The UNESCO chair of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on Education for Human Rights, Democracy and Peace was established in 1997, pursuant to a joint agreement between UNESCO and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The objective of the UNESCO chair is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation activities in the field of “Human Rights, Democracy and Peace” at local and regional level (article 2 of the Agreement). These activities promote the values of a culture of human rights, peace and non-violence within the university, as well as within primary and secondary schools, with the aim to sensitize teachers, students and citizens to these issues.
The UNESCO chair of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is the outcome of:
- the Education Programme for Peace, which began at the School of Psychology of the Aristotle University in 1986 and evolved into a graduate studies programme in 1988. “School Books in Greece and Education for Peace” was one of the main research projects.
- the interfaculty, interdisciplinary programme on Education for Human Rights and Peace, entitled “Contemporary World Problems and the Scientist’s Responsibility,” which has been in operation at the Aristotle University since 1994.
- the educational activities of the Institute of Education for Peace (a Greek NGO founded in 1986).
Dimitra Papadopoulou, Professor Emerita at the School of Psychology, has been in charge of the programme since 1986.
Thanks to the UNESCO chair, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is linked with international IGO’s (UNESCO, UNICEF, etc.), with the global network of 655 UNESCO chairs and with 62 UNESCO/UNITWIN networks (in 770 universities located in 126 countries), with the network of 41 European universities which collaboratively offer the Master’s Programme in “Human Rights and Democratization,” as well as with many other international and Greek NGOs.
The activities of the Chair include:
- The UNESCO chair at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki organizes:
a) An inter-faculty, interdisciplinary programme focused on Education for Human Rights and Peace, entitled “Contemporary World Problems and the Scientist’s Responsibility: An Interdisciplinary Approach” (undergraduate level). The programme is offered to all students of the Aristotle University, and lectures are given by faculty members of the Aristotle University and other Greek universities, as well as by representatives of international organizations. More than 100 faculty members have given lectures so far (1994-2011). These faculty members are appointed to 35 schools of the Aristotle University (School of Psychology, School of Law, School of Philosophy and Pedagogy, Faculty of Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, School of Physics, School of Chemistry, etc.), as well as to other Greek universities (University of Macedonia, University of Thessaly, University of Ioannina, University of the Aegean, Democritus University of Thrace, etc.). More than 100 different issues related to the subject matter of the programme have been discussed. Over 4000 students have enrolled in the programme and attended courses (1994-2010).
The programme focuses mainly on:
Various aspects of global environmental problems, natural resources and their distribution, international organizations and their contribution to the solution of international problems, international efforts for the protection of human rights, positive and negative uses of nuclear energy, chemical and biological welfare, AIDS, drugs, child neglect and abuse, illiteracy, social exclusion, the UNESCO programmes for the creation of a culture of human rights and peace, philosophy and the practice of non-violence, etc.
b) A graduate studies programme on “Human Rights and Democratization.” The programme is offered collaboratively by 41 universities from all member-states of the European Union, administered by the European Inter-university Centre for Human Rights and Democratization (located in Venice) and funded by the European Union. Several IGOs, such as UNESCO, participate in the programme.
Within the context of this programme, the UNESCO chair offers an interdepartmental programme to foreign students who conduct research for their MA thesis at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, supervised by its faculty members. 36 faculty members from 10 Schools of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (School of Psychology, School of Law, School of Philosophy and Pedagogy, School of English Language and Literature, etc.) have participated in the programme so far (1998-2010), along with representatives of international organizations (UNESCO, UNICEF) and institutions, such as the Greek Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, and others.
The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is one of the founding universities of the programme and serves as the coordinating university for Greece.
26 MA theses have been submitted to the UNESCO chair of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Some of these theses were among the top five out of the 85 theses that are submitted to 41 European universities every year.
- The UNESCO chair also offers courses outside the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (at the Supreme Joint War College, at the Hellenic National Defence College, etc.). In addition, it organizes international and national conferences, workshops and cultural events to sensitize people with regard to human rights, democracy and peace.
- The UNESCO chair collaborates with primary and secondary school teachers from all over the country in order to promote the values of a culture of human rights and peace. To this end, the Panhellenic Network of Teachers was established in 2001 to promote a culture of peace and non-violence.
- The UNESCO chair, along with the Institute of Education for Peace, organizes international and national conferences, seminars and lectures all over the country with regard to a culture of peace and non-violence and the contribution of education to it, as well as cultural events (children’s painting exhibitions, theater performances, concerts, etc.) in order to raise public awareness of human rights, democracy and peace.
- The UNESCO chair, along with the Institute of Education for Peace, publishes books and produces teaching material, such as the collective volume entitled Towards a Culture of Peace – Education for Peace in Schools (2004; 531 pages). The authors are university teachers, primary and secondary school teachers, as well as representatives of international organizations (the United Nations, UNESCO, and UNICEF). Other publications include: The ABC of Education for Human Rights and Peace (2001), The Human Right to Peace by F. Mayor (2009), etc.
All the actions of the UNESCO chair, as well as its administration, are carried out by volunteers (faculty members, primary and secondary school teachers, students, members of NGOs, etc.), who offer their knowledge and time for free.
In 2002, the UNESCO chair of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki received an award by UNESCO. The following extract appeared in the wording of the decision: “The UNESCO chair of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki illustrates the great potential of higher education to contribute to attaining the constitutional mission of UNESCO to construct peace in the minds of men and women.”