UNESCO Programme

The UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement, the first in the Republic of Ireland, awarded to Professor Pat Dolan, was officially launched by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese in March 2009.

Part of the UNESCO University Education and Twinning Scheme (UNITWIN), the establishment of the UNESCO Chair brings together University based research centres and national and international organisations with a shared goal of promoting civic engagement and leadership skills among children and youth.

Since the establishment of the Chair a comprehensive programme of work has successfully commenced with the objective of promoting civic engagement for children and youth by providing relevant expertise in research, teaching, policy and good practice. The implementation of the programme has triggered the development of new partnerships with national and international organisations and opened up a range of collaborative opportunities. 

UNESCO Chair’s Mission Statement

To promote civic engagement for children and youth, by providing relevant expertise in research, teaching, policy and good practice and establishing national and international networks.

Conceptual framework

The Chair’s commitment to civic engagement is grounded in three fundamental operating principles. Firstly, guided by UNESCO’s priority of ‘Education for All’, the Chair is promoting the educational value of civic engagement among children and youth, youth workers, policy makers and interested academics. Secondly, the Chair’s programme highlights the value of civic engagement as a means of enabling resilience and social support capacity among children and youth. Thirdly, recognizing that social and political active citizenship can contribute to the achievement of greater social justice and participation, the Chair is promoting the potential of civic engagement as a means of realising children and young people’s human rights.



Partnerships and Collaborations


Social Change and Innovation Initiative: Wave Change is a groundbreaking new civic action initiative for 18-25 year olds and the organisations and individuals who support them delivered by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. Launched in 2011, the Wave Change Initiative provides a forum for young people who are passionate about making a difference in their communities and who believe that they can have a stronger voice in civil society to engage in structured networking, learning, personal development and social change activities. Through a research partnership with the UNESCO CFRC, Wave Change will inform national and international practice and policy around youth civic action.

Resilience Network: In 2010, the Chair formally aligned the work of the Child and Family Research Centre with the Resilience Research Centre in Dalhousie University, Canada and the Resilience Research Team in Massey University, New Zealand. Through the establishment of this Civic Engagement and Resilience Network, the partners have commenced a programme for sharing research and practice tools developed at each site; engaging in joint research actives and pursuing joint publications and hosting visiting fellows.

University of Ulster: The Chair has developed a close alliance with the work of the UNESCO Chair at the University of Ulster, Professor Alan Smith. In 2010, the two Chairs began work on a collaborative project to establish an independent monitoring programme on the well-being of children in Ireland, North and South.

See further the Children and Youth Programme website.

UNESCO Youth and Sport sector: The Chair is working closely with the Youth, Sport and Physical Education division of UNESCO

Barcelona Football Club/University of Catalunya alliance: A series of joint activities are being planned between the NUI Galway Chair and a new UNESCO Chair, co-directed by the University of Catalonia and the Barcelona Football Club Foundation, in Sport as a Tool for Social Coexistence and Conflict Resolution.  Both Chairs are among five UNESCO appointments worldwide in the field of Youth and have an expressed commitment to working directly with children and young people through sport and civic action.

Zambia: The Civic Engagement and Youth Development Partnership for African Youth was officially launched in June 2010 by Minister for State with special responsibility for Overseas Development, Peter Power, TD. The partnership, following a visit to Zambia by the Chair, together with CEO of Foróige and the Alan Kerins Project formalises plans for the development and exchange of data, tools and practices on African youth.

Foróige is Ireland’s largest national youth development organisation and the youth work partner of the UNESCO Chair programme. In collaboration with Foróige, the identification of international models of good practice in relation to active citizenship of children and young people, many youth-led, will feed into the research agenda for the Chair. An information sheet for young people on the programme is available to download here



Since 2009 a number of the CFRC doctoral students are contributing to the UNESCO Chair programme of work.  Their research covers a wide-range of topics with a focus on international as well as national issues. The research projects include: A youth-centred exploratory study with rural and urban Zambian youth regarding their perceptions of civic engagement, gender and community; an international comparative study on youth mentoring between Ireland and the Czech Republic; a contextual and cultural understanding of the idea of civic participation and resilience with a focus on Slovenian youth; and an explorative study to establish the association between youth leadership skills, resilience and social support. Further details on these research projects are available in the doctoral profiles section.



Foundation Certificate in Youth Leadership and Community Action
The Foundation Certificate is run in association with Foróige and the Adult and Continuing Education Office in NUI Galway. The course is designed to equip youth with the required skills and confidence to take on positive leadership roles today and in the future. It is a year long programme, delivered off campus by youth workers in Foróige clubs, projects and schools. It comprises three modules, youth leadership, leadership and community action and project work. Further details are available in the Education and Training Section

As part of the UNESCO programme a new MA in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement is planned. 

Key Links 


  • Contemporary Issues in Human Rights Education

As part of this 2011 UNESCO publication, Prof. Pat Dolan and colleagues, Prof. Jagdish Gundara, UNESCO Chair in Intercultural Studies at the University of London and Dr. Linda King, Chief, Section of Education for Peace and Human Rights outline The Role of Research for the Promotion of Rights and Values in Education: A Commemorative Paper - 60 Years into Human Rights Education.

The publication is a collection of papers addressing contemporary issues in human rights education. For more information and to view the publication please visit UNESCO website at www.unesco.org