Keynote opening address by Dr. Katrien Beeckman, Head, Principles & Values Department, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies at the International Conference on Migration and Multicultural Education. Seoul National University, Korea, July 2012.
After a pious and sober life, an elderly man was granted an opportunity to ask a question to God. "Lord," he said, "can you tell me whether paradise and hell exist?" God guided the old man to two doors, and opened the first one. In the room stood a huge, round table with a pot full of deliciously smelling porridge in the middle. It made the old man's mouth water... Then he watched the people around the table, they were thin and livid and gave the impression to be starving. They were holding spoons with very long handles attached to their arms, so that they could reach the pot and take the porridge. But, as the handle of the spoon was longer than their arm, they weren’t able to bring the spoon back to their mouth and eat. The old man shivered in front of so much misery and suffering. God told him: "You have just seen hell", and led him to the second door. The old man was startled. The scene was exactly the same as before: the huge, round table, the porridge pot in the middle, people around it holding spoons with long handles. But, this time, the people were radiant, smiling, talking and laughing, they were well nourished and fit; "heaven". The old man turned to God: "I don’t understand!" God paused and replied, "Well, it is simple, it is a matter of education. The second group learned to nourish and care for each other, the first one only to think of themselves."
Honorable ladies and gentlemen, it is a true honour and privilege to have the opportunity to address you today. It is also a great source of joy to me, and I am grateful for all the learning we will share, walking together on the path of fostering peaceful and open-minded multicultural societies where education and educators are truly valued.
I would first like to share with you the following short video from the Australian Red Cross, introducing nicely the topic and main thrust of my lecture. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRzgCOUClOY
Our human mind often reacts towards what is "different" or "other" with fear. When what is "different" or "other" is not familiar to us, but unknown, our ignorance and fear can lead to intolerance, discrimination and exclusion.
I have here in my hand a banana and if I ask you to have a thorough look at it, touch it, get familiarized with it and then put your banana in a basket full of bananas, I’m sure you will find your banana again. But if however, I peeled the banana and then put it in a basket full of peeled bananas, the likelihood that you find your banana again is minimal. Why? Because we focus on differences, we focus on what distinguishes us, on external features; we focus on the skin, not on the fruit of the banana. Let us change perspective and start looking at the fruit, at what we have in common, at what brings us closer and cultivate the spirit of togetherness.
Cognitive education, still omnipresent all over the world, pushes us to break things down, put them into boxes and classify them. How can we not label Momoudou as a crippled African, instead of a father who loves watching football and takes good care of his kids?
We could of course presume that globalization, TV and modern communication technology or social media are enabling factors to break this ignorance. They can be. However, they can also become an additional source of discriminatory attitudes or behaviour, if stereotypes rather than objectivity are transmitted. I have been to countries where a woman from the West was viewed de facto as of light morals, as influenced by TV. Also, a bearded Muslim praying 5 times a day is not de facto a terrorist seeking conversion or destruction of others. Media can be dangerous; they can present us with a false sense of familiarity of somebody or a culture, with an erroneous and unconscious labeling of the other. Whether at national or global scale, they can significantly contribute to a "mainstream" culture, with an accepted norm - generally imposed by the dominant group - rather than foster respect for diversity.
There is a growing level of intolerance in many countries, especially between local and immigrant populations. A lack of cultural awareness can channel this intolerance into violent clashes that divide segments of the population along lines of cultural or religious belonging and lead to exclusion.
Humankind needs a global mind and behaviour shift from the way we currently think and interact to value diversity. For this to happen, we need pro-active, both targeted and universal, interventions to rectify bias, stereotypes, labeling, ignorance, fear of the unknown. Ex post interventions, addressing discrimination, violence and exclusion are of course required. However, they only address the tip of the iceberg. We need, through preventive action, to address the 95 per cent hidden underneath the water, related to the root causes leading to discrimination, violence and exclusion.
We need to nurture a mindset that:
- is critical, including self-critical,
- is open and curious or welcoming and celebrating diversity as a source of learning, adventure and joy,
- can engage in a constructive dialogue and look for creative solutions to problems with others rather than camp on its position, focus on differences and blow things into dangerous and unhealthy proportion.
Humankind needs a global mind and behaviour shift from the way we currently think and interact to connect with each other based on our common humanity. As humans, we all have common needs. As classified by Abraham Maslow, physiological needs, such as breathing, food, water and sleep, and safety or security related needs are at the bottom of the pyramid of human needs. Come afterwards, respectively love or belonging (through friendship or the family for instance), and esteem (self-esteem, confidence, respect by others). Finally, the more the basic needs are fulfilled, the more the higher ones come to the active surface and seek to be met: this is the case of needs related to self-actualization, such as creativity, justice, leisure and spiritual communion. Today's society has by far not succeeded in catering for all those needs for all, it is the terrible reality that millions of humans still lack drinking water, or shelter, or fear for their personal security and violence on a daily basis.
We need to urgently promote a culture of nonviolence and peace - and education is a key tool to do so. I know this is your view; it is also the view and firm belief of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was born on the battlefield in Solferino, Northern Italy, in 1859. Henry Dunant, our founder and a rich banker from Geneva, was travelling to Northern Italy to meet Napoleon III, who was supporting Italians in the war against Austria. Henry Dunant wanted to seek permission from Napoleon III to construct mills on his land in Northern Africa, Algeria, at that time ruled by the French. He arrived in Solferino in the immediate aftermath of the battle opposing the Austrians and Italians and witnessed the thousands of dead and unattended wounded soldiers, dying and crying out in agony. Henry Dunant was moved, his heart was stirred by compassion and an imperative to act to relieve this unbearable human suffering. Henry went to the neighbouring village of Castiglione about 6 km from Solferino and rallied 7000 women to go to attend to the needs of the wounded and dying soldiers. Like Henry, these women saw no enemy or compatriot, they only saw humans suffering who all needed relief and medical care. "Tuti fratelli", they said, "all brothers".
So the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement was born out of compassion, empathy and brotherhood, it was created and is today still inspired by essential humanitarian principles we call the 7 Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. I want to highlight 3 of them. First, Humanity, our overarching principle, calling upon us to alleviate and prevent human suffering, to protect life, health and human dignity. Secondly, Impartiality, requests us to let our action be solely guided by objective needs, not to discriminate on grounds such as gender, age, ethnic origin, class, religious or political affiliation, sexual orientation. Key humanitarian values underpinning this principle are: respect for diversity, open-mindedness. Third, according to our Fundamental Principle of Neutrality, the Red Cross Red Crescent remains neutral or does not take side in wars, oppositions or controversies of a political, religious or ideological nature.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is composed of 3 pillars, in chronological order of creation:
- the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross in charge of protecting humans against the adverse effects of armed conflicts and ensuring the respect of International Humanitarian Law),
- the Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies, like the Korean Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross or Qatari Red Crescent, today they are 187 of them worldwide, and finally
- the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) composed of a Secretariat and all 187 National Societies and operating as the "mother organization" of the National Societies with a core mandate to alleviate and prevent suffering in non-conflict emergencies. The Red Cross Red Crescent counts a network of 13.1 million active volunteers, out of which more than half are youth and 54% women. As a grassroots movement, with a capacity of last mile delivery, we are anchored in local needs, aspirations and know-how.
The IFRC is generally most known for its emergency related work. Saving lives, protecting livelihoods, and strengthening recovery from disasters and crises, as well as response to health emergencies and incidents is our bread and butter. However, what we are (yet) less known for is our work to promote social inclusion and a culture of nonviolence and peace. This is actually 1 out of 3 Strategic Aims in our Strategy 2020.
The IFRC has articulated the promotion of a culture of nonviolence and peace around 3 pillars: (i) the promotion of non-discrimination and respect for diversity, (ii) violence prevention, mitigation and response and (iii) intercultural, interreligious and intergenerational dialogue where the Red Cross Red Crescent operates as a bridge in society, spanning across divides. These 3 pillars are of course relevant in a context of migration and multi-cultural societies.
For the IFRC, the promotion of a culture of nonviolence and peace is not an end or final goal: it is a process. It is about creating an enabling environment for dialogue and discussion and finding solutions to problems and tensions, without fear of violence, through a process in which everyone is valued and able to participate. Actually, the IFRC sees the promotion of a culture of nonviolence and peace as (i) a process, rather than an end result or goal, (ii) where key human values are respected and nurtured: human well-being and dignity, diversity, non-discrimination and equality, mutual understanding, inclusiveness, nonviolence, care, friendship, solidarity, cooperation, ... (iii) creating an enabling environment in which all can actively take part, engage in dialogue and explore together creative and constructive solutions to problems and tensions (and their source). What's also really important, as underlined in our position paper, is that for a culture of nonviolence and peace to blossom, it is to be promoted at multiple levels: the individual, family, community and societal levels.
We have singled out, among many, two tools as essential to promote a culture of nonviolence and peace, respectively voluntary service and education. Voluntary service, or selfless service, is another of our 7 Fundamental Principles, like Humanity, Impartiality and Neutrality. Volunteering is at the heart of community building. It brings the individual self-esteem, a sense of usefulness and is one of the most powerful ways to create or enhance a sense of community belonging and social cohesion.
With regard to education, we view skills and values-based education as a key tool to foster individual and societal transformation towards building respect for diversity, nonviolence and social cohesion. Education today, in particular in schools, is still heavily or exclusively focusing on cognitive knowledge, math and languages. It does not (or rarely) as the UNESCO’s pioneering publication on the doorstep of the 3rd Millennium indicated, called "learning to be and learning to live together”. Skills and values-based education nurtures human values and equips learners with interpersonal skills to act constructively and interact harmoniously, such as active listening, empathy and non-violent communication. I will come back in detail on these "soft" skills, when sharing with you our IFRC educational flagship initiative called YABC, Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change.
In the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, held in Geneva last year, Migration: Ensuring Access, Dignity, Respect for Diversity and Social Inclusion, was actively debated by the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and States. The resolution passed by the Conference strongly encourages enhanced cooperation between public authorities, at all levels, and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to pursue practical actions in formal and non-formal settings:
a. to promote respect for diversity, non-violence and social inclusion of all migrants;
b. to enhance cultural awareness between migrant and local communities;
c. to promote through formal and non-formal education, humanitarian values and the development of interpersonal skills to live peacefully together; and
d. to enhance social cohesion through the engagement of local and migrant populations and civil society organisations in voluntary service, community and sport programmes.
We also brought an official pledge on skills and values based education to the Conference, today signed by 51 National Societies, 2 Governments and 4 observers , which reads: "With a view to building respect for diversity, nonviolence and social cohesion, we emphasize the importance of values and skills-based (formal and non-formal) education, cultural awareness programmes, and the use of sports, arts and other creative methodologies (hereafter “non-cognitive) reaching out to children, from the earliest age possible, youth and the community at large." For the years 2012-2015, we pledge to:
- Promote skills and values based formal education, including its institutionalisation at the national level.
- Engage or increase engagement in non-formal education, transmitting values and skills based education through school or after school interventions.
Let us sum up our main idea so far: if we want to foster a culture of nonviolence and peace within multi-cultural societies or global society, we have to focus on: skills and values based education, skills and values education, and skills and values education. Skills and values based education is in line with the international human rights framework on the right to education, which spells out - albeit not exactly in these words - that the promotion of a culture of nonviolence and peace at the individual, family, community and society levels is a major purpose of education every child - local or migrant - is entitled to. A case in point is the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which reads in article 29 that education is to be directed to the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to his or her fullest potential. When translated into a culture of nonviolence and peace framework, this means that education needs to convey values fostering a child's individual development, such as self-confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness and dignity.
Also, the Convention stipulates that "education must prepare a child for responsible life and effective participation in a free society in a spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendships among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin". The transmission of positive cultural or community values is also stipulated as a key educational goal, so as to enable a child to be culturally grounded. As cultural values are generally intrinsically related to the raison d'être of a community, they will convey a sense of belonging and purpose of life, which constitute protective factors for individuals against resorting to violence, as well as resilience factors in the face of difficult life circumstances.
The reality is that education fostering a culture of nonviolence and peace is not yet embedded in most national educational systems. When incorporated, it is often in post-conflict settings rather than serving a preventive, transformative role in society. Today, this essential mission of education needs to be translated into action by policy and decision-makers, at international and national levels. And IFRC invites all of us present here to promote the signature and implementation of the skills and values based pledge, in particular by governments.
The debate on education today still mainly focuses on educational availability and accessibility, Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3 aiming at universal primary education and equal access of boys and girls are a case in point. The IFRC calls upon policy and decision-makers to dedicate equal importance to the quality and acceptability of education in the post-MDGs reflections and policy dialogues, as well as starting post Education for All discussions.
Furthermore, in this context, both the content and process of education must be focused on. Content wise, the (learning and teaching) curriculum needs to incorporate nurturing human values, fostering respect for diversity and non-violence. Process wise, the educational environment and process must be a microcosm of a culture of nonviolence and peace which education is to foster on a larger scale. Hence, the educational process and teaching and learning methodology need to participatory and stimulate critical thinking and autonomy. Learning by heart or "top down instruction" of which the child is a passive recipient without any say, does not reflect and transmit a culture of nonviolence and peace in which people express their opinion and are respectful of different perspectives. Actually, the incorporation of values and skills will go far beyond contributing to a further culture of peace within the educational micro-cosmos. Another positive and proven effect is that it will also increase learning and examination pass rates. Furthermore, as an empowerment right, implementing the right to education will equally further other human rights, such as the right to freedom of thought and expression.
Let us recap another main idea so far: education today is mainly cognitive, engaging the intellect and mind into analysis and classification. We need to also integrate education from the heart, what in IFRC we have called "non-cognitive" education. The non-cognitive actually pertains to the entry point for learning. Values are "core beliefs that guide and motivate attitudes and actions". Values are generally more associated with feelings and connect to our right brain, also pertaining to intuition and creativity, rather than with intellect or rational analysis connecting with the left brain. In short and simple terms, the right brain promotes connection, bonding and communion; the left brain distinction and separation. So, arts, music, sports are ideal vehicles to nurture values and interpersonal social skills, within children and adults, as they will focus on feelings, experience, vibrations or body rather than intellectual analysis as entry points for learning. The importance of arts, and other creative methodology is also emphasized in the 2011 International Conference pledge referred to above, where signatures commit themselves to Promot(ing) access for children and youth to community-based (informal educational) activities such as sports, arts, music and theatre which foster dialogue, mutual understanding and non-violence. In short, they are powerful tools for individual and societal transformation.
Four years ago, the IFRC created a behavioural change educational initiative empowering youth to be ethical leaders in their community. The initiative is anchored in interpersonal skills building and creative platforms, such as music, theatre, sport and arts for social mobilisation. Before sharing with you more on this international initiative, I would first like to give visibility to some multicultural educational initiatives, in and out of schools, developed by Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies in their country with the aim to foster a culture of nonviolence and peace and, in particular, intercultural dialogue and integration in a context of migration.
Austrian Red Cross has multiple initiatives of interest to us here. A first one is called projektXchange. Its goal is to foster personal contact, understanding and exchange between young people and people with migration background. More than 150 “role models” with migrant backgrounds act as ambassadors for integration and tolerance and speak in schools about their background and personal stories. Since early 2012, this project is run by the Austrian Red Cross. Another one is Aktion Lernhäuser. Many children in Austria, especially with migratory background, have problems with the German language and as a consequence poor school achievements. The Aktion Lernhäuser aims to give cost-free studying and exercising assistance in small units for children aged 6-12, with and without migratory background, with special needs in the German language and other subjects. The Austrian Red Cross Research Institute has conducted the New View project funded by the EU. A toolkit “Diversity and Didactics” has been set up which provides useful methods and materials for teaching to mixed groups.
The Belgian Red Cross has developed two comic books and an animated film to promote integration of asylum seekers and migrants in their schools and host society. They also run awareness projects aiming at identifying the root causes of problems faced by asylum seekers’ children in schools.
The Korean Red Cross has a community damunhwa centre where English language classes are brought to multi-cultural families and others who cannot afford the high cost of sending their children to private language classes. Some of the teachers are from the Philippines and Malaysia, and several of the learners are children of marriages between South Korean men and women from other Asian countries. The support for migrant communities has become one of National Red Cross’s main domestic operations, primarily because the migrant issue has evolved into one that requires more humanitarian attention. The English lessons for families are just one of a range of activities, including psychosocial support and lessons in Korean language and culture, which the National Society provides to the multicultural community, reaching around 15,000 families over the past three years.
The Danish Red Cross delivers workshops in schools facilitated by a volunteer group of asylum seekers and refugees. The combination of interactive learning through workshops with the toolkit and the rare opportunity for an unfiltered, first-hand dialogue between the students and the asylum seekers is the key to the project’s popularity in the Danish schools.
The Finnish Red Cross runs the ‘SPIRIT’ project in order to enhance the integration of resettled refugees in Finland. The project aims to raise awareness on community level on the reception of asylum seekers, refugees and resettled refugees. The idea behind it is to influence the openness of municipalities to the reception of refugees. Some of the objectives are to change negative attitudes towards refugees, to dispel fears of diversity and to increase tolerance and respect. The authorities together with the Finnish Red Cross organize training sessions for both decision-makers and local authorities, as well as workshops in schools.
Positive Images is a European project, implemented in the following countries: UK, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and Sweden, and led by the British Red Cross. It started in 2009 with the aim of reaching three million young people between 2009 and 2011. What does it consist of? Let me share with you how the Austrian Youth Red Cross implemented the Positive Images project: disseminating magazines featuring articles on migration topics aimed at young people through schools in Austria, producing teaching materials related to migration, the peers@school project through which young migrants were trained to deliver awareness-raising activities to other young people in schools, and the Time4friends youth hotline that enables young migrants to act as advisors, supporting other young people who faced difficulties via a telephone helpline. The British Red Cross raised awareness using the Positive Images Toolkit and recruited and trained volunteers, half of whom were from migrant backgrounds, to deliver awareness-raising activities.
In the Red Crescent Societies in North Africa, youth have organized regional and national awareness-raising campaigns on stigmatization against migrants, through football matches for example and using the YABC approach.
The Netherlands Red Cross also has a programme called Maak Kontakt (make contact), where immigrant young females, mostly from Muslim faith, engage in leisure activities with elderly Dutch women. It is effective both in intercultural and intergenerational dialogue, furthering integration and expanding one’s social network to also local women, learning the Dutch language, and providing support to elderly.
The Norwegian Red Cross runs the ‘Refugee Guide’ project, which targets newly settled refugees in Norway. By pairing refugees up with resourceful volunteers, the Red Cross is able to help individuals with their integration process. The expectations are to make it easier for refugees to adjust their lives in Norway by decreasing participants’ sense of loneliness and isolation in the first phase of their stay, to give broader access to new social networks and to combat negative attitudes towards migrants in general.
Since 2002, the Spanish Red Cross Youth is implementing the programme “Diversity, our best option” with the main objective to promote the positive aspect of diversity among young people and contribute to building a multi-cultural peaceful society. Employees and volunteers are trained to become “intercultural agents” in order to influence positively their own environment, strengthen and multiply the Red Cross action. The Spanish Red Cross Youth has developed activities and material for different ages, with a focus on training people throughout Spain in charge of education. They are also working on an interactive game for adolescents that will address the prejudices and stereotypes towards migrants.
After sharing with you some of these innovative, and impactful initiatives, time to turn to YABC, Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change, an educational flagship initiative of the IFRC, which I had the privilege and joy to found in 2008 as Head of the IFRC Principles and Values Department. YABC today has reached youth in more than 135 countries. Its goal is youth empowerment and enabling youth to take up an ethical leadership role in the promotion of a culture of nonviolence and peace. Our vision is the following:
- Learning comes from within, supported by an open and positive environment and by the establishment of a personal connection of the learner with the subject matter
- Sustainable action comes from freedom of choice and genuine motivation
- Inspiring others comes from role modeling or walking the talk
- Change of mindset and behaviour comes from trust and ownership
The YABC curriculum or toolkit contains 76 non-cognitive game-like structured activities , 20 concept papers and reference pages, a manual for YABC peer educators, a guide for community engagement, as well as a manual and video on the module "operating from inner peace". The toolkit has 3 parts:
A thematic part. As a holistic and intrinsically linked educational package on a culture of nonviolence and peace, the thematic part contains 7 subjects, each introduced by a 2 page concept paper and a set of non-cognitive exercises (see below methodology):
- Non-discrimination and respect for diversity
- Violence prevention, mitigation and response
- Gender equality
- Inter-cultural dialogue
- Social inclusion
- Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
- International Humanitarian Law
In addition, the YABC toolkit contains game-like exercises focusing on the development of intra- and interpersonal skills to act constructively and live peacefully together; we called them earlier the “soft” or role modelling skills for skills and values based education. These skills are key for learners to support their values-based mind shift, to role model this shift and by doing so to inspire others.
- Active listening (being truly present and relating to the other’s concerns, feelings and needs)
- Empathy (putting yourself in the others’ shoes)
- Critical thinking and dropping bias (breaking our usual habit of jumping to hasty conclusions based on partial information and interpretations rather than facts so as to be able to question perceptions, preconceived ideas and over-generalizations)
- Non-judgment (a capacity not to judge or label the other which is conducive to gaining his/her trust, openness and a willingness to change)
- Nonviolent communication
- Collaborative negotiation and mediation
Finally, since we view pursuing inner peace and harmony essential for being able to inspire change outside, the YABC curriculum contains a component called "operating from inner peace". This focuses on:
- Enhancing personal resilience: coping with stress and adversity, resisting dangerous peer pressure (e.g. to consume alcohol, tobacco or drugs), managing emotions so as not to engage in violent behaviour.
- "Internal arts" favouring a balance of energy and harmony through relaxation techniques, personal development exercises, meditation and Qi Gong.
As explained above, YABC uses non-cognitive entry points or stimulus activities for learning. Its methodology is participant-centred and experiential, in the sense that it relates to the learner's personal feelings, perceptions and experiences - i.e. the internal narrative of his/her life - as well as the local context of the learning group. In a second phase, after conducting the game-like activity, learners exchange and debrief with peers going through the following phases: (i) observing and reflecting on the experience (i.e. stimulus activity), (ii) relating the experience to the learner's real life and local/global context and (iii) reflecting on how to apply this learning in the future as an agent of change. Starting from the non-cognitive exposure to end up with cognitive reflection, YABC favours a learning journey that is 'from the heart to the mind'.
Daily relaxation and stress management sessions, under the operating from inner peace module, enable learners to re-internalize learning and create an environment where well-being, psychological comfort and self-discipline are fostered. YABC debriefings with peers, where there are no" right or wrong answers" to questions and generally conducted in a circular set up, create an environment where learners feel safe to speak up and share the feelings, thoughts and experiences which the non-cognitive stimulus activity sparks off. Listening to others, and being listened to, enhances the depth and breadth of learning, where youth shape their understanding and insights in a constructive and collaborative manner. It further contributes to developing self-confidence, self-esteem and respect for others, as youth taking part in YABC activities have reported.
YABC also uses creative and expressive platforms, such as art, dance, theatre, music and sports. These foster creativity, unlock hidden talents and provide learners with opportunities to further express and deepen the personal connection established with the subject matter. Sports are seen as an avenue to develop and display empathy and a healthy way to channel energy and foster team work, fairness and friendships. YABC also uses these creative platforms to reach out to the local community and engage in awareness-raising and social mobilization. They are also more suitable for involving illiterate communities and relevant in building resilience within individuals and communities facing violence or discrimination.
Shaped by youth and young adults aged between 18 and 30, YABC toolkit activities have also reached younger audiences aged 12-13 and even children from 7 upwards. Some National Societies, such as the Lebanese and Ghana Red Cross, have spontaneously adapted some materials to better suit children of primary education age.
YABC impact at the individual level, as reflected in individual evaluations, are: deepened (self-) confidence, stronger sense of control over one's world, i.e. belief in one's capacity and power to make a difference, decrease of bias / discriminatory attitudes, enhanced open-mindedness and sense of belonging, commitment to exploring alternatives and constructive solutions to problems.
Some examples of YABC community outreach initiatives are:
• Sustainable development and vocational training for vulnerable youth (Sierra Leone)
• Regional campaign and micro-projects on migration issues (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia)
• Inter-faith dialogue for youth (Pakistan), Peace festivals (Lebanon)
• Awareness-raising on HIV/AIDS and Gender Based Violence (Colombia, Papua New Guinea)
YABC was originally created for non-formal and informal educational settings such as: junior and youth clubs/centers in schools, colleges and universities, junior and youth camps, youth leadership trainings, vocational training centers for vulnerable youth, and community-based activities.
This being said, YABC has also been brought into schools, for instance in Ghana, Indonesia, Tunisia, France and Martinique. When the French Red Cross, which is an official partner to the Ministry of Education to disseminate humanitarian values in schools, introduced YABC exercises facilitated by a Red Cross volunteer trained as YABC peer educator, this was positively appreciated by teachers as well as by the 12 year old learners, who valued in particular the freedom of expression and a higher sense of equality between the youth facilitator and themselves. In Martinique, in 1 year, one trained YABC peer educator has reached around 1300 pupils in schools, including children aged 7 to 16 with learning difficulties and from Hispanic and Haitian origin. Receiving the enthusiastic feedback from the two pilot colleges, other schools were eager to integrate YABC on a basis of 2 hours a week and signed an official agreement with the Red Cross. Learners, teachers and school directors have underscored the attractiveness of the initiative to sensitize youth on “living together, accepting the other and active citizenship”, as well as the added value of engaging in an educational partnership with Red Cross. Feedback from learners mentions humor and fun, the possibility to push one’s limits further, and learning a new way of communicating as key assets of YABC. A number of learners have also joined the Red Cross as volunteers since their exposure to YABC.
So YABC is really about engaging in a critical reflection. Is it really so? Is it really so? What we are told at home, taught at school, and tendered by media: is it really so? And stimulating youth to break that conditioning and find and shape their own truth, identify and take up responsibility. That's what YABC is all about, as the following short video will show you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2LVGpMfFg&feature=player_embedded
Finally, honourable ladies and gentlemen let me share some last reflections with you on multi-cultural education for children with migrant backgrounds and relate this to the Korean context, as related in the article by professor Sang Hwan Seong, advocating for a closer attention and broader perspective for accompanied/midway-arrival children, in particular after adolescent age, than immigrant children born in Korea. And before doing so, let me extend my deepest appreciation to the Korean Government, in particular the Ministry for Education, Science and Technology, for its commitment, vision and evidence-based action on multi-cultural education.
I am a firm believer that school should be the micro-cosmos of the society we want to build and have our children function in later as adults. Hence, separate schools for immigrant children, in particular accompanied/midway-arrival immigrant children, will in my opinion not foster a culture of nonviolence and peace anchored in dialogue and inclusiveness. My eldest daughter attends a public secondary school in France which has a “fast track French learning curriculum” for non-French speaking learners arriving at secondary level. They take the language class separately and intensely, and join the other learners in other subjects. It has yielded good results. I also believe we all have to learn one from the other. Another idea could be to set up a “buddy” system, coupling a Korean child with an immigrant kid, as our Austrian Red Cross has successfully put in place in some towns.
Professor Sang Hwan Seong explains in this article how immigrant youth arriving after the age of adolescence tend to display a much slower rate of adjustment and acquisition of Korean. “Due to these difficulties in adjustments as well as confusion and anxiety in the new society”, he writes, “some of them do not attend schools and end up wandering around or staying home to help with housekeeping work, not being able to participate in any social activities.” In this context, I would like to highlight again the usefulness of voluntary service, and suggest drawing inspirations from programmes developed by Red Cross Red Crescent bringing together migrant and host population, like Maak Kontakt from the Netherlands Red Cross referred to earlier. Also, the importance of non-cognitive informal educational initiatives, related to leisure, sports, fine arts, need to be stressed again as useful tools to create cooperative and integrative learning environments, enhancing resilience, allowing for self-expression and connecting with one’s source for personal development.
Another thing that is desperately required everywhere, is valuing the teaching profession as one of the most noble contributions in the life of our children. We need to acknowledge the difficulties teachers are faced with today, stop consisting only criticizing teachers for “failure” or a “lack of professionalism”, but instead pro-actively support teachers and help them regain confidence and equip them with mentors to rely on. Let us equip teachers to accompany learners to also draw learning from within and build newly required skills for a culture of nonviolence and peace, such as empathy, active listening and nonviolent communication. For scientific research has since long produced clear evidence empathy from teachers bring better learning achievements and results, both at the personal level through increased self-esteem), school(ing) level (enhanced learning motivation and learning results, enhanced identification of new ideas and solutions, enhanced transfer and application of acquired learning), and relational or social level (reduced racism and sexism, harassment and violence, drug mis- or abuse, increased altruistic behaviour).
Finally, we need to pro-actively link parents with the schooling system, all parents, and in particular the vulnerable immigrant families described by Professor Sang Hwan Seong in his article, such as remarried families in which midway-arrival immigrant children debark creating massive amounts of stress. I strongly agree with Professor Seong’s call to set up educational programmes for parents providing information on the stages of child development, how they can support their children’s emotional security, and information on school admissions, career development and socialization. In addition, as proven by research, programmes targeting both parents and children yield even higher results, where kids also receive socializing skills and parents parenting skills.
Finally ladies and gentlemen, migration is not a new phenomenon; it has shaped human history for thousands of years. Migration is a human strategy not only to adapt to harsh realities, from conflict, poverty, or climate change, to securing or enhancing one’s economic survival or offspring, but also to enrich the quality of human's genetic heritage securing adaptation to new contexts and challenges as well as the future of the human race . Human history, as well as that of our planet earth, has shown over and over again, that we are faced with 2 choices - adapt or vanish. We need to welcome migration, not only as a means towards enhanced diversity and economic development, but ultimately as a chance to make again a serious leap forward in the human evolution, like the one from the home erectus migrating out of Africa 2.5 million years ago into the homo sapiens.