Educating for International Understanding & Human Rights

Education for International Understanding, Human Rights & Peace

The loss of access to European funding, particularly Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps funding, and the cut in UK Aid is an impending disaster for education for international understanding, human rights and peace.

In a world facing climate disaster, racked by conflict and in the throes of trying to overcome a deadly pandemic, the need for global understanding, mutual respect and cooperation are more important than ever before if we wish to attain a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful future for all. This need was already recognised by UNESCO in 1974 when, a Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace, and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was adopted. The UK signed up to this recommendation, which aims at promoting sustainable development and global citizenship, fostering respect for the environment, creating peaceful and just societies, counteracting hate speech and discrimination, and defending human rights.

Education in both formal and non-formal settings is vital for learning and understanding human rights. However, an understanding of an individual’s own rights and empathy with those whose rights are not respected is something gained by experience as much as by taught content. Without access to Erasmus+ and other European Union funding much of this work in Wales is under threat. Investment in this area will have huge benefits.

Education for Human Rights and Peace in Schools

Without any core funding and very little programme funding from the UK Government, the WCIA works proactively to support children and young people in Wales to become ‘ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world’ – one of the key purposes of the new Welsh curriculum.

Erasmus+ funding has been key to supporting many aspects of this work. A programme of events and opportunities which develop young people’s knowledge, skills and confidence, enables them to think critically and creatively and solve local and global problems. Young people feel able to express their views on these key issues and to take action individually and collectively.

WCIA also leads the Wales Alliance for Global Learning (WAGL) which has over 70 members NGOs, local authority representatives and education practitioners. WAGL aims to ensure global learning (including global citizenship education, peace education, environmental education and rights based education), which is prominent in the curriculum and throughout lifelong learning.

A globally responsible Wales: Global learners recognise that their actions here in Wales have an impact beyond our borders. For example, they are more likely to buy Fair Trade, be concerned about the environment and campaign on global issues. Global learners understand that global issues are complex and can assess sources of information for accuracy and quality.

“Hearing some inspirational things from people, this really opened my eyes to how the world worked, and how I could make a difference in the future” – school pupil

A more equal Wales: Global learners are more empathetic and have a strong sense of fairness. They value diversity and can talk positively about race and equality. Global learning has a strong positive impact on the most disadvantaged pupils.

Peace Schools pupil, Solomon Entwhistle (Year 9) “Article 12 of the Rights of the Child says we have the right to express our views on all matters affecting us and to have them taken seriously. I am preparing a presentation for my Explorer Scouts so that everyone can learn.”

Peace Schools Pupil, Judy Morgan (Year 10) “Learning about conscientious objectors and how Wales welcomed immigrants in the past really influenced my views, and I see things differently.”

The new Welsh curriculum has the potential to make Wales an exemplar in delivering ESDGC as it is embedded across the curriculum and throughout the 4 purposes; but that this is only possible with investment. With global citizenship investment in long term decline, and many third sector organisations already gone from this space (Think Global in England, the Development Education centres in Wales), realising the potential of the new curriculum will be challenging. Investment is needed in enabling teachers to take the lead on Global Learning, through training and funding of staff time, and in funding NGOs who can deliver the training and specialist input required to being the benefits to society as well as to the economy.

Education for Human Rights and Peace through International Experience

Annually, WCIA holds a Raising Peace workcamp in Wales with 10 – 15 young people from a variety of countries to work along side volunteers from Wales. In 2018 they were involved in supporting Pride Cymru in preparing and holding their Pride Parade. This raised their own awareness of the Gender Rights as well as for people in Wales.

“It made me understand the reality and how difficult life can be for many LGBT+ people in the world. It made me feel like I want to change a lot of things” – international volunteer.

In an evaluation of the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS) Raising Peace Camps programme in 2019, results showed a significant increase in “the willingness to further engage for Human Rights Education and the Sustainable Development Goals”. The young people share in intercultural exchange, learn new transferable skills but particularly engage with the social justice and rights issues tackled by the project. WCIA promotes international volunteering opportunities to young people through schools, youth clubs, colleges and universities and supports them in finding appropriate projects. WCIA also partners with other organisations to support their international mobility goals. For example, Cardiff University sponsors around 30 students each year to go on IVS workcamps. The current programme is mostly in Asia.

Chrishan Kamalan, WCIA trustee, went on a Peace camp in Minsk (then in the USSR) in 1989 and went to university afterwards and says, “Going to University, I then joined groups like Amnesty International, which at the time were doing a lot of work on the promotion of human rights, especially in this kind of context, the European context. It also led to an interest in internationalism, European affairs.” 30 years later Chrishan is still committed to the cause of human rights.

European Solidarity Corps Volunteers

WCIA manages European Solidarity Corps volunteer programmes for young people (aged 18 – 30) to offer up to 12 months service in another country for many years. A significant proportion of the volunteers coming to Wales engage in non-formal education work with young people, for example with Boys & Girls Clubs of Wales, Promo Cymru and Valleys Kids. Having international volunteers has a positive impact on young people, widening perspectives and enabling them to consider their basic rights in the context of human rights globally. WCIA has a number of partnerships with organisations in other countries to enable young people form Wales to spend time working and learning in another country eg for the last 6 years volunteers have gone to Moldova.

Over many years WCIA has been enabled by the ESC programme to support short term volunteering for young people with fewer opportunities from Wales. The current programme sponsors 20 – 30 such placements annually. The outcomes for young people can be dramatic in terms of raised aspirations and life chances. The outcomes in terms of understanding human rights and promoting peace can be lifelong. Engaging with young people in non- formal education, in both school and out of education settings has delivered significant outcomes in terms of promoting International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace, and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Wales.

The value of experience alongside classroom learning cannot be overestimated. Both non-formal and formal learning brings a growing awareness of human rights issues, and an ability to cooperate with others to work for a more sustainable and peaceful world – locally and globally. All of this work is under threat because the UK Government has opted not to join the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programmes. Combining this with the cut in international develop aid from 0.7% to 0.5%, and the focus on using UK aid to promote UK trade interests instead of alleviating poverty, is an impending disaster for education for international understanding, human right and peace. The UK has recently submitted a review to UNESCO of the current progress on this recommendation.

Without UK and Welsh Government commitment to this work in terms of funding, what would such a review look like in a few years time?

Written by Gill Peace, our Operations Manager


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