Canada promotes new opportunities with UNESCO

At a meeting with UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, on 30 March 2016 in Ottawa, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the Honourable Stéphane Dion, stressed that the priorities of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Government were in line with the major themes addressed by UNESCO, ranging from cultural diversity to heritage protection, water management to girls’ education and the fight against violent extremism.

In the context of Canada’s renewed commitment within the United Nations, the Minister invited the Director-General to explore ways of fostering closer relations with UNESCO in order to meet global challenges.

Affirming that Canada embodies the values at the heart of UNESCO’s action, particularly cultural diversity, pluralism and gender equality, the Director-General outlined the Organization’s ambitions and priorities, underlining UNESCO’s active participation in the development of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the responsibilities that it shares in at least nine of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in its role as lead agency for the goal concerning quality education. The Director-General emphasized that UNESCO’s uniqueness lay in the strengthening of policies and support to governments and institutions so as to facilitate implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Faced with the rise of violent extremism, described as the gravest danger facing the world today, the Director-General spoke about UNESCO’s responses and ‘special responsibility’ in areas ranging from heritage protection to cultural diversity and education, welcoming the organization in Quebec of a conference on youth radicalization in cyberspace, to be held in November 2016, and the third UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education (GCED) in Ottawa, in March 2017, focusing on the prevention of violent extremism.

The Director-General also stressed the urgent need to mobilize additional resources to ensure the continuity of education in conflict situations and improving the interconnection between humanitarian aid and development, which would be a key issue at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2016. The Minister also stressed the Canadian Government’s willingness to make long-term investments in the prevention of violent extremism.

Echoing Minister Dion’s interests concerning water stress, all too often neglected as a factor of fragility, poverty and conflict, the Director-General spoke about the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and UNESCO’s role in international cooperation in water management. Welcoming Canada’s positive contribution in the fight against climate change, she drew attention to the key role played by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in the field of ocean sciences, and UNESCO’s commitment ahead of the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22).

Thanking the Federal Government for its support to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), located in Montreal, Ms Irina Bokova highlighted the Institute’s importance in the development of indicators for the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and as a source of reliable and comparable data used as a benchmark throughout the multilateral system.

At a lunch hosted by the Minister, academics, cultural experts and Ministry advisers in global affairs spoke in turn about the priorities for action and strengthened cooperation in areas ranging from the empowerment of girls and women to the dissemination of knowledge, promotion of cultural diversity, scientific cooperation and the secondment of experts to support the Organization’s activities.