300 translations of its materials into over 15 languages, making them accessible to a growing number of educators and students worldwide, including marginalized groups such as indigenous people and children in refugee camps.
Strong partnerships – within and outside of UNODC – have laid the foundation for all this innovative work. The success of E4J, and its ability to think and do different, is based on its strong collaboration across the many varied parts of UNODC – a factor that has been highly appreciated over the course of the past five years.
External collaboration is equally as important. With UNESCO, E4J has created the Global Citizenship Education, joining the respective expertise on education and on rule of law to deliver powerful and engaging material to help youth feel they are part of the solution. In-depth collaboration with different UN entities, other international organizations, civil society organizations, and the private sector, have also allowed E4J’s output to reach many more beneficiaries, increasing the impact of its activities while strengthening the sustainability of its varied and rich initiative.
With every challenge, there are new opportunities for innovation and the development of ever more relevant methods to achieve set goals. For E4J, the process of creating innovative and engaging educational material on the rule of law is an evolving one, in its mission to foster global citizens with a solid moral and ethical compass.