Overview of ERB

The Alliance of Civilizations HLG Report, submitted to the UN Secretary-General in November 2006, underscored the importance of education in "preparing young people for an interdependent world" and called for education systems to "provide students with an understanding and respect for the diverse religious beliefs, practices and cultures in the world." 

Several guidelines drawn up by intergovernmental organizations, as well as world leaders, have spoken of the need for intercultural education and the necessity to learn about and across differences. References in this regard include the UNESCO Guidelines on Intercultural Education, Civil Paths to Peace: Report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding  (2007)and the COE White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue "Living Together as Equals" (2008).  Specific references to education about religions include, for instance,

  • A COE Publication: John Keast, Editor: Religious Diversity and intercultural Education: a Reference Book for Schools. 2007.
  • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE ODIHR) publication, Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs. (2007).

Further, participants at the UNAOC January 2008 Madrid Forum expressed the strong desire that the next UNAOC clearinghouse should be a clearinghouse on "Education about Religion and Beliefs" (ERB). Intrinsic to the goal of educating students about religions and beliefs are the instruments of civic and peace education, tolerance and ethics education, as well as global and cross-cultural education. These mechanisms also offer a different way of advancing the ultimate pillar of education to "live together," especially in the context of some societies where teaching about religions themselves may raise issues of "church-and-state separation."

In defining "religion" and "belief," this site follows the OSCE's ODIHR Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs (2007) on this point, which takes a broad view of "religion" and "belief," encompassing not only "traditional and long-established religions" of today's world as well as "less well known and less well understood systems of belief." It also includes "non-religious systems of belief," based on earlier United Nations Human Rights documents (pp. 30-31). 

At this stage, our clearinghouse focuses primarily on school education for the following reasons:

a) It is the stage that is the most important in forming educated opinions;

b) It is the stage where public policy can have the most influence, because in many states public funding of education offers the opportunity to have concomitant curricular influence; and

c) It is probably the area where resources are available but scattered across different regions and therefore the UNAOC mechanism can be particularly useful.

This web-based clearinghouse features approaches, consensus guidelines, intellectual and instructional resources, links to associations/organizations and  institutions working in the field of ERB, an ERB journal, an online forum for users to discuss issues and pose questions, and events of interest to researchers, policy-makers and educators working in this area.  The clearinghouse aims to be:

a) Dynamic with continuous updates in its various sections, with the aid of partner organizations;

b) Useful for educators, policy-makers, and religious leaders; and

c) Accessible widely to different kinds of users.

Visitors do not have to go through registration and/or sign-in processes to view the contents of the clearinghouse (including the forum or journal), or download material as one of our objectives is to have the widest possible dissemination of resources on our site. However, registration is required to post articles, opinions, and resources, which will be vetted by UNAOC staff and/or partners. This will enable us to promote rational and civil discourse without being diverted by polemical remarks.

The ERB clearinghouse will work through a network of partner organizations that will include universities, other  intergovernmental organizations, and civil society organizations. Partners will be drawn from different regions so that the materials in the clearing house are available in many languages and on different subjects.

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