The Doha Declaration was adopted as an outcome of the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held in Qatar in 2015. To implement the Doha Declaration, UNODC, with the financial support of Qatar, launched a wide-ranging Global Programme aimed at helping countries achieve a positive and sustainable impact on criminal justice, corruption prevention, and the rule of law. One of the four very specific components of the Global Programme is encouraging a culture of the rule of law in schools and universities through the ‘Education for Justice’ initiative.
In July 2017, a national protocol taking into account the Doha Declaration was concluded in Romania between the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of National Education, the Superior Council of Magistracy, the Public Ministry, and the High Court of Cassation and Justice concerning legal education for young people. According to this protocol, the main areas covered are: Romanian Constitution, fundamental rights and freedoms, aspects relating to the court organisation and general functioning of the justice system, legal liability, as well as elements on preventing and fighting against corruption.
According to this protocol, the following activities are undertaken to promote legal education in pre-university educational institutions:
- volunteers draft communication materials of specific legal interest for teachers and pupils
- experts of the Ministry of Justice, law practitioners, other representatives of public authorities in the field of justice, legal advisers, or civil society that have joined the protocol deliver specialized presentations
- students make study visits to the Ministry of Justice, the Public Ministry, courts, and prosecutors‘ offices
- teachers benefit from trainings on topics such as legal education, civic education, and civic culture
- events are organized dedicated to legal education such as competitions open to students or teachers, public debates, round-tables, and thematic camps.
A Protocol Monitoring Committee was set up to carry out the activities set out in the Protocol, consisting of one representative of the institutions involved in these activities. They meet for evaluation on a quarterly basis.
According to the Monitoring Committee Report for 2017, over 336 teachers and over 24,000 students participated in the legal education activities carried out in 2017. The activities were largely carried out with 7th and 8th, and 11th and 12th grade students.
Legal education activities under this Protocol are carried out on a voluntary and unpaid basis, and take place during the periods set during the meetings of the Protocol Monitoring Committee.
During these periods, volunteers deliver legal education training(s) at schools on subjects of interest to students and teachers, such as children‘s rights, human rights and fundamental freedoms, the consequences of their own deeds, criminal liability, general aspects regarding the national, European and international legal systems, the judiciary system in Romania, national citizenship and European Union citizenship, drug use, and corruption.
According to data published on the Ministry of Justice website, on 16 April 2018, 1,033 legal practitioners volunteered to participate in legal education activities in the framework of the project (359 judges, 227 prosecutors, 87 notaries, 36 law enforcement officers, 223 legal advisors, 80 lawyers, and 21 insolvency practitioners).
I was assigned to volunteer in these activities at schools. The students were very active throughout the meetings and asked questions about the fundamental rights and freedoms of children and adults provided by the Constitution, in particular about how they can prevent corruption and how to defend themselves when they encounter such problems.
Given the challenges our society is facing at the moment, providing legal education and training to this target group, who can benefit from experience-sharing sessions offered by these officers, prior to their full integration into their social life, becomes an imminent need.
Legal education of young people must primarily target offences of corruption and consumption of prohibited substances. It should be highlighted that corruption is a problem that affects young people and that resources misappropriated by corruption can deprive them of many rights to which they are entitled.
Moreover, young people should be aware of the consequences of perpetrating corruption offences, and that such consequences may affect their entire future.
To conclude, in a society where crime has reached unprecedented odds, where criminal offences occur at every corner, and where morality is no longer valued, young people must be aware that they are the ones who can change the future. For the better.
Last but not least, the ability and the skills of those who are willing to train them in this spirit must be taken into consideration.