UNESCO and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) launch a timely partnership

Paris, 14 October 2015 - In the context of the 197th session of the Executive Board and under the leadership of H.E. Mr Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chairperson of the Executive Board, the Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), Mr Fathallah Sijilmassi, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, addressed the Members of the Executive Board. The addresses were followed by the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding between UNESCO and the Union for the Mediterranean.

During the bilateral meeting between the Director-General and the Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Irina Bokova welcomed the signing of the Memorandum, underlining that “UNESCO and the Union for the Mediterranean share common objectives towards social inclusion, quality education and skills, intercultural dialogue, gender equality and the protection of biodiversity”

Referring to the crucial imperative of engaging youth for positive participation, Irina Bokova invited the Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean to join forces with UNESCO in the context of its project Networks of Mediterranean Youth (NET-MED Youth), funded by the European Union, as a powerful tool to foster youth’s empowerment and contribute to countering youth radicalization and violent extremism in the Mediterranean region.

In this context, the Director-General referred to the outcomes of the International Conference, entitled “Youth and the Internet: Fighting Radicalization and Extremism”, organized in June 2015 at UNESCO, stating that the Organization is currently engaged in the implementation of a New Integrated Framework of Action for Youth to Build Peace.

The Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean presented the three pillars of the work conducted by the Union, first and foremost, focusing on youth employment and women’s empowerment stating that “these are barometers for democracy and development in every society”. The second and third pillars of the Union’s work are dedicated to growth and inclusion, with a strong territorial dimension, and ultimately, sustainable development. “All institutions have to be humble, because of the amplitude of the challenges faced in the Mediterranean, and in the world more widely, but at the same time, the institutions must show they are deeply committed and active in promoting shared values and principles”.

Facing such global threats as extremism and intolerance, “we have to change the narrative, so as to foster cohesion, pride and dialogue and counter the reject of the other and all forms of discrimination”, underlined the Director-General.

Ms Bokova said that she was extremely pleased and encouraged by the 10 areas that constitute the Roadmap of the Memorandum of Understanding, insisting on the common ground of concerns and priorities between UNESCO and the UfM.

“Given the proximity and relevance of our respective Mandates, we are engaged now to do great things together”, said the Director-General.

Mr Fathallah Sijilmassi declared that he was particularly happy to be at UNESCO, with a view to institutionalizing the joint implementation of concrete activities. Referring to the threat of terrorism, the Secretary-General emphasized its global dimension stating that “we must encourage countries, beyond their national borders and specific concerns, to engage into a sustained regional dialogue”.

Both the Director-General and the Secretary-General expressed high expectations and clear hopes vis-à-vis this forward-looking Memorandum. On the occasion of the signature ceremony, the Director-General awarded the Secretary-General the 70th Anniversary Medal of UNESCO.