© European Union 2023. Source: European Parliament.
Strasbourg, 25 July 2023: “Theatre is a form of knowledge and can be a means of transforming society.”
Augusto Boal, the famous and late Brazilian Theatre Director and father of the ‘Forum Theatre’, was describing the transformative power of theatre when used as teaching resource to spark positive change in youth.
“Theatre can help us build our future,” he once declared, “rather than just waiting for it.”
The world today is home to the largest generation of youth in history. With 1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24, working for and with young people is crucial to accelerate change and advance progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Indeed, with this group constituting one-fifth of the global population, their role in tackling today’s issues is undeniable, with the area of preventing corruption being no exception.
Building on this belief, the use of Forum Theatre to educate, engage and empower youth to be anti-corruption champions was the central objective of a recent participatory workshop delivered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Youth LED Integrity Advisory Board at the European Youth Event 2023 (EYE), held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
This year the world marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). With the understanding that governments and anti-corruption authorities cannot counter this crime alone, the Convention recognizes the undeniable role of youth, civil society, and academia, among others, and the part that these groups play.
UNODC’s Global Resource for Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment – the GRACE Initiative – has been a powerful engine in advancing the engagement of these groups and actively leveraging technology to harvest the power of innovation in preventing and countering corruption across the world.
The UNODC approach is based on the idea that if young people are involved in problem-solving, have a voice in decision-making processes, and given the right opportunities, then they can be effective agents of change and innovation. As a group, young people are not just the ones most impacted by the effects of crime and corruption, but also possess a unique understanding of their role in the future of society and how technology and innovation can be leveraged to build a better world.
To streamline meaningful youth empowerment, the entire workshop was conceptualized and delivered by members of the YouthLED Board – a collective comprising 25 young people from 25 different countries. The Board not only receives trainings from UNODC and its partners, but also supports the dissemination of this knowledge to youth constituencies at the local level and provides advice and substantive help in the development of innovative youth-focused products and tools.
Over 8,000 young people gathered from Europe and beyond at EYE2023. Hungry for a meaningful role in the advancement of rule of law and democratic values, the event offered an ideal setting for the launch of UNODC’s new resource, ‘Acting for the rule of law: A teacher’s guide to using Forum Theatre to promote the rule of law, ethics and integrity in secondary schools’, which has been developed to provide guidance on the use of formal and informal ways to teach youth about integrity, ethics and corruption.
“We are providing youth with the opportunity to showcase the various forms of corruption happening in their communities and together co-create ways to turn the negative story into a positive one,” said Max Amanu, YouthLED Integrity Advisory Board Member.
More than 50 young people became actors for a day, performing real life corruption scenarios on stage and discussing with their peers. Personal stories of encounters with corruption led to emotional participation by youth. It became clear that no matter which region they came from – Africa, Asia, Europe, or Latin America – their experiences of corruption were very similar.
Participants were eager to apply what they had learned to help prevent, detect and fight against corruption. As Eduardo Figueiredo, another YouthLED Integrity Advisory Board Member declared: “We are ready.”