UNDP launches civic education seminar series-Panel discussion on the role of civic education in strengthening democracy in Pakistan

16 May 2014

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ISLAMABAD, 16 May 2014: Civic education, focusing on identifying gaps in the sector and discussing how to fill those gaps, was the topic of a panel discussion hosted by UNDP and UNWOMEN Pakistan. The event, part of an ongoing series, focused on civic education in Pakistan and civic education with respect to women and youth.

Civic education includes programmes of instruction within schools or colleges, but it also concerns all age groups and takes place in many arenas other than schools. Working with development partners and the Election Commission of Pakistan, UNDP is preparing to formulate a national civic education programme. The series of seminars on civic education provides youth, women, religious representatives, political parties, civil society and the media with a forum in which to discuss what civic education means to them and to find ways to increase the reach of civic education programmes.

In his introductory remarks, European Union Ambassador Lars Gunnar Wigemark commented, “Pakistan has a unique opportunity to take advantage of its burgeoning democracy, parliament, and youth; 197 of the Members of the National Assembly are under 40 and many of them are in the Parliament for the first time.” He went on to state that he is “optimistic about and impressed with the strength of the debate and discussion at all levels of Pakistan’s society. People are aware of their rights, they may need explanations and education, but they are fully aware.”

Continuing on the subject of youth, UNDP Pakistan Country Director Mr. Marc-André Franche addressed the need for civic education for Pakistan’s burgeoning youth population. “Each year in Pakistan, millions of youth reach voting age. Nurturing democratic mindsets among Pakistan’s youth through civic education initiatives will be fundamental to helping to ensure that the country’s ‘youth bulge’ is transformed into a dividend, rather than a toxic legacy. Catalysing this dynamic is crucial to increasing stability, improving governance standards and achieving development goals.”

Mr. Sono Khan Baloch, KP Provincial Election Commissioner attested to the importance of civic education in inspiring citizens to participate. “Civic education is a necessary antidote against regressive forces. Around the world, civic education has proven to be an effective agent in strengthening democracies. Civic and voter education sensitises citizens regarding the importance of participating. They stimulate greater political participation, and therefore consolidate democracy.”

Describing the importance of civic education, Mr. Muhammad Ahsan Raja, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Education, Trainings and Standards in Higher Education addressed the assembly. “The ideals of democracy are achieved when every member of the polity is duly sensitized. Informed political reflection and informed knowledge is the basis of civic education. Education and higher educational institutions can play a vital role in familiarizing students with their civic duties, rights and responsibilities, as well the constitution, and local political systems.”

The next seminar in the series will give youth an opportunity to describe what civic education means to them and the improvements they would like to see in such programmes. Future sessions will address the role of political parties and the media in the sphere of civic education.

Once the series of seminars have been completed, UNDP will publish a booklet featuring the range of perspectives captured during the seminar series.

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