UNESCO conference closes with whisper for action

19 May, 2016 - At the close of the UNESCO Ministerial Conference “Out in the Open”, 27 States presented a “Call for Action” to each other and to other States. The documents lists 7 possible actions States can take and calls for exchange good practices. The Call to exchange good practices may be one step further than the research on prevalence of violence UNESCO has been undertaking until now. But many of the civil society representatives perceive the call as a “whisper” compared to the hope for an intergovernmental resolution with some political impact.

Image: Antonio from Mexico, one of the young people from the IGLYO youth campaign featured before and during the UNESCO Conference.

Fact finding to create commitment

When UNESCO started the four year Project to Combat Homophobic Bullying in 2011, the original idea was to close the project with a High Level (Ministerial) conference. One of the aims of this conference was to discuss an international resolution which would put sexual en gender diversity on the international political education agenda. The focus on bullying was chosen because combating violence is an undisputed issue in the international arena. The strategy of the project had two main priorities. The priority was to do research to map how much bullying and discrimination occurs I schools (prevalence of violence). The expectation was that such facts would create awareness in governments. Facts would also form a basis for a policy agenda to address inequalities and violence.

Hopes for more impact

Apparently, these expectations were too high. The most visible results of the Anti-Bullying project are the results of numerous researches done different States were such research never was done before. All research results have in common that the prevalence of SOGIE-related bullying is high. They also have in common that student who are not gender conforming are bullied much more than others. In some countries the cooperation with the government on the research has led to a commitment of the government to do a follow-up on the results. In other countries it is unclear what the impact of the news facts is.
Civil society organizations are very happy with the initiatives but had hoped for more impact. Whether this is realistic remains to be seen. The conference was more focused on presenting research results than on discussing the next steps after this project. This means the discussion about this is just starting.

Organisations wanting to join the civil society No-Bullying-Coalition listserv can do so at www.gale.info/unesco2016.

Sources: UNESCO 2016, “Out in the open”, Report of the Civil Society Side Meeting 18 May 2016