The Coalition of Peace and Ethics (CPE) and The Foundation for Law and International Affairs (FLIA) organized a side event at the Forum– “Political Participation and the Global Civic Education of Youth”, which was one of very few side events approved by OHCHR. Some CPE and FLIA scholars attended the panel. A few research fellows from the Chinese Initiative on International Law were also invited. Some of the participants joined the discussion via Skype. The panel was hosted by FLIA member Jason Cai.
Keren Wang, a Ph.D candidate at Penn State University gave a presentation titled “￼American Civic Education and Citizenship beyond Territoriality.” He believes that “[g]lobalization has fractured the regulatory order that once privileged states, which has allowed the legitimate mechanics of power to seep toward non-state actors. Non-state actors are now in an extraordinary position to influence education systems globally especially in developing and underdeveloped countries by harmonization of educational standards for global civic engagement. The case of Survival International further provides an excellent educational artifact that opens the possibility for a civic pedagogy of participatory global citizenship. Regulatory power has not only seeped away from states, but IOs and civil society actors are now wielding an immense amount of regulatory power that demands knowledge, curriculum, and education policy to shift towards the transnational level.
FLIA members Flora Sapio, Di Li, Antonio, and Jiawei Bi, the Administrative Director of The Chinese Initiative on International Law, also spoke at the panel.
Flora Sapio shared her views on the topic at the panel. She believes that education is one of the central elements of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. There are at least three sides to education. The first one of them is the act of imparting factual information and knowledge about a topic. The second one is the act of receiving factual information and knowledge, and retaining all that information in one’s memory. The third side to education is what Umberto Eco talked about in an interview he gave in 1984 or 1985 to an Italian tabloid, which is that education was something more than just memorizing, retaining, and repeating knowledge. Education involved developing the ability to understand what kind of information was really useful to oneself, knowing where that information could be found, understanding how it was made, where it came from, and using it in productive ways.
Di Li shared his perspective on the role of NGOs in the youth education. He believes that the development of technology, especially the Internet, has deeply changed the way for youth to get recourse of information and knowledge. Therefore, the traditional way of education, such as courses in school and knowledge in the textbooks, becomes not the exclusive one for young people to understand the world. Social media is a crucial link between youth in different places, and accordingly, it is able to improve the mutual understanding between youth, or cause misunderstanding. So the NGOs that focus on issues of youth must be ready to utilise new technology. Di also thinks that NGOs working with youth needs to target certain age group of youth, rather than over all youth. The period between having appropriate opinions on politics, law, and democracy to graduating from university can shape the future attitudes of youth towards each other. NGOs working with young people must make good influence to youth of this age group to contribute to decrease misunderstanding and discrimination among youth.
Jiawei Bi shared his thoughts based on his study and work in the field of human rights and international law. He believes that the diversity of the world should always be respected and education should be the most substantial resource. Meanwhile, the concept of human rights and the comparative thoughts on different legal culture should be an important part of the education.
Antonio Angotti connected with Jiawei BI’s statement by observing that human rights education (HRE) is often left to an individual’s initiative. While a certain level of coordination has been achieved through existing UN legal instruments, the implementation of HRE-related programs is still discretionary, and mandated to Member States, which in turn rely on NGOs. This, Antonio argued, may lead to a non-uniform HRE in different States, resulting in a different perception of human rights among the population. One of the most relevant human rights-related crises of our time, the drastic increase of asylum seekers currently happening in Europe, has shown that citizens of different countries are having very different reactions, grounded on uneven perceptions of human rights compliance. European States should have a similar perception of the fundamental rights they have sworn to protect, but are, in fact, proving the opposite. Apart from political consideration, this distance is likely caused by a non-uniform perception of the relevant human rights provisions and concepts, which should be dealt with by fostering a common HRE program. What could help, Antonio concluded, are normative instruments grounded in reality, providing for HRE materials and guidelines: as a result, youth worldwide would have a common dialogue, and a much needed shared perspective.