Partnerships to achieve the Global Goals and reinforced cooperation to protect cultural heritage under attack were among the main themes discussed by the Director-General of UNESCO in events and meetings on 21 January 2016 at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Irina Bokova participated in a session of the Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders on Stabilizing the Middle East with Prime Minister Haider el-Abadi of Iraq, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, Lebanon’s Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, among others.
In a separate meeting, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg expressed his country's commitment to strengthened cooperation with UNESCO. He voiced particular concern over the threat of violent extremism among youth and the necessity to work jointly on prevention. He also expressed interest in supporting activities to protect cultural heritage, building on past support brought to safeguard ancient manuscripts in northern Mali. He was accompanied by HRH Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
Swiss Federal Counsellor Alain Berset also shared concern over attacks against cultural heritage and discussed possible measures to reinforce protection. He offered Switerland’s cooperation in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects, noting that the country has adopted a legislation pertaining to « safe havens » to store goods. While the Director-General acknowledged the interest of the concept, she indicated that such measures must strengthen cooperation amongst countries for the preservation of cultural artefacts for humanity and for the people concerned. The Director General also agreed with Counsellor Berset of the difficulty of translating it into practice due to the complex nature of the Syria conflict. She informed him about discussions with the International Committee of the Red Cross to include the cultural dimension under Responsibility to Protect and informed him more broadly about UNESCO’s initiatives to strengthen legislation and coordination. She expressed appreciation also for the Swiss Confederation’s support to endangered cultural heritage in northern Mali, and notably for the successful rehabilitation of the Mausoleums of Timbuktu.
Advocacy for action on the Global Goals is also mobilizing leaders at the World Economic Forum, with special emphasis on girls and women. The case was made at an awareness-raising event hosted by Melinda Gates, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, actress Freida Pinto and Bono that gathered US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia, Prime Minister David Cameron and a constellation of artists and engaged citizens. From tackling social norms to enlarging educational acces to economic empowerment and leadership and involving women in peace-building, participants urged for assertive action and accountability to ensure that girls and women are at center of all the SDGs.
On the sidelines of this event, Mr Kerry expressed the continued support and appreciation of the United States for UNESCO’s role and the importance he attaches to the country's renewed membership on the Executive Board.
The Director-General discussed with Intel’s Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Intel Foundation President Rosalind Hudnell opportunities to scale up collaboration for adolescent girls in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and expressed appreciation for her forthcoming participation in Mobile Learning Week 2016 to jointly launch launch a new platform on ICT policies in education.
She exchanged with SDG Advocate Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium on educational challenges, in particular related to girls and women, as well as the prevention of violent extremism.
The Director-General participated as a trustee in the Global Challenge Initiative on Employment, Skills and Human Capital chaired by Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent; the launch of the SDG Advocacy Group with UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon, Prime Minster Solberg and President Mahama of Ghana (link) ; events on cultural heritage under attack (link); on women’s empowerment with Melanne Verveer, Executive Diretor of Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security ; a meeting of the UN Global Compact (link) and of the Broadband Commission focused on the role of ICTs for achieving the SDGs.