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The Role of Education, the Media and the Arts in Social Development

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The Role of Education, the Media and the Arts in Social Development

The Role of Education, the Media and the Arts in Social Development Comments on the draft Declaration and Program of Action for social development. Presented by the Baha’i International Community at the second meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit for Social Development.

1.Education

Education -regulated or not- is undoubtedly the most effective means of forming the values, attitudes, behaviors and skills that make possible the effective functioning of an integrated global society. Therefore, the role of education as a promoter of social development and, above all, of social integration must be a privileged theme of the Declaration and very especially of the Program of Action .

Logically, both at the local, national and international levels, educational activities and programs aimed at promoting social integration will present very considerable differences in detail. However, given the increasing interdependence of our world, all programs and initiatives should contain certain common features. Among them we highlight the following:

oteach unity in diversity as a fundamental principle of social integration of nations and the world community

 cultivate tolerance, love, brotherhood, equality, compassion, understanding, sacrifice, humility and active commitment to justice

foster appreciation of the richness and importance of various cultural, religious and social systems insofar as they contribute to social integration, justice and unity

o take as a starting point the positive efforts made by the country and highlight the concrete achievements of social integration that serve as models of racial, religious, national and ethnic unity

focus on the moral development of the person, and to that extent emphasize the role of virtue as the foundation of activities that promote the spiritual and material well-being of the person and the community

make people aware of their corresponding rights and responsibilities

 eradicate stereotypes of religion, culture, gender, race, class, nationality and ethnicity

 gain public support for UN initiatives, and to this end underline the importance of the UN as a promoter of universal collaboration and understanding; explain your goals and programs; demonstrate its currency and relevance to the peoples and nations of the earth; clarify the role that such a body has to assume in an increasingly smaller world; Y

 promote an ethic of service and at the service of the entire human race, starting with one’s own family, neighbors, community and nation; and arbitrate the practical means for its expression in the educational process through service-oriented programs.

In addition, the values, attitudes and skills that are taught within the various educational programs must be translated into actions. In this regard and as a practical measure, the Baha’i International Community strongly recommends that the World Summit for Social Development adopt some form of Voluntary Youth Service . If properly organized and launched in a way that is accessible to all, such a Youth Service could become a very important means of realizing the ideal of service to humanity and preparing youth for a life of active engagement with others. In addition, the Youth ServiceIt would allow young people to acquire direct knowledge of the world. The experiences thus obtained will help them to see beyond the differences that divide -be they cultural, religious, social, ethnic or national-, and to recognize the common aspects that unite the diverse peoples of the earth.

The most exemplary experiences achieved through Youth Service could in turn be incorporated into curricula, and role models – for example, young people who humbly strive to learn and serve – could receive special attention in courses. This would allow the Youth Service , in addition to being made known to potential participants, but also to provide inspiring examples of young people who, recognizing their very humanity, have broken through intellectual and emotional barriers to build a world of peace and justice.

To this end, a special committee or working group should be established to indicate the guidelines that promote social integration, based on unity in diversity , as well as the proposals that transfer this principle to current educational programs, whether regulated or not. The committee or working group in question could begin its work by analyzing the proposals contained in documents such as Education for international understanding, collaboration and peace, and Education and its relationship with human rights and fundamental freedoms , prepared in 1974 by the UNESCO; the 1993 document, of the same organization, entitled The world plan of action in favor of human rights and democracy; and World Citizenship, A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development , produced by the Baha’i International Community.

II. Public awareness: the role of the arts and media

The Declaration and Program of Action should recommend the creation of awareness campaigns that focus public attention on promoting unity in diversityand in the great challenges posed by social integration. Such campaigns should make use of the arts and the full range of media: television, video, film, radio, electronic networks, books, magazines, posters, brochures, theater and music. They should also seek the support of the advertising and entertainment industries, the media – traditional and non-traditional -, the entire United Nations system, all member states, NGOs and popular personalities; all this in order to reach homes, workplaces, public spaces and schools. The above guidelines for educational programs would also apply to these social integration campaigns.

The media exert a powerful influence on people’s attitudes and perceptions, hence its serious responsibility as an agent of social integration. Currently, much of the media attention is focused on the seemingly insurmountable differences that divide peoples and nations, and very little attention is paid to the testimonies that prove that such differences can be overcome. It is necessary to develop a global discourse that explores the uses to which the new communication technologies, today in rapid development, lend themselves, give a basis for hope and promote social integration and development. The media have a responsibility to help people understand that diversity, while often a cause of conflict, it is at the same time a powerful resource for social development. A good initial step in this direction would be taken by eliminating stereotypes based on religion, culture, gender, race, social class, nationality and ethnicity in news programming. It would be convenient, therefore, that the same media demonstrate, echoing constructive, supportive and inclusive initiatives, that humanity has the capacity to collaborate and face its challenges.

The media must emphasize the importance and honor of serving humanity. Through service, the essential principles of social integration -and among them compassion, tolerance, love, understanding, sacrifice, humility and commitment to justice- are manifested in society. The service not only brings immediate benefits to society, but also creates bonds of solidarity and a common purpose among its members. According to the Baha’i Writings, peace, justice and security will be embodied on earth when all peoples “coordinate and unite to serve the world of humanity.”

Unity in diversity , a fundamental principle of social integration, can also be promoted – at the local, national and international levels – through the organization of competitions and the presentation of prizes awarded by the media, schools, civic organizations and governments. Similarly, the services of advertising agencies should be enlisted in order to promote the fundamental values ​​of social development.

III. conclusion

All countries should be encouraged to allocate specific resources to promote social integration based on the fundamental principle of unity in diversity . The inclusion of this principle among the indicators of social development should be considered. For example, countries could be encouraged to report in their reports on the efforts they are making towards tolerance, understanding and appreciation for other cultures, equality of the sexes, the concept of one human family, the service to the community, the nation and the entire world.

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