MODULE 7: GLOBAL CONFLICTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
This material is meant to assist teachers to facilitate learning about international conflicts, human rights and conflict resolutions in the school. Global political conflicts are issues that may be sensitive and controversial to bring up, especially in school classes where students are related or have strong feelings to different sides in a conflict. It is nevertheless important to create a space for democratic dialogue about controversial issues in the classroom, a place for disagreement, engagement and for different voices to be heard, in order to prevent exclusion and polarization that may lead to extremism.
- Students get an overview of the many current global conflict zones as well as peaceful zones and regions.
- Students develop critical thinking and a nuanced view of global conflicts by getting a sense of A) the variety of reasons and background factors involved in different conflicts, and B) the dynamic dimension of conflicts, i.e. that conflicts are not permanent and static, and can be ended in various ways.
- Students gain knowledge and understanding of human rights, as well as engagement through active participation in activities, as a frame to work for peace and equality.
- Students gain an understanding of conflict solution, peacemaking and peacekeeping work, through practical activity concerning conflict solution.
THEORETICAL AND CONTEXTUAL BACKGROUND
A basic function of the educational system in a democratic society is to prepare for a democratic citizenship. Schools must provide a safe space for students “where teachers invite students (especially those who are on the margins of society and those who feel marginalized) to explore their ideas in inclusive settings” (RAN 2018).
Controversies, conflicts and a plurality of positions are basic parts of a democratic society and schools have to take up national and international conflicts in an educationally constructive way to make them understandable for students living in a globalized world. It is also the challenge for schools, to create the frames for the students own engagement and perspectives to unfold. The school must stimulate, and be open for, the active engagement of students as they contribute with their ideas on how to create a better local and global world.
Political and ideological factors can play a role in radicalization in a complex interplay with other factors. According to Magnus Ranstorp, political factors “include grievances framed around victimhood against western foreign policy and military intervention.” (RAN 2016). Students may also become mobilized by right-wing political narratives and a xenophobic emphasis on the failure of the conventional political system to defend national identities perceived to be under threat. The process of an open democratic discussion involves “addressing controversial and conflicting interests. Polarization cannot be challenged by disregarding sensitive issues.” (RAN 2018).
International conflicts, politics and military attacks and interventions can also be highly controversial – in various ways for different people.
In your class, you may have students whose family are refugees from warzones or countries, who are or have been targets of military attacks and interventions of American or European troops. Students who may have lost relatives or still have relatives in such targeted and conflict ridden areas. You may also have students with family members who have been soldiers in international military interventions. Other students may have relatives which have joined military groups in war zones. Finally, polarization in class may include students with strong xenophobic attitudes towards certain population groups.
This material aims to be part of the teachers work to create a safe space in the classroom where the students can investigate and have dialogues about issues that occupy them, in a respectful and still open way that takes into account different sensitivities and experiences concerning the subjects. The activities aim to set the basis for a deeper and less sensational understanding of global issues related to peace and conflicts, as well as a basis for the active empowered engagement of students to work towards solutions in the global society.
Didactic and methodological considerations for the teacher:
- Be aware as a teacher of your own norms, beliefs and values and how these have been shaped, and the potential impact of these on your teaching of controversial issues.
- Be aware and reflect on the pros and cons of revealing your own beliefs and values to students and decide a personal policy on this on the basis of the benefits to students and one’s sense of personal integrity.
- You may experiment with different teaching roles and approaches according to circumstance, e.g. the teacher as a ‘neutral chairperson’, ‘balanced’ approach, ‘devil’s advocate’ and ‘stated commitment’. See:“Teaching Controversial Issues. Professional development pack for teachers”. Council of Europe, 2015, pp. 15 – 21) http://www.worldwiseschools.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Teaching-Controversial-Issues-Professional-Development-Pack-for-Teachers-Council-of-Europe.pdf
Here you can also find ideas on how to establish ground rules with the students in class, and about de-personalizing and distancing strategies, use of structured discussion formats, etc. as well as ideas to turn spontaneous questions and controversial remarks into positive teaching opportunities.
See also additional suggested approaches and activities on how to deal with controversial topics in class and conflict resolution in the other modules of PRACTICE Radicalisation Prevention Programme.
SUPPORTING MATERIALS AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
“Teaching Controversial Issues. Professional development pack for teachers”. Council of Europe, 2015 http://www.worldwiseschools.ie/resource-item/controversial-issues-conor-harrison/teaching-controversial-issues-professional-development-pack-for-teachers-council-of-europe/
UN on the history of the right of the child: https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/children/
UN on the principles of the Convention of the rights of the Child: https://www.unicef.org/rightsite/237_202.htm
UN Convention on the right of the child in child freindly language: https://www.unicef.org/rightsite/files/uncrcchilldfriendlylanguage.pdf
A short film about the Convention of the Right of the child (in danish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCX1DgZdCes&feature=youtu.be
In this report (in danish) you can read the basic information about the interpretation, implementation and surveillance of Human Rights in Denmark:
A short film about the International Humanitarian Law: https://www.icrc.org/en/document/what-are-rules-of-war-Geneva-Conventions
Compasito manual on Human Rights Education for Children (2009). Available at: http://www.eycb.coe.int/compasito/
Materials for teachers about human rights – a resource from Amnesty International (in english and available in other languages): https://www.amnesty.org.uk/resources/teaching-pack-everyone-everywhere-human-rights-secondary-school#.WHyhiLnz5SU
On the relation between human rights and armed conflict (in Danish):
Short films about Human Rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRGhrYmUjU4
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Coordinator – Centro per lo Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci – Italy