NGOs unite for Peace at Forum in Mexico

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© UNESCO / Sabina Colombo
10 November 2016

The Sixth International Forum of NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO provided a platform for over 170 NGO representatives to share their experiences and vision for the promotion and building of peace, more than one year after the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda’s 16th Goal, which includes promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. It was the first Forum to be held in Latin America.

The Forum took place on 3 and 4 November 2016 in Querétaro, Mexico, and was organized by the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee in close cooperation with the UNESCO Secretariat, and hosted by the Government of Querétaro.

During two days, more than 800 participants from UNESCO’s NGO official partners, academia, government authorities and youth engaged in active discussions on the theme “From promoting to building Peace with NGOs”, a topic which lies at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate. It is already the International Forum’s sixth edition, and the first one to be held in Latin America, thanks to a several years’ effort and willingness to reach all regions of the world.

The International Forum saw a particularly important participation of about 170 representatives of 50 NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO and more than 600 young women and men from local high schools and universities. Participants flew in from several parts of the world: Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.

Three approaches were discussed as innovative methods to promote and build peace with NGOs: the role of education for peace, the engagement of youth for peace and culture and sport as tools for peace. The discussions emphasized the need for action, and the fact that peace is not just an issue for policy makers, but a process where the civil society is a full-fledged actor. The Forum was not only a panel of experts for experts, but a real platform of dialogue, where the audience regularly intervened and participated in a lively debate.

The International Forums of NGOs were designed as platforms for UNESCO NGO official partners to share actions and practices, discuss ways in which they can help address critical global issues and concretely extend UNESCO’s action.

Previous editions were held in locations such as Beijing, China; Paris, France; Sozopol, Bulgaria, and Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, and discussed topics such as access to water, women and poverty, rapprochement of cultures or the role of youth in safeguarding cultural heritage, and resulted in the creation of several grassroots initiatives that now contribute in their own field to the realization of our programme.

Since its founding, UNESCO has sought to collaborate with NGOs, which are fundamental civil society partners for the implementation of the Organization’s activities and programmes. Over the years, UNESCO has built up a valuable network of cooperation with NGOs having an expertise in its fields of competence.

The current statutory framework for cooperation with NGOs is defined in the Directives concerning UNESCO’s partnership with non-governmental organizations, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 36th session in 2011. Currently, UNESCO is enjoying official partnerships with 381 international NGOs and 30 foundations and similar institutions.