Irina Bokova calls for global citizenship education in turbulent times

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) marked the establishment of the first UNESCO Chair on Global Citizenship Education during a West Coast event to celebrate the Organization’s 70th anniversary, in the presence of Director-General Irina Bokova, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and the Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, on 8 February 2016.

“I believe we are in a race today. This is a race to educate, nurture, include all women and men. We must provide every young woman and man with a sense of solidarity as global citizens, give them the skills and values they need to tackle the challenges of our times,” said the Director-General. 

In the face of violent extremists who offer only destruction and hatred, she stated that we must respond with tolerance and knowledge, with skills for critical thinking, engagement and cultural dialogue.
“This Chair led by the visionary Professor Carlos Torres reflects our shared conviction that education must be about learning to live in a world under pressure, it must be about cultural literacy, respect and equal dignity. Fundamentally, education must be about laying the foundations for peace,” she continued.

Recalling that UNESCO was born out of the ashes of the Second World War, Mayor Garcetti stressed that “the Organization represents the values of the city of Los Angeles”.
“UNESCO pushes the idea that all of us have great rights but also responsibilities around science, culture and education in order to build a better future, preserve the planet and eliminate divisions” he said.

The Mayor commended the Director-General for her commitment  “to promote education for all, combat terrorism financing by preventing illicit trafficking of antiquities, and to lead the fight against anti-Semitism by promoting Holocaust Education”.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block expressed his appreciation to UNESCO for its decision to establish this new Chair in UCLA and said that ”this is an opportunity for working together and strengthen the partnership between the two institutions”.

“The extraordinary mission of UNESCO is even more important than ever” he added.  

During her address, the Director-General evoked the deep imprint of the United States on the Organization, citing the American diplomat and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish who penned the opening of UNESCO’s Constitution and the late Russell Train, founder of the World Wildlife Fund who helped shaped the World Heritage Convention.

Today, she asserted that UNESCO’s actions to advance education and literacy, fight racism and discrimination, safeguard cultural heritage under attack, defend freedom of expression and  improve the safety of journalists all carry deep meaning for the American people.

This is expressed in the strengthened partnership with the United States since 2011, marked notably by Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to UNESCO in October 2015, the inauguration of the University of Southern California’s UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education held by Stephen Smith, present at the event; efforts to advance Holocaust Education; the promotion of International Jazz Day to celebrate human rights and cultural diversity, the Respect for All school programme  as well as cooperation with major private sector companies.

Ahead of the event held at the Skirball Cultural Centre, Ms Bokova visited the UCLA Campus, where she met with the Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, UNESCO Chair holder Professor Alberto Torres and other faculty members.