We must educate for peace, eminent figures, experts and youth called for at the 100th anniversary celebration of AFS

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© UNESCO

How can education promote peace? Why do barriers in living together persist? And what action can be taken to galvanise global citizenship education and intercultural learning?

These were some of the questions that a Nobel Laureate, a former Head of State, the American Field Service (AFS), UNESCO, experts in education and peace-building, and young women and men debated during the “Learning to Live Together – From Ideas to Action” Global Intercultural Education Symposium. The event took place on 8 November at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris to celebrate the 100th anniversary of AFS

Óscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President of Costa Rica, paid tribute to the AFS for bringing, since its establishment, “a spark of tolerance in the shadows of hate”. Sharing his vision of youth as carriers of a “new spirit of interdependence”, he called for the teaching of values and recognition of the role of educators as shapers of the global citizens of tomorrow. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and former President of Iceland, drew attention to languages as being at the core of all cultures and the door to mutual understanding. Referring to the on-going process to define a post-2015 development agenda, J. Brian Atwood, Member of the AFS Board of Trustees and former Administrator of USAID, said that inter-cultural understanding is key to implementing any of the future goals.

Recognizing the transformative power of global citizenship education, Eric Falt, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Public Information, stated that youth can be the “change generation” if they are equipped with the right skills.

Andreas Schleicher, Head of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, emphasized the need to make global citizenship education a truly global experience accessible to all.

UNESCO has spared no efforts to develop resources to support learning to live together and global citizenship education throughout life, and thus empower young women and men to make a difference locally and globally.

The Symposium also provided the occasion for young women and men, who had worked together during on-line exchanges and workshops, to present their vision for the future of Intercultural Learning and Global Citizenship Education. Among other recommendations, they called upon governments to take on global challenges as national responsibilities.

“Global citizenship is not only about being, it is also about doing,” said Chernor Bah, youth representative on the High-Level Steering committee for the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) and Chairperson of the Youth Advocacy Group. Local-level actions will be implemented by youth in the follow-up to the event.

The event was organized by AFS under the patronage of UNESCO.