UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, concurred on the central role of culture and education to counter violent extremism, during a meeting in Paris on 28 January 2016.
Praising UNESCO’s unique mandate within the UN, President Rouhani urged that joint solutions be found to protect endangered cultural works and sites. He said the destruction of monuments and sites goes hand in hand with the destruction of different ethnic groups and cultures, stating that extremists are seeking to separate youth from their identity. Drawing attention to Iran’s World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) initiative put forth to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013, he insisted that culture is the foundation of our societies, permeates all aspects of our lives and provides the basis for mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue. He proposed that UNESCO organize an international conference on the role of culture to stop violence and encouraged the Organization to develop educational programmes on countering violent extremism that could be shared with other countries.
The Director-General concurred that the systematic destruction of heritage represents a huge tragedy for humanity, sharing the President’s views on the essential role of culture in every society. In the face of attempts by extremists to divide, she emphasized UNESCO’s sense of responsibility in mobilizing the international community around measures to safeguard cultural heritage under attack. She informed the President that UNESCO is placing special focus on youth, with initiatives to counter violent extremism and radicalization through education, culture and the promotion of tolerance.
The Director-General also expressed appreciation for the breadth of UNESCO’s cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran, spanning education, culture and science, and underlined the necessity to leverage these areas to bring about transformative change.
At the end of the meeting, she presented President Rouhani with the certificates for Iran’s two newly-inscribed World Heritage sites, Susa and the Cultural Landscape of Maymand as well as for two Memory of the World registers, Al-Masaalik Wa Al-Mamaalik and Kulliyyāt-i-Sa’di; which all stand as symbols of cultural dialogue.
She also congratulated the President for Iran’s election to UNESCO’s Executive Board, one of the Organization’s governing bodies.
President Rouhani was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif, Vice-President Ms Masoumeh Ebtekar and other senior members of his Cabinet.
The Director-General was accompanied by the Chairperson of the Executive Board, Ambassador Michael Worbs, and members of her senior management team from UNESCO’s education, science and culture sectors.