Director-General receives Mr Gérard Larcher, President of the French Senate

, France

15 June - UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, met with Mr Gérard Larcher, President of the French Senate, to discuss major topics of cooperation between France and UNESCO, and in particular the situation of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria, preparations for the Paris Climate Conference Cop 21 and the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

Irina Bokova commended the report submitted by President Larcher to the President of the French Republic devoted to "The French Nation, a Shared Heritage", stressing the key role of education in strengthening social cohesion and in the fight against extremism. "The key to de-radicalization is in school," said Mr Larcher.

"UNESCO is actively working on the concept of global citizenship education. The school can not only transmit knowledge and skills, it is also a place to teach values and humanities, in order to live together," said the Director-General.

"We face the very strong temptation of community withdrawal, with the growing sense of a country that is dividing," warned President Larcher, calling for more inclusive policies and a stronger fight against extremist religious discourse.

The Director-General recalled the role of education and the sharing of heritage, as a means to build a common destiny, and to come together around a common history.

"The situation in Iraq and Syria shows that we cannot separate the issue of heritage from the destiny of societies: violent extremists are destroying human lives and buildings in a single logic to make a clean break from the past. The transmission of culture and history are the most solid foundations of a society in the long term, whether prosperous and peaceful societies, or societies in crisis," said the Director-General.

Irina Bokova and Gérard Larcher also discussed preparations for the COP 21 and the upcoming scientists’ conferences organized at UNESCO to strengthen political mobilization against the consequences of climate change. The Senate President also recalled the support of France to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted 10 years ago, calling for a further strengthening of work in this area, especially for the promotion of cultural diversity in and through the digital world.