13 September 2016

Global Citizenship Education & the Path to Peace: Preventing Violent Extremism and Promoting Peace, Sustainable Development and Human Dignity

Can teaching students to view themselves as citizens of the world be the key to building peace and advancing equality and justice?  This was the question raised on 9 September at the United Nations Headquarters at an panel discussion organized by UNESCO, in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of the Republic of Korea, Croatia, and Andorra, Jordan to the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding  (APCEIU), UN  Academic  Impact  (UNAI),  UN  Women, and InterPress Service entitled “Global Citizenship Education: An Emerging Agenda for Peace and Preventing Violent Extremism and Promoting  Sustainable Development and Human Dignity.”

Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is a target of Sustainable Development Goal #4: Quality Education.  This target is defined as: “By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.” 

The goal of the discussion was to review ways in which education can be inclusive and respectful, universal in its principles and local in its impact, and effectively used to equip learners with the capacities and qualities necessary to address the problems facing humanity. Specifically, the seminar addressed the prevention of violent extremism and promotion of sustainable development and human dignity. Drawing from the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which highlighted the important role of education in building young people’s resilience to violent extremist messaging and fostering a positive sense of identity and belonging, GCED is positioned to build peaceful mind-sets through education. Further, as regards the promotion and preservation of sustainable development and human dignity, which is based on the slogan “Leave no one behind” and the 5 Ps (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership), GCED proves critical to facilitating better understanding and awareness of the philosophy and objectives of the SDGs.

All the speakers at the seminar emphasised the importance of education that moves beyond the formal approach, to education that is based on the values of mutual respect, empathy/compassion and diversity. In other words, a focus on education as a way of life as opposed to its restriction to the structure of formal schooling. To achieve this, the panellists emphasized the role of young people who make up ‘Generation Now’. To incorporate the youth into the GCED, the speakers highlighted three initiatives that have been adopted to include youth in the process: Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), Youth Education Advocacy Group (YEAG) and Action by Students to Promote Innovation and Reform through Education (ASPIRE). It was stressed that the effectiveness of the former three mentioned partnerships, was hinged on the fact that education should not be limited to high literacy, economic empowerment, human capital, abstractions and theories, but should tap into the increasing role of media such as art, music, design, fashion and sports, in bringing people together.

The speakers also stressed the importance of gender in counter-terrorism narratives and approaches, by pointing out that most of the patriarchal structures in state systems and frameworks as well as terrorist groups and organizations facilitate violent extremism. For this reason, a focus not only on changing structures but on the provision of gender education to individuals and communities is important to change mind-sets, stereotypes and social abstractions.

The seminar closed with a reiteration of the goal of ‘Global Citizenship’ which expands beyond the education target in the outlined in SDG #4, which is “to make every individual a global citizen who is sensible to human dignity, our shared destiny with Mother earth, and who is responsible for peace and preventing violent extremism.”

If you missed the live event you can watch the archived webcast here.

You can find out more about Global Citizenship Education here