Tag: Youth

YouthINK – Day 4

A daily conference bulletin by the youth reporters

Thursday-Friday March 9-10, 2017

Personal testimonies reiterate relevance of Global Citizenship Education at opening plenary of 3rd GCED Forum

At the opening session of the third UNESCO forum on Global Citizenship Education Opening, Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education, highlighted that the challenges created by the 21st century place today’s learners in uncertainty and require a set of special soft skills to adapt to the realities of the time. The education oriented towards these skills is to be based on inclusive and equitable strategies. The opening remarks were followed by a powerful plenary which explored the idea of ‘Leveraging the power of teachers for peace’. The session introduced two inspirational testimonies on the transformational potential of education. The first was by Rafiullah Kakar a young professional from Pakistan who spoke of his sense of guilt in celebrating International Women’s Day as he belongs to a purely patriarchal society built on the exclusion of women.
He highlighted how his life experiences challenged his preconceived notions and argued that there are instruments outside of the formal education systems that shape young people’s minds more powerfully than textbooks.

His sentiments were echoed by the Leslee Udwin, founder of Think Equal in the United States of America who stated that the educational systems are failing as they do not address the complexities of the 21st century. The challenges facing today’s international community such as hate speech, terrorism, extremism, discrimination, rape, domestic violence and many others urge us to ask “What kind of education should be promoted”. 

Highlights from the concurrent sessions

Cross-regional dialogue on GCED: Secondary school students speak out on how to teach GCED


Over the past four months, thousands of youth from 13 countries, across each continent have engaged in a high-stakes online discussion around the core tenents of global citizenship, including the interconnectedness of local and global systems, respect for diversity and ethical engagement across borders. Researched, developed and presented by secondary school students from the participant countries, this session synthesized the collected work of networked classrooms with ASPnet schools at the core, local and global government and non-governmental organisations, indigenous peoples, and frontline communities who have important insight into the complexity of global citizenship.

At the session a presentation and overview of the “International Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship” prepared by the diverse secondary school students. With support and supervision from Centre for Global Education, the Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Research, University of Alberta, and the Global Centre for Pluralism, they published the paper (online and printed version) addressing issues of human rights, imperial instinct, divergence between equality and equity, strength in diversity. Their practical findings and policy recommendations to educators include a shared curriculum, critical thinking (in some countries, for example, Morocco, there is no critical thinking), and last but not least, making some changes to the traditional school structure.

Preparing teacher for global citizenship education in Asia: what works?

The objective of the workshop was to go beyond definitions of a global citizen and instead to focus on how it should be taught. The key was that the focus was not on “What they learn, but how they learn it”. Often traditional learning focuses on with learning about ourselves, but not others. The workshop highlighted the creative pedagogical approach of creating a space were we learn about ourselves through others.

Reflect, react, resist; Teaching divided histories

Through case studies, the workshop highlighted how personal beliefs and political conditions, were either endorsing or resisting the Nazi states anti-Semitic policies. The first lesson was to examine the justification of anti-Semitic views; such as social exclusion, positive affirmation of anti-Semitic views, widespread national identity policies that excluded Jews in a range of platforms. The workshop also highlighted the importance and the role of the social community and public employees (teachers, policemen etc.) in the process of implementing the Nazi policies. It examined why the resistance was not widespread. The duty of the majority in resisting hateful policies towards the minority was very marginalized. The lessons learned from the workshop underlined our collective duties as global citizens in resisting hate rhetoric and learn from the holocaust when dealing with a range of current issues.


Teaching with young people: What do learners expect from GCED?

The youth leading the session started with presenting an advocacy tool kit that they created along with other 50 youth who are part of the youth advocacy group. The tool kit is designed to help educators facilitate the concept of advice and support youth in their advocacy campaigns. They highlighted the importance of working with youth on defining, expectations, how should it be implemented and most importantly how to make it relevant to the public. The youth facilitators of the session mentioned that according to the world we want survey ages between 16-30 chose education as the most pressing issue that we need to be working on globally.  During the workshop attendees got chance to take part in the experiential learning them selves. In groups they analyzed issues they identified in education using the problem tree then practiced drafting messaging. The toolkit and EIU annual best practices guide are available at UNESCOapceiu.org

Story-telling and experiential learning – A hero’s journey


We live in an interdependent, unequal and ever-changing world. This workshop provided participants with the opportunity to explore and experience the power and potential of experiential learning in educational settings through “A Hero’s journey”. Bobby McCormack, the facilitator of the workshop, called the participants on the adventure to explore creative methodologies and be a part of the experiential learning process. The group work —as simple as lowering down the level of the stick –turned out to be a challenge when there were 10 people in a group. This was an example of the necessity of collaboration between people in the community. “Take responsibility for what is happening in the community” was the key message of the session. We need friends, we need enemies, we need mentors on our journey. They are a part of our unique stories.

Innovative pedagogies for ESD and GCED: Is game based learning the future?


UNESCO MGIEP organized a concurrent session on “Innovative pedagogies for ESD and GCED: Is game based learning the future?” The objective of the workshop was to explore how game based learning can help learners achieve key competencies and skills such as critical inquiry, systems thinking, empathy and compassion. These 21st century skills form the foundation of ESD and GCED. The panel consisting for researchers and educators shared their experiences of using game-based learning in their classes and how it impacted their students understanding of key concepts of ESD and GCED. The session was participatory and engaging and raised awareness about the widely available game based tools which the teachers can easily adopt in their classrooms. The panel also addressed how some of the games can be used in context where technology is not easily accessible. The panel also provided a ready list at the end which was a useful take away for the participants.

Developing a Voice for Peace: Using Drama and the Arts for Explicit Emotional Education and the Prevention of Conflict

What is the link between drama and the arts on the one hand and conflict prevention on the other hand? This workshop organized by Unique Voice explored this question by focusing on how drama and the arts can support the socio-emotional development of children for preventing future conflict. Socio-emotional education through art and drama builds on the key concepts of understanding and diversity. It is an ideal way to enhance the ability of children to express their feelings and communicate better. Drama and the arts for the socio-emotional development of children contribute to building their resilience, give them security and voice, and enable them to express empathy while developing a sense of belonging. Although qualitative research corroborates the benefits of socio-emotional education through drama and the arts, this is yet to be properly integrated in our understanding of education.

Shrinking spaces: Global citizenship education in a cold climate

Organized by seven Oxfam affiliates, the participants in the workshop on “Shrinking spaces: Global citizenship education in a cold climate” discussed the factors that may undermine the efforts of promoting global citizenship education and suggested ways forward. A host of such factors were identified, including limited incentives caused by results-driven education systems, global citizenship education ranking low in curricula and school approaches, a lack of skills among teachers / educators, lack of time, school systems leaving little, if any, room to civil society, teacher / student resistance to new teaching methods, etc. OXFAM and its affiliates from around the world provided a number of suggested methodologies regarding ESD/GCED and prompted participants to reflect on their global replicability. These methodologies include projects to promote media literacy among youth, and fair trade through cooperative student structures. Also, youth ambassador groups to work on the leadership, teamwork, and voice of students, clubs and change initiatives at university level to instill students with a first hand understanding of advocacy and lobbying at local and regional level, and many more. Mr Hamid K Ahmed, Deputy Chair of the Advisory Commission to the Prime Minister of Iraq, discussed how best to use global citizenship education to deal with extremism and dogmatic ways of thinking in post-DAESH areas in his country. In the ensuing debate, participants raised most interested issues related to ensuring language neutrality, gender equality and reconciliation in post-conflict situations.

Holding difficult Conversations

By Nick Taylor – Foundation for Peace


The second part of the morning of the last day of the GCED conference addressed the theme of pedagogies that transform, and an important point to discuss when it comes to peace is the development of socio-emotional competencies and critical thinking. Both characteristics allow critical thinking and prevent the growth of prejudice and violence. The session began with a tribute, made by Nck Taylor chief executive of the TPJB Foundation for Peace, to all victims of terrorism since March 11 is International Day of the victims of extremism and violence. The Foundation for Peace works with methodologies and teacher training approaches to prevent the growth of extremism and violence through three lines: prevention, resolution and response. These bases are developed through individual development and acceptance of the characteristics, attributes and history of each individual, of communication allowing students to dialogue and build arguments and finally awaken the sense of community, contextualizing the environment and allowing each one to see its role Within the group.

The second part of the session involved a practical exercise between the participants to awaken empathy: After showing the film “Preventing violent extremism through education” by Unesco, Nick gave Bil’s photo and asked the participants to discuss the possible story of the character trying to escape Stereotypes due to their appearance. Bill’s story touched everyone, because in the end we found out that he was a vittim of etremism and that at the age of 12 he lost his father, which led him to search for “justice” by joining an extremist group and committing a murder. Bill is an example of how extremism gains strength, when we have situations of violence, discrimination, bullying, poverty and social vulnerability. The Foundation for Peace develops engaging projects such as music concerts, games, social media actions and games to raise students’ awareness. As support for developing initiatives that work in the same way, Nick suggested two UN documents: the Global Citzenship Chart and the UN’s Prevent Violent Extremism Trought Education.

Living libraries: A face-to-face encounter to foster intercultural dialogue


Libraries live. They are alive. They talk and share stories. Today’s simulation of a living library allowed us to be the book, to be read and to convey our stories. Stories that project our experiences, pain, traumas and happiness. Stories that depict our societies, lives and challenges of our environments. Telling stories give voice to the unheard and neglected ones, who are misrepresented and unrepresented.

Organizing living libraries can be accomplished by following 7 steps. After bringing on board similar minded people who are willing to support you, you can move on with planning your living library project: define your goal, target and success criteria. Bringing your “library” to social gathering in public spaces, malls and festivals, for instance. Next step, identify challenges of intercultural dialogue in your region. Among these challenges select “books”, contact them and brief them about the projects. Do not forget to provide materials such as catalogs and booklets with rules to make sure that your participants know what to expect.

Try out a living library in your community and classroom upon your return. Make sure you do not shelf these books and act upon stories instead.

Teaching GCED: Do I Know where to start?

Mr. Hamid Ahmed – Senior Advisor Prime Minister  showed the reality about Iraq’s education pre and pos the Daesh. The important thing that he brings was that prejudice and violence begin with lack of a framework education, on Iraq pre daesh all the history and geography books was banned, in the curriculum contents as weapons and extremism was widely teached.The era pos Daesh was a challenge to the government, because the had to make a emotional approach to sensibilize the population and mostly the child.


After the show case some educator, teacher and youth give some examples of first steps that could be done in classroom, and some reflections if we are going in the right way to implement the GCED.

  • Social media training and media literacy: if the students know how the information and media works is easy to framework the content.
  • Create groups of conversation where the students can show and speak about their cultures and listen for another.
  • The students are not framing the contexts id order to make a real critical thinking about what is talking about. We challenge they with the way we support they to developed critical thinking. We need to actually provide guides to give more background.
  • Create safes spaces to share in class.
  • Make a review on the material that we use in school, make they are reinforcing prejudice and mainstream concepts.

In the end the audience receive all the sweetness of Joan David, the child author that wrote the book about the SDGs. And as he said “We have the courage to be ourselves, not just for the children today but for all the future generations. Everyone can make a difference.”

Interview with Terry Godwalt, Centre for Global Education and Yusuf, Janan and Scarlett, three of the under 18 youth representatives that presented the Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship


Q) Do you think that the youth today feel pressured because the adults are putting this responsibility on them to find solutions to problems that have been created by the latter?

There definitely is some pressure but its also responsibility that needs to be shared by adults and the youth alike. We have an advantage as 21st century youth that we bring in different perspectives and are willing to step up and be involved in the process of finding solutions. What is unfair is that we are not often given opportunities to express ourselves.

Q) Has technology helped narrow the gap by offering more possibilities to voice your opinion? Or do feel the problem still persists?

Technology has definitely helped increase possibilities of collaboration and also given us avenues to voice our opinion. However there is quite a clear difference between doing things virtually and actually physically being present at fora where we are given an equal opportunity.

Q) How do you plan to stay engaged upon your return to your own countries?

It is difficult; we have schools and a lot of work that occupies our time. However we are definitely planning to use social media and digital forms of communication to stay connected and ensure that we continue the dialogue in one form or the other.

Q) What has been your biggest takeaway from the experience?

We think that if we were to summaries it in one sentence we could probably say that “As we learn, we unlearn”

Youth reporters

Amaralina Xavier, Ellena Killyakova, Wala Al Jallad,
Artemis Papathoedorou, Aytaj Pashyeva, Asma Zina Belheddad,
Hajar Idrissi, Phynuch Thong, Stanlisav Khanin, Pamir Ehsas

YouthINK – Day 3

A daily conference bulletin by the youth reporters

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

At official opening of UNESCO Week, experts underscore crucial role of women and youth

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova officially opened the UNESCO Week for Peace and Sustainable Development: The Role of Education in Ottawa, Canada on 8 March together with Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Canada, and Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education, Government of Ontario.

“We need new forms of education that promotes understanding between cultures, that strengthens the resilience of societies and provides the relevant skills to navigate the future,” said Ms Bokova, emphasizing the need to promote human rights, dignity, diversity and inclusion. Bringing in the importance of youth, Minister McKenna highlighted that “Young people are already leading; we need to listen to them. They not only care but also have more ambitious ideas that ever before for a more sustainable future.” Focusing on those who are on the frontlines in the classroom, Fred van Leeuwen, Secretary-General of Education International said: “Teachers create bonds within groups and build bridges across groups and communities. It is clear that efforts to improve teaching and learning will not succeed unless we trust, value and support teachers. We see this Conference as a clear token of UNESCO to support the teaching profession worldwide”. ” Since the opening also coincided with International Women’s Day, the leaders reiterated the need to “leave no woman behind” on the path to a sustainable world.

Youth lead from the front in intergenerational dialogue on role of teachers in ESD; discuss impact of technology, training and support of policymakers

At the opening of the UNESCO Week, youth delegates and policymakers joined forces for UNESCO MGIEP’s Talking Across Generations on Education to discuss the role of teachers in ESD


To say that it was a power-packed gathering for UNESCO MGIEP’s Talking Across Generations on Wednesday morning would be an understatement. The carefully chosen TAGe delegates who took the stage to discuss the Youth Perspectives on the Role of Teachers in Education for Peace and Sustainable development brought to the discussion not only a wealth of experience but also regional and professional diversity. The youth delegates came from 35 different nations and had been selected by UNESCO MGIEP via a rigorous application process that included participating in four weeks of online discussions.

Engaging in a dialogue with the youth were 15 distinguished experts cutting across academic, professional and regional expertise. Among them were Director General UNESCO Irina Bokova, Minister of Education Ontario, provincial parliament Mitzie Hunter, Special Adviser for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Dessima Williams, UNESCO chair on GCED Dr Carlos Alberto Torres and other highly-established experts. The session got off to an inspirational start with UNESCO MGIEP’s first ever YESPeace champion and singer Emmanuel Kelly moving the audience with his story.

The dialogue began with moderators Paul Darvasi and Danika Littlechild posing the question regarding what a 21st-century teacher should look like. The responses from the experts and the youth drove home the realisation that teachers of today need to be superheroes to keep up with the changing needs of the students and the increased access to information.The experts brought in the question of support received by the teachers from other stakeholders including policymakers and the governments.

“For creating peace and sustainable development, dialogues such as the TAGe are essential,” said Irina Bokova, DG UNESCO. This point was further highlighted by the H.E. Mr Choong-hee Hahn

Untitled2Ambassador, Permanent Delegation to UNESCO Korea, who reiterated that “Empathy and compassion are needed to create peaceful and sustainable societies.”

When touching upon the impact of technology on the role of the teachers, youth delegate Sandiso Sibisi from South Africa argued that in many regions the internet has not permeated to the extent of that in the Western world. The rich dialogue also touched upon the issues of teacher training, focus on assessment of students and new pedagogies.

The session ended on a high with Emmanuel Kelly once again taking the stage and sang a rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Irina Bokova, Director General UNESCO joins the youth to launch World Rescue—MGIEP’s innovative mobile-based game on SDGs

Untitled3The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development today released World Rescue-a mobile-based game inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The game was officially released by Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO and Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP.

The research-based video game, takes the players across Kenya, Norway, Brazil, India, and China where they take on the roles of five young heroes to solve global problems—such as displacement, disease, deforestation, drought, and pollution—at the community level to achieve a more sustainable world.

“Digital games offer a double dividend: First, they offer a platform whereby learners can make mistakes as they learn concepts of peace and sustainable development; and second children actually have fun while learning,” said Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP at the launch.

World Rescue has been designed and developed by Pixel Perfect, a game development company based in Hungary that won UNESCO MGIEP’s first-ever International Gaming Challenge in 2015. The storyline of the game has been curated by Literary Safari. World Rescue is available for download free of cost on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store and has already been downloaded approximately 2000 times.

YESPeace Workshop: Mobilising youth and teachers to transform education for peace and sustainable development

Untitled4After an exciting morning where the youth engaged in a rich dialogue during Talking Across Generations on Education (TAGe) on the role of teachers in ESD, the MGIEP youth delegates came together in full force for theYesPeace workshop.

The aim of the workshop was to provide a platform for young people working in the area of formal, non-formal and informal education to share their work in the areas of peace, sustainable development and global citizenship and draw upon the discussions on the role of teachers.

The format of the session was designed to drive an action-oriented and participatory approach involving group work.

The youth were divided in projects and created projects as well as Action Plans to enhance teacher and youth synergies (of people and practitioners).Untitled5

Interview with Emmanuel Kelly
UNESCO MGIEP’s first-ever YESPeace Champion


Q) Do you think that being a YESPeace champion will now put a lot more pressure on you or will it only empower you further to inspire?

It definitely is a great responsibility, but one that I am fortunate to be in a position to be given. I am honoured to be part of this campaign and hope to inspire and aspire to create and help achieve qualities of peace, sustainable development and above all, love. I actually feel more free to be who I am.

Q) What do you think are the common challenges that youth face today regardless of where they are and what they are doing?

The biggest problem I see is that there is a lack of a role models to aspire to be and at the same time lack of inspiration. I think that the only solution for this is that we should all aspire to be ourselves and be inspired by someone who always changes you for the better. In my case, i am lucky to have my mum and brother who have inspired me each step of the way in my journey to where I am today. They have had a tremendous impact on my life and I am so grateful to have had that.

Q) Do you think education has an important role to play in changing the mindsets?

I think that not only education, but the kind of education is important. Education systems are not teaching the students to be socially conscious.

The teachers need to realise that the skills that are needed today are not the skills that were needed ten years ago. They need to listen to the students.

Q) How would you explain the phenomenon of many educated youth from across the globe getting radicalised?

I strongly feel that entertainment industry is responsible to a large extent for creating unrealistic images in the minds of the young people of today. It also sends out wrong messages through what it thinks is entertaining; such as violence is alright. However, a larger problem is that children don’t have any immediate role models to turn to within their families. They turn to teachers for guidance and when they don’t get that kind of support from there too, the children are really lost and easily attracted to extremist ideologies.

Q) Do you think music can play an important role in closing the gaps that you just identified?

There is no doubt about this; music plays an important role in unifying people from across regions and cutting across ideologies. An example of this can be seen in Israel, where the biggest band is from Palestine and in Palestine where the biggest band is from Israel. Music has always been able to offer a beacon of hope and it does it in a way that is subtle. The lure of music is always fun and attractive but at the same time it has immense healing powers too.

Twitter highlights of the day

Impact on twitter: #tage and #UNESCOweekEd

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Sessions for Day 4 (9 March,  2017)

Innovative pedagogies for ESD and GCED: Is game-based learning the future?


Community mapping to develop GCED skills


One world one compassion


Youth reporter
Radhika Bhatnagar


‘A Voyage of Discovery’ YESPeace Network International Strategy Workshop 2016

UNESCO MGIEP hosts the first YESPeace Network International Strategy Workshop in collaboration with – Pravah and ComMutiny Collective, New Delhi, 2016.

UNESCO MGIEP along with – Pravah and ComMutiny Youth Collective – two leading youth-based NGOs in India co-designed and co-facilitated the first YESPeace (Youth for Education, Sustainability and Peace) Network International Strategy Workshop on Tuesday, 16 February 2016, New Delhi.

The workshop sought to bring to the forefront and discuss the challenges, opportunities and innovations encountered by youth and how EPSG can be used as a tool to enable young people to build more peaceful and sustainable societies.

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The previous day, Monday (15 February), at Talking Across Generations (TAG) 2016 – which also saw the launch of YESPeace India Country Programme – the major points discussed were the relevance and importance of Education in building peaceful and sustainable societies – especially through youth-led initiatives.

image 3“If TAG2016 emphasized the need of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, then the YESPeace Network International Strategy Workshop stood to pave the way towards realizing it.”Abel Caine, (Head) Youth and Communications, UNESCO MGIEP

YESPeace Network

The YESPeace Network is a global platform that seeks to mobilize, educate, engage, challenge, enable and empower youth around the world – towards building a peaceful and sustainable future through Education for Peace, Sustainable development and Global citizenship (EPSG).

YESPeace Network International Strategy Workshop (Participants)
Organisation, Country
1. Palestinian League for Human Rights, Syria/Sweden
2. Seeds of Peace, Afghanistan/USA
3. 3blassociates, Bahrain
4. University of Malaya, Malaysia
5. Leaders of Tomorrow, Jordan
6. World Bank, Afghanistan
7. Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER), Kyrgyzstan
8. GenPeace & Pax, Philippines
9. Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development, India
10. Seeds of Peace, India
11. Symbiosis University, India
12. Manzil, India
13. Restless Development, India
14. Prantkatha, India

The workshop aimed at providing a space for youth experts over the world to collaboratively discuss the issues, challenges, opportunities with/for young people in the area of EPSG.

Key objectives – YESPeace International Strategy Workshop:

• To develop a shared understanding of the context, opportunities and challenges involving youth and education for peace, sustainability and global citizenship in the countries represented in the room and the world in general.
• To seek value addition and strategic contribution to the suggested plans for YESPeace (Youth for Education, Sustainability and Peace) India – SMILE programme, with special focus on the curriculum and methodology
• To develop a shared vision and preliminary design for YESPeace Network national country programmes

image 4

“We need to provide a space beyond family, friends, leisure, and career, where the youth mobilize themselves to discuss/learn Education for Peace, Sustainable development and Global citizenship (EPSG)- bridging the gap between the self and the society, and building a systemic learning environment by moving on to educate other youth about EPSG.” – Neha Buch, CEO, Pravah

During the course of the workshop, the participants were taken through a rigorous journey of introspection and analysis of the current condition of youth-led initiatives on Education for Peace and Sustainable development in their respective countries, and the world in general.

One major aspect of the workshop was to introduce the delegates to the YESPeace India SMILE programme – and seek/gain valuable insights and feedback, which would help strengthen the pilot programme of YESPeace India, by making it more robust and effective.

Key insights from the Workshop:

– Studying existing policy paradigms in the country.
– Stock taking of current EPSG organizations in the country.
– Emphasis on conflict resolution and deep self-awareness.
– Starting a new movement if none exists.
– Designing of an open source curriculum that can be shared and localized to each context.
– Blended learning approach with global evaluation.
– Making the curriculum inclusive for youth belonging to diverse backgrounds esp. those with different abilities and from disadvantaged groups.
– Inter-generational regional dialogue promotion.
– Emphasis on cross-border learning and programmes that have the potential to foster cross-border youth participation.
– Funding possibilities for expansion of YESPeace Network: endowment, bilateral, donors and CSR.
– Devising a mechanism to make the YESPeace Networks self-sustainable.
Next steps:
In the coming months UNESCO MGIEP will be rolling out the YESPeace India SMILE programme along with Youth-led Monitoring of SDG 4.7 – which is a set of framework that particularly monitors SDG 4.7. Also carried parallely throughout, would be the mapping and establishing of partnerships for YESPeace networks in other countries.


Abel Caine (Senior Project Officer) – a.caine@unesco.org

Piyali Sarkar Debnath (Programme Officer) – p.sarkar@unesco.org

Deepika Joon (Programme Officer) – d.joon@unesco.org

Sajid Sheikh (Programme Coordinator) – s.sheikh@unesco.org

For more about the YESPeace Network: Download brochure

UNESCO MGIEP launches its Campus Ambassadors Programme at CEE in Ahmedabad – read more

Talking Across Generations 2016—Can education radicalize youth for peace?

By Sigrid Lupieri, Public Information Officer, UNESCO MGIEP

15 February, New Delhi—From heated debates on the value of education, to the first live concert by Pakistani and Indian bands Junoon and Indian Ocean, UNESCO MGIEP’s Talking Across Generations 2016 edition drew more than 500 participants. For those who missed it, this year’s theme focused on the role of education in preventing and combating violent extremism around the world.
Held at the India Habitat Centre in central Delhi, the event opened with a panel discussion on the theme “Can education radicalize youth for peace?” Addressing a packed auditorium, Dr. Anantha Kumar Duraiappah, director of UNESCO MGIEP, said this year’s topic arose from witnessing increasing violence against civilians based on such criteria as religion, caste and gender. “The use of the word ‘radicalize’ is intentional,” Duraiappah said. “We feel that education systems today aren’t able to address this.”
Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator and the UN’s top official in India, stressed the risks that countries face when societies do not grant their young people opportunities and a future. One of these risks is that frustration can boil over into violence. A young population, however, also presents an opportunity. “When we are young we have the clarity to see things which become fuzzy when we get older and we realize that there are about 50 shades of black,” he said.
According to Afanasiev, a well-structured education system is not ideologically driven, but allows young people to ask questions and gives them the tools and abilities to find answers for themselves. Education systems should also ensure that young people are able to navigate and critically assess the large amounts of information available to them anytime, anywhere. “There is so much misinformation out there,” he said. “Sometimes in life we need to empty our minds and start again.”
Dr. Karan Singh, chairman of the UNESCO MGIEP governing board and member of India’s Upper House of Parliament, said that education needs to provide values and a framework through which to assess the world. “From information we need to construct knowledge, from knowledge we need to construct wisdom,” he said.
The panel discussion, moderated by NHK senior commentator Aiko Doden, focused on the personal experiences and backgrounds of the panellists—ranging from Afghanistan to South Sudan. Awista Ayub, an Afghani-American who heads the South Asia Programme of Seeds of Peace, said that young people must learn to hold on to their cultural identities while also accepting perspectives different from their own. Palestinian-Syrian activist Salim Salamah said he felt that the Syrian education system had let its young people down by not preparing new generations for change and for promoting a culture of authoritarianism.

Graphic recording of the TAG 2016 discussion session
Graphic recording of the TAG 2016 discussion session

For Simon Kuany Kiir Kuany, a former refugee from South Sudan and current student at Symbiosis International University, the role of education is to give meaning to students, while teaching them to walk in other people’s shoes. “Education needs to teach people to be better human beings,” he said, as the audience, mainly comprised of university students, cheered. According to the last panellist, Dr. Liz Jackson, an assistant professor at Hong Kong University, education is about countering prejudice and apathy—also forms of extremism.
At the end of the discussion, UNESCO MGIEP’s Youth Team unfurled its YESPeace Network flag and officially launched its second national chapter in India in partnership with Pravah and Commutiny the Youth Collective (CYC). A network of networks for youth leaders and young people ready to take on the challenge of changing the world, the YESPeace Network now has national chapters and local youth volunteers in Malaysia and India.
In the late afternoon, participants congregated once again for the TAG’s signature, town-hall style debate among young people, policy-makers and UN officials. This time, however, the debate culminated in a youth statement, which will be presented in upcoming international youth forums and circulated to all UNESCO Member States. During the debate, moderated by Zee Media’s Mandy Clark and Neha Buch of Pravah/CYC India, young people spoke about the risks of education being used as a tool for indoctrination, the challenges of promoting education when parents can’t afford to feed their children, and how to better involve young people in decision-making processes.
At the end of the day, Junoon and Indian Ocean gave a rousing performance, playing their respective hits “Sayonee” and “Kandisa”. Combining their signature blend of rock music, Sufi mysticism and sweeping folk melodies, the two bands, playing together for the first time, embodied the spirit of cross-cultural understanding in a time of fraught Indo-Pakistani relations. In the crammed auditorium, after a day of debates on education and peace, fans stood up and danced, and demanded an encore.