India: Education For Justice initiative launched to promote SDGs in schools


20 September 2018: Welcoming efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and justice through schools, India's leading educators came together to pledge their support to UNODC's 'Education for Justice (E4J)' initiative during a week-long series of dialogues held in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru recently.


More than 60 educators from India's top schools participated in the roundtable discussions, convened by UNODC in partnership with Worldview Education to formally launch the E4J initiative in India. Developed as part of UNODC's Global Programme for the Implementation of the 2015 Doha Declaration, E4J is aimed at building 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.


UNODC has been at the forefront to promote E4J among schools around the world, particularly through impact initiatives such as Model United Nations and grassroot projects. In 2017, E4J created a resource guide to incorporate crime prevention, criminal justice and other rule of law aspects into Model United Nations (MUN) Conferences. At the secondary and tertiary education levels, MUN conferences stand out as successful initiatives to promote education on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the United Nations. This is done through the active involvement and leadership of students, as well as the teachers who supervise them.


Reflecting on the importance of students and teachers in strengthening the global goals, Ms Suruchi Pant, Deputy Representative, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia said, "I believe that change for a better tomorrow is only possible if it is championed by young leaders. In this direction, Model United Nations serves as an exciting platform for Teachers, Educators and Students to promote basic human values of respect, compassion and ethics through the promotion of the SDGs. UNODC calls upon the youth and children of South Asia to join our efforts to make this region safer and peaceful for all."


During the dialogues, educators and school principals reflected on the need to engage students on human rights, peace and the rule of law, and shared their experiences in this direction. "Indeed, schools have a major role to play in driving the global SDG agenda, by creating young leaders through values-based education. Today's children are motivated and have a keen interest in contributing to social causes. The challenge lies in effectively harnessing their energies for greater impact. In this context, any innovative ideas and programs through which we can create tangible opportunities for the kids are welcome," a group of principals opined.


Several teachers shared examples of unique "projects" conceptualized and driven by students in their schools: interfaith dialogues to promote harmony, special classes for underprivileged children, anti-corruption awareness campaigns through art and music, participation in MUNs and even film-making on relevant social issues.  Educators also concurred that since discussions about youth and children are often done without them being a part of the dialogue, it is crucial to include them and their perspectives. The key takeaway from schools? "Let's join hands to trigger collective action on SDG 16!"


Mr. Gilberto Duarte, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, UNODC, said, "If we want young people to become agents of positive change in their communities, we have to make them aware of the issues. They have to be actively involved at a young age. UNODC is committed to working with youth and educators to promote security, justice and peace in South Asia. "


"In India, young teachers in schools are sparking change and embracing experiential teaching-at least in the top schools-and engaging children to develop a sense of global citizenship. At the same time, many children are actively engaging in dialogues on the issues around them, and seeking meaningful platforms to learn about social issues and work towards solving them. Several children with access to resources in top schools are interested and motivated to address SDGs, even if they don't have the know-how. UNODC aims to bridge this knowledge gap, especially on SDG 16. If genuine interest towards these issues can be generated among young leaders, perhaps they will be the harbingers of change tomorrow. Our work, in this direction, continues," said Samarth Pathak, Communications Officer, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia.


Taking the E4J agenda forward, UNODC has partnered with Worldview Education for the "MUN for India" program that seeks to strengthen the MUN space in the country. In 2018, 25 MUN's will be held in 25 cities across India. These MUNs are expected to be attended by over 6000 students from 250+ schools. As part of the partnership, at least two committee agendas in each of these MUNs will be designed in line with the E4J initiative. Officials from UNODC along with Worldview Education's MUN trainers will ensure that all students and educators of participating schools are well prepared and adequately trained to educate all participants about issues such as Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice, Corruption, Trafficking that the initiative focuses on. 


In this direction, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia is open to collaborate with schools that are interested in implementing the E4J initiative in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.