Dr. Slawomir Redo, Senior Adviser in the fields of Law and Criminology for the Academic Council of the United Nations System, speaking to an audience of nearly one hundred people, opened the conference on the theme, "Countering Social Exclusion in Schools: New Evidence and Advice."
Mrs. Renate Amesbauer, President of WFWP Austria, followed with a moving tribute to the life and work of the late Ms. Elizabeth Jane Riedl, who worked selflessly to promote peace in Britain, US, Africa, Germany and Austria. She was particularly active with WFWPI from the year 2000, when she moved from Germany to Salzburg, Austria.
Dr. Michael Platzer, Liaison Officer at the UN Vienna for Academic Council on the United Nations System and Co-chair of the Alliance of NGOs for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, walked the audience through the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, particularly focusing on Goals 4 and 16, which deal with education, crime prevention and social justice.
Mr. Martin Kienl, Deputy Head of the Department of Integration Coordination at the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, has been active in the field of integration since 2011. A framework for integration must be defined quickly as it has become a pressing issue due to the recent influx of refugees and migrants. He gave an overview of the government strategy to support successful co-existence. This includes mandatory language courses before entering formal schooling, followed by classroom learning and early linguistic development in kindergartens. Additionally, teachers receive support from psychologists and counselors. The signature program "Together Austria" has enabled 300 ambassadors to talk to 45,000 immigrant pupils to date. Migrants are encouraged to learn and respect Austrian values. He concluded that the greater the integration, the greater the involvement in the labor market and the lower the crime rate. He views the pace of integration as a marathon, not a sprint.
Ms. Zita Kiedler, teacher of English and music at the European Middle School (EMS), gave a unique presentation. Her school has pupils from diverse backgrounds and focuses on integration and the promotion of cultural education through various activities. Ms. Kiedler stated that much needs to be done to overcome the prejudice local pupils learn at home. Furthermore, many migrants cannot express themselves well in German, resulting sometimes in misunderstandings and confrontation. Ms. Kiedler conducted a questionnaire filled in by both local and immigrant pupils at school. They were asked how they view those who come from another country. The summary of the responses was particularly insightful for the pupils.
Dr. Katharzina Kubacka, Research Officer of the Global Education Monitoring Report, UNESCO, continued with a presentation on education. She explained that education is a powerful tool for justice, inclusion and peace. Nevertheless, it is complex and there are many inequalities based on ethnicity, social class and religion. In conflict zones, 36% of children are out of school. A high percentage of refugee children, most of whom are in the developing world, do not attend school. Another barrier to inclusion is bullying, which leads to depression and, in some cases, suicide. Language is a further tangible barrier. Pupils need at least six years of basic education in their mother tongue. She also stated that textbooks are occasionally biased, as when Islamic and Arab areas are portrayed as conflict zones. Educators need to learn to be inclusive and teach the practice of peace.
Ms. Giovanna Campello, Officer in Charge of the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section in UNODC, claimed that traditional drug prevention programs do not work and that it is better to invest in healthy and safe development techniques for babies. This should be followed by early childhood education in kindergarten to support families, particularly those who are marginalized. The promotion of good mental health programs lead to better long-term results. Ms. Campello explained how certain stories and games during math lessons support the development of personal and social skills, such as to control anger. She went on to state that disruptive children are usually vulnerable and should not be stigmatised, as they benefit most from the program. In conclusion, she stated that the prevention of violence in schools is gaining greater success.
Dr. Candice Welsch, Chief of the implementation Support Section Corruption and Economic Crime Branch of UNODC, was the final speaker and presented the program "Education for Justice as a tool to preventing crime and shaping the values of future generations." The porgram promotes a culture of lawfulness and the rule of law through education.
The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) comprises in article 13 that parties are strongly encouraged to implement public education programs on all levels of school, including universities. States receive assistance in this regard through two initiatives of UNODC: ACAD and E4J.
The Doha Declaration, adopted by the 13th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in April 2015, underlines the fundamental importance of this education. E4J (Education for justice) promotes education programs in all UNODC mandate areas and at all education levels through developing materials, such as class modules, teacher guides and innovative teaching tools.
The subsequent question and answer session demonstrated the interest of the audience. Furthermore, the pupils of EMS were grateful for the opportunity to view the inside of the UN building and gain a lasting impression before departing.