The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Jewish Congress (EJC) co-hosted an international symposium, “Addressing Conspiracy Theories Through Education,” in Brussels on Monday. The event was held in order to strengthen educational responses through advocacy, research and training.
The event also launched UNESCO’s advocacy report, “Addressing conspiracy theories: what teachers need to know.” The report is an introduction for educators, working in and outside of formal schooling, on how to identify, prevent, and address conspiracy theories.
“The fight against conspiracy theories, and the antisemitic and racist ideologies they often convey, begins at school,” said Director-General of UNESCO Ms. Audrey Azoulay.
“Yet teachers worldwide lack adequate training. That is why, today, UNESCO is launching a practical guide for educators, so they can better teach students how to identify and debunk conspiracy theories.
“This builds on the wider work we are doing to strengthen media and information literacy, based upon our new model curriculum.”
The event brought together governments, academia, civil society and the private sector for joint action, and had parts open for public advocacy as well as sessions of experts.
“When events are seemingly inexplicable, fear, uncertainty, and ignorance drive people to simplistic explanations. Today, with a global pandemic followed by war on the European continent on a scale not seen since World War II, we find ourselves at one such period,” said EJC Executive Vice President & CEO Raya Kalenova. “And while the ways in which conspiracy theories spread may have changed, their content remains remarkably similar. Jewish communities have suffered from these conspiracies for generations and know better than most of its terrible effects. In fact, beliefs in a Jewish conspiracy are the most pervasive aspects of antisemitism.”
“That is why we must mobilize everybody, not only civil society, academia and educators, but also online and social media companies, whose responsibility it is to ensure environments free from hatred and disinformation.”
Among the speakers at the event were Nicola Beer, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Special Envoy on combating religious discrimination, including antisemitism, and Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission Coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.
The symposium was organized in cooperation with the European Commission, the Cambridge University Social Decision-Making Lab, and the Alfred Landecker Foundation.