24 February 2014, New York – The UNITAR New York Office held its first seminar course on the mainstreaming of education for democracy, in collaboration with the Washington-based Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD). A number of representatives from Member States, varying United Nations agencies, and independent Non-governmental organizations participated in the informative half-day event. Yvonne Lodico, Head of UNITAR’s New York Office, opened the seminar by stating the importance of implementing the recommendations put forth in the resolutions adopted by the United Nations in regards to education for democracy, especially with the Post-2015 Agenda quickly approaching
In his opening remarks, Robert R. LaGamma – President of the Council for a Community of Democracies – mentioned the success that Mongolia, Poland, and many other countries have had in implementing democracy education into their societies with the help of CCD. President LaGamma also described what CCD has been able to accomplish within the last few years and what still needs to be done in order to promote democracy education in all cultures and societies around the world.
H.E. Mr. Od Och – Permanent Representative of Mongolia – reflected on the success that his country and the country of Poland has had in the field of democracy education and promoting a democratic culture. He also asserted that such education not only reinforces democracy in a society but also strengthens peace and promotes human rights. The Permanent Representative therefore welcomed this seminar in promoting such a topic at the United Nations.
The first session of the seminar had the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations, H.E. Ryszard Sarkowicz, discuss the resolutions adopted on education for democracy and the promotion of these resolutions within his own country. He also noted that education for democracy should transcend the formal educational structure by focusing on education through democracy, or the continued application of democracy in all levels of society. Dr. Roland Rich, Head of UNDEF and Officer-in-Charge of UNOP, followed His Excellency and gave his informed thoughts on the importance of educating both children and adults on democracy. Dr. Rich also stressed the impact that a country’s civil society has on the implementation of democracy education.
Mr. Steven Wagenseil from CCD opened the second half of the seminar and provided the participants with a short history of the issue of education for democracy. Mr. Wagenseil also discussed the different documents that have been produced over the last twenty years in regards to the promotion of democratic values through education. Dr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer to the United Nations for International IDEA gave a presentation highlighting the inter-linkages between education, democracy, and governance. He also stressed that education should be considered both a goal and an “enabler” for other important goals in the upcoming Post-2015 Agenda. Ms. Vibeke Jensen – Director of UNESCO New York Office – closed the seminar. She provided the participants with the current state of education and democracy education in the world as well as her recommendations on what could be done to facilitate the teaching of democracy at all levels of society.
In the end, participants commended the half-day seminar as truly helpful in addressing the challenges faced in the implementation of education for democracy. They also found the talk helpful in elucidating what more could be done in promoting democracy education at all levels of society.