Had it not been for the COVID-19 global pandemic, UNODC's headquarters would have been swarming this past week with academics, educators, experts, and representatives from international organizations and multinational corporations for the largest conference ever held under United Nations auspices to discuss the crucial link between education and the rule of law.
Instead, over 2,100 participants from 109 countries gathered virtually, and safely, for the unprecedented Global Dialogue Series launched by UNODC's Education for Justice (E4J) initiative on 1 December, debating the forward-looking perspectives ensuing from the pandemic to reimagine education for peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have split the world even further apart, as the health crisis continues to put new pressures on daily life. And while for some, it has slowed down their output; for others, lockdown has generated a desire to do more.
Fields which have been affected by the pandemic include the judicial sectors around the world, with the postponement of trials and a slowing down of judicial processes. In Lebanon, the pandemic was exacerbated by the August 4 th explosion in Beirut, an event with catastrophic consequences on a human level and on the city's infrastructure. For Judge Jean Tannous, who suffered a personal tragedy in the explosion, this was nevertheless an occasion to insist even more on dedicating himself to his work, and to continue promoting judicial integrity.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis and the measures taken to combat its spread have been some of the most disruptive events to daily life that humankind has faced since the 1918 flu pandemic. So far, the coronavirus has affected a multiplicity of countries and territories around the world, with more than 53 million cases registered by November 2020.
Faced with the challenge of protecting public health and preventing the further spread of the virus, the Republic of Serbia declared a state of emergency on 15 March 2020. The Constitution permits the state to derogate from certain rights guaranteed by the Constitution, but only to the extent required by the severity of the situation.
Since its creation, the Education for Justice initiative has looked for innovative ways to support educators in their mission to arm the next generation with the right tools to tackle global challenges. With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a potential increase in social unrest and violence, this support is more important than ever.
To meet this, E4J launched this month a new grants programme for universities around the world to support the ongoing tertiary education efforts in this field. 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.
In these times of global upheaval, some segments of society can be forgotten as big stories compete for attention. Improving the lives of every member of our communities remains the priority for UNODC at all times when it comes to peace, justice and strong institutions, and that includes the circumstances of prisoners as they embark on skills training to provide them with a new chance in life.
This month in Tajikistan, UNODC's Prisoner Rehabilitation initiative, part of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, marked another milestone in working with the Tajik authorities to improve prospects for the social reintegration of prisoners.