3 December 2011 - Felisa Tibbitts, Co-Director of Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) and Fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government
The OSCE Supplementary Human Dimensions Meeting (SHDM) ‘Prevention of Racism, Xenophobia and Hate Crimes through Education and Awareness-Raising Activities' took place in Vienna on 10 and 11 November. The meeting was well attended by NGOs and provided for open and frank discussions on the prevalence and contemporary forms of racism and xenophobia in the OSCE area. Particularly moving were the personal testimonies shared by numerous participants, including the mother of Stephen Lawrence.
Stephen Lawrence was the victim of a hate crime and two of his alleged murderers are now on trial in the UK. The contributions by governments, international organizations and civil society during the session that I moderated on the role of education amply demonstrated both the importance of collaboration as well as taking a long-term and sustained approach to preventing racism. Curricular approaches that promote co-existence and cultivate understanding of the other will, of course, will remain an imperative. But perhaps equally important are the actual practices of teachers, educational personnel, students and their families in how they accept, respect and support one another across differences of "race", color, language, religion or belief, national, ethnic or social origin. Simply put, where intolerance is identified in the school setting, it needs to be immediately "undone" in practice. The final report of the meeting, including a compilation of best practices and recommendations for different stakeholders, will be available on the OSCE/ODIHR website shortly.