Launched in October 2001, the Euro-Arab Dialogue Initiative (EADI) was created by National Commissions for UNESCO on the basis of the deeply rooted belief that peace can only emerge through dialogue and mutual understanding. UNESCO, the Euro-Arab network of National Commissions for UNESCO and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation jointly organized a meeting to elaborate new perspectives for this initiative at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, on 9 and 10 December 2016.
On the occasion of this meeting, the intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP) made a significant contribution to the Rendez-Vous for the Euro-Arab Dialogue, convened with the objective to build the capacities of young people and to energize and drive forward Euro-Arab cooperation on the crucial issues of preventing violent extremism and promoting social inclusion.
Ms Chafica Haddad, Chair of the IFAP Council and Mr Boyan Radoykov from UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division, attended the dialogue and addressed the participants in the session on “Media and the Euro-Arab Dialogue: New Perspectives”. They underlined the role and importance of UNESCO’s and IFAP’s work on these challenging issues and especially the activities undertaken under IFAP’s priority “Information Literacy” in the global effort to counter radicalization of youth in cyberspace that is leading to violent extremism.
Highlighting the recent successful major international conference in Quebec, Canada on “Internet and the radicalization of youth: Preventing, Acting and Living together”, and its outcome document – the “Call of Quebec”, they spoke about the narratives and ideas on which extremist groups are propagating online and proposed concrete steps ahead for curbing them through the development of consistent de-radicalization schemes including counter-narratives through Media and Information Literacy programmes and strategies which emphasize on the development of critical thinking, tolerance and respect for universal principles and values.
“Empowerment of people through Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is an important prerequisite for fostering equitable access to information and knowledge and thereby making roads for inter-cultural understanding” said Ms. Haddad, and in the context, she added, “we must give young people the means to exchange views, communicate and cooperate by moving beyond social, cultural and linguistic borders, and to develop new forms of global citizenship.”
In his intervention, Mr Radoykov stressed that the concerted effort initiated by UNESCO on fighting radicalization leading to violence must be relentlessly pursued by all relevant national and international stakeholders. Despite the real progress achieved over the last two years, he added, the mobilization around it should remain very high on the international agenda of decision-makers, since “this blind violence, which is spreading around and breaking the hopes of youth, is unquestionably intolerable, but it must be admitted that the struggle against violent extremism cannot be won only by the force of weapons, repression or online censorship. The real battle that we will have to win is the one for the minds of our youth, for their hearts, is the one of the ideas and the universal values of our civilization.”
The other members of the panel included Mr Slim Amamou, Former Secretary of State for youth and Sports, Tunisia and Ms Divina Frau-Meigs, UNESCO Chair “Savoir-devenir in durable digital development: mastering information cultures”, France. The session was moderated by Mr Suheil Shaheen, Cultural Attaché, Permanent Delegation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to UNESCO.