This teaching guide is a resource for lecturers   




The E4J initiative and ethics education

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative as part of its Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration on Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice into the Wider United Nations Agenda to Address Social and Economic Challenges and to Promote the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, and Public Participation. The Doha Declaration was adopted by the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2015 and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 70/174. The Declaration recognizes the fundamental importance of universal education for children and youth, for the prevention of crime, terrorism and corruption, as well as to promote sustainable development.

In support of the Doha Declaration, the E4J initiative aims to build a culture of lawfulness among children and youth through the provision of age-appropriate educational materials on topics related to criminal justice, crime prevention and the rule of law, and the integration of those materials into the curricula of all education levels. The E4J initiative is also closely linked with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which emphasizes the importance of education for ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all.

At the university level, E4J aims to facilitate and promote teaching on issues related to UNODC's mandate areas, including crime prevention and criminal justice, anti-corruption, organized crime, trafficking in persons / smuggling of migrants, firearms, cybercrime, wildlife, forest and fisheries crime, counter-terrorism as well as on integrity and ethics. As part of these efforts, UNODC has developed university modules and teaching guides on the above areas, which lecturers can adapt and integrate into their courses. While UNODC's work traditionally revolves around law enforcement and crime prevention, the organization recognizes that a culture of lawfulness can only exist when societies and individuals are guided by principles of integrity and ethics. UNODC is therefore promoting integrity and ethics education at the university level, through the E4J initiative.

Ethics education is particularly important at the age of undergraduate and young postgraduate students - typically between 18 and 24 years of age - but also at more advanced ages. A comprehensive study, which reviewed 55 studies of education interventions designed to stimulate developments in moral judgment, found that programmes with adults (over 24 years old) are more effective than with younger learners. However, following a programme of three to 12 weeks, significant effects were also obtained with students up to 24 years old (Schlaefli and others 1985). Another study found that ethics education programmes in US law schools were effective in substantially increasing the students' moral development and professional-ethical identity (Hamilton and others 2012).

In many parts of the world, young people leave their parents' home in order to enrol in university. Several years later, they graduate and take their place in society. As the bridge between family and society, the university is the logical place for developing, teaching and practicing ethics. By offering ethics education, universities empower and equip students to make and carry out proper ethical choices later in their professional life, ultimately benefitting the broader society (Rice and Webb 2017).

In 2017, UNODC commissioned a study of 136 integrity and ethics university courses worldwide. The study also examined the market of non-academic ethics courses. The findings revealed the following general trends and patterns:

  • The 2008 financial crisis sparked an increase in integrity and ethics courses.
  • Integrity and ethics courses are especially proliferating in graduate degree programmes where they cover specific applied aspects of ethics (e.g. corporate, administrative and legal).
  • In terms of geographical patterns, universities in North America (United States and Canada) have the largest concentration of integrity and ethics courses, followed by Western Europe, Latin America, East Asia, Middle Eastern states (in particular Gulf states) and Africa.
  • The courses generally focus on the concept of 'ethics' rather than the concept of 'integrity'.
  • The number of integrity and ethics courses using high-level and innovative teaching methodologies are small.
  • Outside of academia, there is a growing demand for training programmes on ethical codes of conduct related to different jobs and professions.

These trends suggest that there is a need for high quality and comprehensive integrity and ethics education at universities around the world, especially, but not exclusively, at the undergraduate level. To help lecturers and universities to begin to fill this gap, the E4J initiative developed the University Modules on Integrity and Ethics (hereinafter: the "Modules").    


University Modules on Integrity and Ethics

The very first discussions about the shape and approach of the Modules took place in the context of the E4J University Expert Group Meeting, held in Vienna on 8 and 9 March 2017. The event brought together around 80 academic experts to recommend ways in which E4J can provide support to academics interested in teaching on UNODC's mandate areas. Some of the recommendations focused on promoting stronger teaching in the field of integrity and ethics and were further discussed and confirmed in three regional expert consultations held by E4J in April 2017. The Modules were developed based on these recommendations, and with the support of over 70 academic experts from more than 30 countries. UNODC launched the Modules in June 2018, at the 3 rd Regional Conference on Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (CRES 2018).

The Modules offer a novel approach to global ethics education, based on innovative teaching materials and methods that can help students develop critical thinking skills and prepare them for value-driven and effective action. They furthermore add value to existing university programmes by introducing materials that have been developed by the United Nations and validated by leading academics from around the world. In addition, their emphasis on integrity in addition to other ethical concepts, will add value to most exiting ethics education programmes. The Modules seek to enhance students' ethical awareness and commitment to acting with integrity and to equip them with the necessary skills to apply and spread these norms in life, work and society. To increase their effectiveness, ensure their relevance and generate interest, the Modules connect ethical theories to practice and to everyday life. This practical orientation is intended to ensure that students learn not merely what is the right thing to do, but also how to get the right thing done. The Modules use innovative interactive teaching methods such as experiential learning and group-based work. These methods keep students engaged, help them develop critical thinking skills and ethical decision-making capabilities, and motivate them to become committed to ongoing ethical improvement.

The Modules focus on core integrity and ethics topics such as universal values, ethics and society, ethical leadership, diversity and pluralism, behavioural ethics, gender dimensions of ethics, and how integrity and ethics relate to important fields such as media, business, law, public service and the various professions. The Modules are based on global data and are linked to global issues at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Modules emphasize common universal values, while drawing on approaches from around the world. Thus, they leave room for diverse perspectives and lecturers can easily adapt them to different local and cultural contexts.

Different Modules fall in different places along the continuum between theoretical and applied ethics. The theoretical ones could be relevant to some lecturers as stand-alone modules, while for others they can provide a lens through which to view and teach the more applied Modules. An introductory module ( Module 1) maps the conceptual terrain and can be used to acquaint students (and lecturers) with basic approaches to integrity and ethics. The Module provides an overview of approaches to integrity and ethics from the perspective of multiple traditions, which can especially help lecturers and students with little or no relevant background to understand these complex concepts that are open to multiple interpretations. It is recommended that lecturers study Module 1 even if they do not teach it, as this will help them prepare for delivering classes based on any of the other Modules.

The Modules are not complete courses, but rather focus on key relevant concepts via a three-hour structure of content, exercises and assessment. Each Module also contains suggestions for expansion into a full course. Where possible, the Modules refer to open source materials that are publicly and freely accessible. Importantly, the Modules are multi-disciplinary and intended for use by lecturers from various disciplines and sub-disciplines in their teaching of undergraduate and graduate students. This includes lecturers who are not necessarily ethics experts, or teaching ethics courses, but would like to strengthen the ethical components of their courses. To ensure their relevance to different regions and disciplines and to lend themselves to a variety of uses, the Modules are flexible by design. Their modular structure makes it possible to select only the relevant Modules or even only parts of them. Here are some examples of university departments that could benefit from the Modules:

  • Departments that traditionally do not address integrity and ethics related issues in a formal manner, but that would find it valuable to engage with these concepts.
  • Departments that traditionally offer only professional ethics courses, e.g. in law, medicine, accounting and journalism. Subjects such as these may benefit from a more in-depth exploration of the ethical terrain.
  • Departments that already offer extensive teaching in the area of integrity and ethics (e.g. philosophy departments or business schools). These departments might want to benchmark their own materials against the E4J materials or consider the development of new courses based on the E4J Modules. The Modules could also be introduced as electives or could be offered at summer / winter schools.

The Modules are freely available on the E4J website. UNODC offers them as open educational resources (OER) to assist lecturers in preparing and delivering university classes on integrity and ethics. Users may visit the E4J website and download and copy the information, documents and materials for non-commercial use. For tracking purposes, UNODC would appreciate being informed about the way in which the material was used and how many students were involved (messages should be sent to the E4J mailbox). Users can also contact E4J or register on the E4J website to receive news updates.

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