Investing in Education and Culture is Key for Global Citizenship

On 8 and 9 October, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, joined global leaders, government representatives and visionaries, to discuss the future of global citizenship, human dignity and new ways to combat violent extremism and intolerance, during two high level events in Monaco and Geneva.

At the Global Citizen Forum held in Monaco, the Director-General highlighted that this is a timely initiative as the international community has just adopted in New York the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“This new vision proposes a profound shift in how we live together and care for our planet,” declared the Director-General. “From ending poverty to ensuring healthy lives and taking urgent action to combat climate change, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals call for an unprecedented level of global solidarity, to leave no one behind.”

“For this, we need a new generation of global citizens,” continued Irina Bokova. “Global citizenship means fostering new skills for new times – to promote greater respect for our planet and understanding between cultures, to give learners tools to make the most of diversity, to develop new values and behaviors of solidarity and responsibility, to harness the energy of young women and men for the benefit of all.”

The Director-General highlighted the importance of protecting cultural diversity in these turbulent times when violent extremism is threatening our societies, targeting our world heritage, and attacking cultural diversity. She also underlined the power of education as a human right, for the advancement of gender equality, and as a transformational force for societies.

“The best strategy is to stand together, in the diversity of our origins, our religions, our opinions, to dialogue, to reaffirm our unity in diversity,” said Irina Bokova. “We need to bring cultures together through dialogue based on mutual understanding, human rights, solidarity and harmony with the planet.” The Director-General also took this message to the University of Geneva, where she gave a speech on “Human Rights Challenges in the 21st Century” on the occasion of the ceremony Dies academicus, in the presence of Ms Anne Emery-Torracinta, State Counsellor of Geneva, Head of the Department of public education, culture and sport, and Mr Metin Arditi, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

The Director-General presented UNESCO’s approach in the fight against violent extremism and highlighted the Organization’s efforts to better integrate culture and education in the response to emergency situations.

On this occasion, the Director-General was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University in recognition of her “Fight for openness, democracy and free debate, her protection of cultural and cultural property, for being the flag bearer for the respect of women’s rights and equality, for her fight for the right to be different and for teaching against antisemitism.”

“Universities are among the oldest institutions in the world. They have a history forged over wars, religious conflicts and all revolutions which they have always survived. They also make history and  build the future,” declared the Rector of the University of Geneva, Yves Fluckiger. “Today, they are more essential than ever. […] Through dialogue, knowledge creation and the transmission of culture, they are the place of freedom of thought, the search for truth […]. Universities are the antithesis of all fanaticism, of these fanaticisms that lead to the destruction of Palmyra and affect the world’s cultural heritage."

“Today, we wanted to distinguish eminent women who are committed to the respect of human rights both at the global level and at the local level,” continued the Rector.

On the occasion, the Director-General commended “Ms Elisabeth Decrey-Warner, President and Co-Founder of Geneva Call, and a great human rights activist,” who also received a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University.

“It is UNESCO that you honor with this recognition - you have praised my fight, but know that it is the fight of UNESCO, the fight for humanism,” declared the Director-General.

While in Geneva, the Director-General also participated in an Executive Briefing for Delegations and Member States of the United Nations on “UNESCO’s role to counter violent extremism: the need to invest in education, culture and media literacy.” Following the presentation by the Director-General, a question and answer session between the Member States and the Director-General took place on the Organization’s challenges to counter violent extremism through education and the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects.