Youth Education, water cooperation, and Sustainable Tourism at the heart of the Director-General’s official visit to Slovakia

On 6 May 2016, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, started her visit to Slovakia by delivering a lecture at the Comenius University before more than 500 students. “You are the largest generation of young people humanity has ever seen. You are the most educated, most connected, most widely travelled, and most outspoken young generation the world has known” – stated the Director-General during the lecture. She stressed the importance of intercultural dialogue and tolerance, and highlighted the need to invest resources in order to educate youth to embrace values of mutual understanding and peace. “It is essential to share a different vision of humanity, a different vision of the society, where people can live together in diversity” – stated the Director-General, while explaining to students the importance of being a global citizen in today’s world.

During the event at the Comenius University, she was also awarded a gold medal with the portrait of philosopher, pedagogue and theologian, John Amos Comenius, after whom the university was named, in recognition of the cultivation of long-term cooperation between UNESCO and the Comenius University, which hosts the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights Education since 1992.

Following the lecture at the Comenius University, Ms Bokova held bilateral meetings with Mr. Miroslav Lajcak, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Mr. Peter Plavčan, Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport, and Mr. Laszlo Solymos, Minister of the Environment, as well as with Mr. Peter Mihok, President of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the World Chambers Federation.

During her meetings, the Director-General highlighted UNESCO’s solid and fruitful cooperation with Slovakia and paid tribute to the country’s engagement in the Organizations activities, notably for the country’s advocacy in favour of youth empowerment and inclusive education, as well as its active role in the field of water cooperation – a priority of the upcoming Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU. In this regard, the Director-General stressed that “such cooperation with Member States is particularly relevant today for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals” and referred to the 2016 United Nations World Water Development Report, Water and Jobs, which was launched in Geneva on 22 March (World Water Day).

The Director-General also highlighted the country’s richness in World Heritage Sites and informed the ministers that UNESCO stands ready to assist Slovakia in improving the visibility of the Sites, and to implement measures to develop sustainable tourism strategies and management plans for the World Heritage properties. 

In the evening, the Director-General travelled to Smolenice, where she met with members of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, and participated in the Opening Session of the Round Table “Creativity & Innovation in Theory and Practice”. During her intervention, the Director-General commended the Academy for the work undertaken since its establishment in order to enhance knowledge for the development of Slovakia and its citizens, and referred to UNESCO’s very own mandate, to foster innovation and creativity in all its forms – through the free flow of ideas, through scientific research, through the promotion of cultural diversity. “Science plays a vital role here – science leads to knowledge – and science is fueled by diversity and cooperation” – stressed the Director-General at the Round Table. She also referred to the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement and reaffirmed UNESCO’s readiness to support States in achieving this important goal, through policy frameworks, through capacity building, through scientific cooperation, in order to place science and innovation at the heart of national strategies for development.