On 4 May, 2016, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, spoke before the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on strengthening the partnership between UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The intervention occurred at the invitation of the President of the Committee of Ministers Deputies, Ms Katya Todorova.
Setting the high stakes raised by challenges today, the Director-General argued that cooperation between UNESCO and the Council of Europe has never been so important –pointing to the values, principles, objectives and concerns shared by both organizations.
“We must face and overcome challenges together, by fostering unity in diversity, by joining forces around shared values,” said the Director-General.
She referred to the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly of December 2014, on ‘Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe,’ and called for new efforts to take forward the 1952 Cooperation Agreement between UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
“Today, I am convinced the Council of Europe and UNESCO can do more to build on the 1952 Agreement, to consolidate cooperation, avoid duplication and identify new areas for joint action,” said the Director-General.
She pointed a number of areas – starting with education for human rights and global citizenship education, including to prevent violent extremism and youth radicalisation. Irina Bokova also underlined the importance of cooperation in defending freedom of expression online and offline, as well as to countering hate speech and harnessing the Internet as a force for peace. The importance of promoting gender equality was also highlighted.
UNESCO and the Council of Europe could also consider deepening cooperation in the fight against racism and discrimination. Irina Bokova noted avenues to explore on migration issues, with an emphasis on the role of local governments, as well as the media, in promoting the inclusion of migrants in receiving societies, and by countering negative stereotypes and prejudice.
In the field of culture, the Director-General pointed to need to build synergies between the two organizations drawing on all UNESCO culture conventions, to strengthen all efforts to safeguard cultural heritage and to prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. She underlined the power for all to share to be found in cultural heritage and cultural diversity.
The intervention of the Director-General was followed by an active debate on a wide range of issues raised by Member States -- from education to freedom of expression and promoting cultural heritage and diversity, and gender equality.
The debate highlighted the strong desire for stronger and wider partnership between UNESCO and the Council of Europe, on the continent and more widely, including to take forward the 2030 Agenda.
"I see new opportunities to strengthen advocacy, to lead joint actions," said the Director-General, "and I look forward to exploring these fully to make the most of our partnership, for synergies, for coordination."
On this occasion, the Director-General held a bilateral meeting with Ms Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe. This was an opportunity to review next steps in deepening cooperation on a range of issues raised by Member States.