On 12 March 2016, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova participated in in the Meet the Mentor Session at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai (United Arab Emirates).
This session was moderated by Senior Editor, Ann McElvoy of The Economist. The discussion was interactive and wide ranging, starting with the role of UNESCO in laying the foundations for peace.
Irina Bokova spoke of the "incredible journey of UNESCO for over 70 years in helping to make the world a better place, for human rights and dignity, for gender equality, to unite humanity around its diversity."
She spoke of the importance of UNESCO in supporting countries in taking the MDG process forward and also in shaping the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by States in 2015.
"All countries have come together to agree on goals to promote sustainability, to eradicate poverty, to advance food security, to protect the planet and to build peace -- with the Paris Climate Change Agreement, this is a historic, ambitious and transformative moment that UNESCO helped shape and is doing everything to support."
The discussion turned to the challenge of cultural cleansing, and the destruction and looting of cultural heritage. The Director-General underlined UNESCO's action to halt illicit trafficking and to rebuild heritage, working with all partners, from local authorities to UNODC and WCO and auction houses.
"Culture is more than stones and buildings -- it carries values and the roots of identities, and this is why we must defend culture and build this focus into all peacebuilding efforts."
Irina Bokova spoke also of the revolution shaking up education today, and the lessons learned from the MDG process. She underlined the importance of harnessing new ICTS for quality and new reach. She placed great emphasis on the crucial role of teachers, as well as stronger education systems. The lessons learned since 2000 helped shape the new Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, as ambitious, holistic and comprehensive, focusing on access and quality and lifelong learning.
"Education is a vital tool also in the fight against violent extremism, to counter radicalisation," said Irina Bokova, underlining UNESCO's leadership in advancing education for global citizenship and human rights and to foster media and information literacy -- as part of the action of the UN to prevent violent extremism.
"This is about building resilience in societies by empowering women and men, especially young people, to stand for tolerance and diversity on the basis of human rights," said the Director-General.
This was followed by questions from the floor, on the status of teachers and the financing of education as well as ranking systems.