Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are living in an era of globalization which brings in new threats to peace, with disruptive social transformations and traumatic human population movements. Poverty remains enduring, just as inequalities are deepening and the world is facing the most significant refugee and displacement crisis of our time. These are the direct consequence of the ever-more frequent conflicts, with acts of ‘cultural cleansing’ fueled by radicalization and violent extremism exposing millions of women and men to immense suffering, with youth being the most affected. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a new commitment to global action, inspired by the values and principles of the United Nations, and an integrated response to the cultural, social, economic and environmental challenges we face. UNESCO’s message at the United Nations Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 in Istanbul is right to the point of our discussion today, to championing the cause of education for children and youth affected by crisis. This is why embarking upon the new 2030 agenda is not an option, if we want to ensure environmentally sustainable and inclusive societies for the present generation – and the generations to come. This vision is spelt out in the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report released by UNESCO this month, and we take it further in all of the Organization’s fields of competence.
It is our engagement in education to prevent violent extremism, it is part of our work to improve the protection of journalists through the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. This underpins the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, launched in January 2016. UNESCO’s Strategy for the Protection of Culture and the Promotion of Cultural Pluralism in the Event of Armed Conflict is also highly relevant in this regard;
-to strengthen Member States’ ability to prevent, mitigate, and recover the loss of cultural heritage and diversity as a result of conflict.
-to ensure that culture’s protection is incorporated into humanitarian action, security strategies and peacebuilding processes.
This is becoming tremendously important in a world where people with different culture, religion and beliefs now come closer together. We attend to this through countering the messages of religious, cultural and social intolerance and hate speech that are being spread with such devastating consequences. We attend to this with new narratives on refugees and migrants seen as assets for social, cultural and economic development and as an opportunity, not a threat, to sustainable development. We attend to this by building solid platforms giving new opportunities for dialogue, intercultural competencies and cultural literacy. This is the goal of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Culture (2013-2022), which UNESCO is spearheading for the United Nations to push forward the agenda for the promotion of a culture of peace and intercultural and interreligious dialogue. This is also the spirit of the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue initiated by the Government of Azerbaijan, with UNESCO as a key partner. The upcoming 4th Edition next year will offer new opportunities for articulating academic knowledge with policy-making and defining concrete actions, notably at the field level.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In concluding, I would like to insist on the need for new ways of acting across the board, the need for new partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector. This underpins our commitment through education, the sciences, culture and communication and information, and hence to building a sustainable vision for peace, the promotion of human rights and dignity, justice and prosperity and, indeed, the protection of our planet as set forth in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. And this brings us back to the heart of UNESCO’s Constitution stating that “ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war”. Indeed, the fight against ignorance, mistrust and stereotyping “the other” remain our permanent concern and challenge, nurtured by the shared understanding that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”.
I thank you for your attention and wish you a successful Forum!