17 December 2021
Youth for integrity, innovation and lifelong learning: towards a fair and corruption-free society
Young people are just as affected by corruption as others in society. Corruption can affect their prospects for a decent future and employment as well as impeding access to education, health care and other basic services. Corruption is stealing their future, so the world’s 1.8 billion young people have a major stake in countering it.
Youth can be drivers of changes in attitudes and behaviour, and it is in the interests of decision-makers to harness young people’s energy, ideas and power of mobilization. And around the world, young people are playing a crucial role in developing and implementing innovative, creative anti-corruption efforts.
In many places youth-led civil society organizations and individuals are providing a unique contribution in preventing and countering corruption. Many young people from these organizations came together at the virtual Youth Forum in May 2021. The Youth Forum’s statement was delivered to the UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption (UNGASS) in June 2021 by Serena Ibrahim, Founder of Youth against Corruption, Lebanon, who said there is no more time for business as usual and delivered 10 key requests for creating a future with zero tolerance for corruption.
Corruption is not the only factor affecting young people’s future prospects. The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt young people who have experienced an unprecedented disruption in education, employment, social interaction, and their ability to discover the world. They now play a crucial role in building a more just, equitable, resilient and sustainable world, an essential part of which involves countering corruption. Young people are also seeking accountability from leaders for decisions made in COVID-19 responses, to strengthen institutions and the rule of law through transparency and anti-corruption measures.
Education and youth
To effectively promote a culture of integrity and build a generation that stands for resilience to corruption, education is key. Working with children in a classroom setting at an early stage in their educational development can provide them with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand how to react when confronted with corruption and unethical behaviour. From an early age, children can be taught about the ethical standards to be expected of both the public and private sectors. In addition, children can learn that criminal justice systems should be fair, just and humane. Through such an early learning approach, the views of corruption can be gradually challenged and changed.
Young people can help to promote integrity and be powerful agents of change by developing innovative and impactful solutions within their communities, with support from decision makers.
At the Conference, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will be launching a new global initiative focused on youth education, GRACE. The initiative aims to empower the next generation to act with integrity and be less tolerant of corruption and unethical practices.
GRACE, the Global Resource for Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment, will help Member States to incorporate anti-corruption, integrity and ethics into national education curricula for primary and secondary schools. It will promote teaching and research at the tertiary level with grants to universities and academic institutions, anti-corruption summer schools for students and a global anti-corruption fellowship programme. It will establish a youth advisory board of youth ambassadors to enable young people to provide their perspectives and insights on tackling corruption.
The GRACE Initiative builds on UNODC’s earlier projects, Education for Justice (E4J), which sought to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels and the Anti-Corruption Academic initiative.
Meaningful youth engagement in anti-corruption
The “YouthLED” Integrity Advisory Board being set up by the GRACE initiative will bring together a group of 16 talented young people, working to advance education and youth empowerment as a key tool to prevent and fight corruption locally, regionally and globally.
YouthLED will support GRACE in advancing its four cross-cutting principles – partnerships, innovation, gender and youth, by engaging with young people in their respective countries and regions, as well as globally; advocating for the GRACE initiative within their communities to disseminate good practices and experiences of anti-corruption education; and provide training and learning opportunities on GRACE tools and resources.
By establishing YouthLED, UNODC will help youth to realize their rightful and decisive role in the making of policies that will concretely affect their future, harness young people’s ideas and perspectives and meaningfully integrate them within UNODC’s anti-corruption youth-related work.
Technology and youth
Young people across the world are at the forefront of mobilizing technology for the common good. To leverage this, UNODC has been hosting a series of hackathons, or coding challenges, most recently in Africa.
The “Coding4Integrity” hackathon in October brought together the talent and skills of 200 young developers from five African countries - Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa - who worked on innovative tech solutions that can help to curb corruption.
The young developers in 65 teams had to come up with their own ideas on how to counter corruption through technology using Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Dapp Development or Web2 Development. Each of the 65 teams chose a single thematic area such as transparency in public administration or in public procurement and the administration of public finances, safe and reliable reporting of corruption and financial investigations.
The five winning country teams, Team Valoro from Egypt, Team Enigma from Kenya, Team STEM from Nigeria, Team Fisk from Senegal and Team Blockchain Bulls from South Africa, will unveil their projects at the Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh.
The Coding4Integrity hackathon represents one very impactful way in which GRACE is promoting the union between digital innovation and social entrepreneurship as a gateway to meaningfully empower young people to take action against corruption.
Looking to the future
The way society views and addresses corruption can be revolutionized if young people are involved in the planning, design and implementation of anti-corruption frameworks, tools, and policies at the national and international levels.
There is much to be gained from engaging young people in the fight against corruption and intergenerational collaboration is fundamental to achieving solidarity, transparency, accountability, and trust among States, people and generations as we aim to end corruption.
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