Building peace in the minds of men and women

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The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, is on an official visit to El Salvador from 6 to 8 May 2013. She is expected to meet with the President of El Salvador, HE Mr Mauricio Funes, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of Culture of the Presidency, the Minister of Education, the Vice minister of Education, the Vice minister of Science and Technology, the First Lady, and Secretary of Social Inclusion, and the Director-General of Integral Social Development.

The Director-General will also meet the Rector of the University of El Salvador, Mario Roberto Nieto Lovo, the oldest and most prominent university in El Salvador, as well as the Vice-president of El Salvador and Member of the Tri-national Commission of the Trifinio Plan, Salvador Sánchez Cerén. Trifinio Fraternidad is a transboundary biosphere reserve shared by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

 Irina Bokova will visit the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed on the list in 1993, the Project Ciudad Mujer and the Monument to Memory and Truth located in Cuscatlan Park in downtown San Salvador.

On 6 May, the Director-General met with the President of Costa Rica, H.E. Ms Laura Chinchilla, in a breakfast meeting in the Presidential House which included also the Minister Culture and Youth, Mr Manuel Obregón, the Minister of Education, Mr Leonardo Garnier, the Minister of Science, Technology and Telecommunications, Mr Alejandro Cruz and the Minister of Communications, Mr Francisco Chacón.

The discussion focused on the cooperation between UNESCO and Costa Rica. Irina Bokova referred to the fruitful working sessions she had with Ministers and the perspectives of strengthening cooperation in key priority areas, such as the reform of education, the preservation of biodiversity,  information and communication technology (ICTs) for sustainable development, and  the role of culture in the post 2015 development agenda.

The President reiterated her appreciation to the Director-General for organizing World Press Freedom Day in Costa Rica. While highlighting the impact of these celebrations both in the region and worldwide, President Chinchilla recalled the need for a constant dialogue between all parties involved for creating and preserving a space of free speech and freedom of expression.


Inclusive textbooks and learning materials can open students’ minds to other cultures and help teachers cultivate the values and skills for learning to live together.

“A good textbook must engage students and relate to their reality,” declares Jean Bernard of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. A producer of learning materials and advisor on textbook quality, Bernard believes that all textbooks and learning materials should reflect the principles of education for citizenship and peace  

“Textbooks and other pedagogical materials do not simply organize and pass on knowledge, but mirror the values of their particular society,” says Sylvie Cromer, sociologist at Lille University2 and researcher at the Institut national d’études Démographiques. 

The medium and the message

Ever since 1946, UNESCO and its partners have led textbook reviews in order to remove negative stereotypes and encourage a culture of peace. The recommendations of the German-Polish Textbook Commission, established in 1972 with UNESCO support, have been widely used around the world. UNESCO has also coordinated comparative research on textbooks in the context of the Euro-Arab dialogue.

Drafting or revising history, geography and civics textbooks in particular can require great cultural sensitivity, especially in post-conflict settings. “By taking into account the viewpoint of populations who have been dominated, or that of minorities, textbooks can help develop critical thinking and cultivate peace”, explains Cromer.

The revision process is not limited to textbooks alone.  “In considering the usefulness of all learning media – from textbooks to Twitter – as catalysts for creating sustainable peace and building competencies for global citizenship, it is important to take into account both the medium and message”, remarks Bernard.

A new toolkit 

UNESCO has designed a new toolkit for writing stereotype-free textbooks. Financed by Saudi Arabia, the toolkit is designed to help remove cultural, religious and gender-biased stereotypes from curricula and learning materials. To test the tool before its publication in September 2013, UNESCO is organizing a workshop in Rabat (Morocco) from 6-9 May 2013 for authors, publishers, curriculum developers and experts in textbook development from 15 countries to work with the toolkit designers and test for usability and relevance. The feedback will be used to improve all aspects of the toolkit.

“The UNESCO-Saudi project is ground-breaking because it pulls together the best of UNESCO's recent work on textbooks and learning resources in the form of a toolkit for virtually everyone involved in the cycle of textbook development, distribution and use,” say Bernard. “It adjusts the notion of what a textbook is and how it is used in line with the realities of the information age without neglecting the principles of tolerance, mutual respect, equality and peace building based on six decades of textbook research and revision carried out by UNESCO and its partners”.  

“The idea is to give publishers, ministries, pedagogical institutions and teachers - in fact the whole editorial chain of command - a methodical approach to ensure that publications avoid stereotypes and prejudices,” says Cromer. 

The UNESCO-Saudi Arabia project is framed by the agreement between UNESCO and Saudi Arabia to support the Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Programme for a Culture of Peace and Dialogue.

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Thirty-nine nation States, territories, and commonwealths* are taking part in an exercise that will test Pacific Rim countries’ reactivity in the event of a tsunami from 1 to 14 May. Organized by the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/PTWS), created under the aegis of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the simulation aims to validate proposed new tsunami forecasting products of the U.S.A.’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC).

The new international products, under development since 2011 and slated for adoption in 2014, include tsunami wave forecasts that will help countries improve their response capability.  The enhancements are expected to reduce significantly the number of areas warned unnecessarily and to help provide advanced notice of potential local tsunamis.

Exercise Pacific Wave 2013 (PacWave13), as the test is called, simulates a tsunami warning situation requiring government decision-making regarding three scenarios for possible earthquakes occurring either off the northern coasts of Japan, the Philippines or Chile, that will generate destructive tsunamis.  Each country of the Pacific is selecting one of these three scenarios for its participation in the exercise, whose outcome will be evaluated by 31 May 2013. Messages are being sent from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Hawaii (U.S.A) and the Northwest Pacific Tsunami Advisory Centre in Japan to focal points designated in each country to respond to a threat of tsunami.

The ICG/PTWS was established in 1965 by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission following the deadly tsunami that hit the coasts of Chile, U.S.A, and Japan in 1960. The purpose of the Group is to facilitate the speedy dissemination of alerts across the region and to support countries’ ability to respond to and mitigate tsunamis locally. PacWave exercises were carried out in 2006, 2008 and 2011.

About 75% of the world’s deadly tsunamis have occurred in the Pacific Ocean and connected seas. Four struck the region over the past five years: Samoa, American Samoa (U.S.A.), and Tonga were hit in 2009, Chile in 2010, Japan in 2011, and the Solomon Islands in 2013. Worldwide, an average of one or two local tsunamis have struck every year over the past century.


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*Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, Colombia, Chili, Cook Islands, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Nauru, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, USA (American Samoa,Guam, Northern Mariana Islands) Vanuatu, Vietnam.  Kuwait and Pakistan are taking part as observers.

Media contact: Sue Williams, UNESCO Press Service: +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 06, s.williams(at)

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UNESCO, the national authorities of China and the municipality of Hangzhou are organizing an International Congress on the critical role of culture for sustainable development. Entitled “Culture: Key to Sustainable Development” the international Congress which will take place in Hangzhou, China, from 15 to 17 May will set a landmark in the global debate on shaping the 2015 global development agenda and beyond.

UNESCO has long advocated that culture is essential to sustainable development, because of the resources it embodies for individuals and communities as a source of innovation and creativity.

“Culture is what makes us who we are, it gives us strength, and it provides answers to many of the challenges we face today,” said UNESCO Director-General of UNESCO. “This power is increasingly recognized by countries across the world. We need now determined political will to act on this recognition, to mainstream culture in all development strategies and programmes at global, regional and local levels, to integrate culture within national development goals. This calls for the development of clear indicators and targets, to measure the impact of culture on sustainable development, so as to inform decision-making and development policies.”

For UNESCO, culture must be seen as a driver of development, led by the growth of the cultural sector and creative industries and the benefits arising from safeguarding tangible and intangible cultural heritage, as well as the benefits of investing in creativity.  It is also an enabler for sustainable development -- the context in which development policies can move forward, through local ownership, with efficiency and impact.

The facts speak for themselves. Today, cultural heritage, cultural and creative industries, sustainable cultural tourism, and cultural infrastructure generate substantial revenues, notably in developing countries thereby fighting poverty and unemployment. Cultural and creative industries represent one of the most rapidly expanding sectors in the global economy with a growth rate of 17.6 % in the Middle East, 13.9 % in Africa, 11.9% in South America, 9.7 % in Asia, 6.9 % in Oceania, and 4.3 % in North and Central America, according to a 2008 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The sector requires limited capital investment, yet it has a direct impact on communities, including especially vulnerable populations, women and marginalized groups. In Ecuador, for example, studies show that formal and private cultural activities contributed 4.76% to the 2010 GDP. In the same year, 2.64% of the country’s employed population worked in cultural occupations, almost 60% of the latter being women, according to a 2012 study by UNESCO and the Government of Ecuador.

There is far more to the power of culture for development than economic growth. Non-monetary benefits of culture-led development include greater social inclusiveness and rootedness, resilience, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for individuals and communities.

Cultural factors influence lifestyles, consumption patterns, values related to our interaction with and stewardship of the natural environment. It also encompasses local and indigenous knowledge systems and environmental management practices which provide valuable insight and tools with which to tackle ecological challenges, such as the loss of biodiversity, and land degradation, and climate change, not to mention its key role in enabling people to lead satisfying intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual lives.

The International Congress “Culture: Key to Sustainable Development”, which will bring together 450 policy-makers, leaders from development institutions, representatives of the private sector, civil society, academia, and the arts,  is the key moment to examine all of these aspects of culture for development and to lay the ground for a strong post 2015 development agenda.

The Congress will adopt the Hangzhou Agenda on Culture and Sustainable Development, and is expected to yield evidence-based arguments for ways by which culture can strengthen sustainable development, providing substantive input to the discussions on the framework for the post-2015 development agenda.

The Hangzhou Congress will feature high-level thematic discussions and panels on a wide range of subjects including: “Culture in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda”, “Peace and Reconciliation: how culture makes the difference”, “Culture, Wellbeing and Human Development”, “Cultural Approaches to Addressing Poverty”, “Culture: a driver and an enabler of social cohesion”, “Culture: An enabler for environmental sustainability”, “Sustainable Cities, Heritage and Creativity” and “Public Private Partnerships in the culture sector”.

At a time of economic crisis, as well as cuts in public spending on culture, the Congress will be the opportunity to broaden the debate about development to harness culture’s transformative power in crafting a new post-2015 global development agenda. The goal is to inspire governments, civil society, businesses and communities to harness the power of culture in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.


Media contact

Jeff Lee - email: jj.lee(at)






At a meeting held on 4 May in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the Minister of Education and Chairperson of the National Commission for UNESCO Mr Leonardo Garnier Rimolo, the Minister of Culture and Youth Mr Manuel Obregon Lopez, the Minister of Science and Technology and Telecommunications, Mr Alejandro Cruz Molina, the Director-General had an exchange of views on the cooperation between UNESCO and Costa Rica in the Organization's fields of competence.

The reform of education and access to quality education especially at the secondary level, access to ICTs, especially for young people, cultural heritage, culture and development as well as support for the reorientation of the activities of the University for Peace, were among the topics discussed.

The meeting was chaired by the Vice-Minister for External Relations, Mr Carlos Rovenssi and was also attended by the Ambassador Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, MrJacques Sagot.

Before that, the Director-General undertook a visit to the Pre-Columbian chiefdom settlements with stone spheres of Diquis, inscribed on the Tentative List of World Heritage.

On 3rd May, the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was awarded to the imprisoned journalist Reyoot Alemu. The ceremony took place in San Jose, Costa Rica, in the presence of Laura Chinchilla, President of the Republic of Costa Rica.

The ceremony started by introductory remarks by Ms Ana Maria Busquets de Cano on behalf of the Guillermo Cano Isaza Foundation and Kalus Niemi of the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation followed by the President of the Jury Monjurul- Bulbul.

Referring to this year's World Press Freedom Day 's theme, ' Safe to speak' Securing freedom of expression in all media' the Director- General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, recalled that that Day was "an opportunity to renew our commitment to support  press freedom, to protect safety of journalists and to fight against impunity in all media". As she pointed out further, "the media landscape has changed beyond recognition over the twenty years we have celebrated the World Press Freedom Day, but our objective remain the same - to promote freedom of expression as a foundation for human dignity and the cornerstone of democracy". 

"It is an honor to participate in this award ceremony and that UNESCO has chosen us to host this event,” declared President Laura Chinchilla. “The fact that Costa Rica is the Latin American country with greater press freedom is something that we are pleased with but it also commits us to continue honoring those who defend freedom of the press”.

The Director-General also visited the University of Peace (UPEACE) where she delivered an address and unveiled a plaque in honor of UNESCO. 


The UNESCO conference "Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media" concluded in San Jose today with the adoption of a declaration calling on governmental and intergovernmental actors, NGOs and media professionals, to support the United Nations Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in order to guarantee universal freedom of expression on and offline.

The San Jose Declaration* also marks the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day. Adopted by more than 300 delegates, including four ministers, it reaffirms that Freedom of expression must “extend to all new media" and that the "universality of the Internet [...] is a prerequisite for freedom of the press and digital security of journalists”. 

The declaration underlines the deep concern “about the attacks on freedom of expression and in particular against those who practice journalism". 

It calls on UNESCO Member States “to create a safe legal and institutional environment for journalists to report”, and “ensure that crimes against journalists or media outlets are subject to independent, speedy and effective investigations and prosecutions”. It also calls on them to support implementation of the UN Plan of Action on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and to engage in inter-state co-operation on these issues; 

The text appeals to  journalists “to provide widespread publicity on crimes against journalists, particularly when these go unpunished, and to consider undertaking investigations on individual cases of impunity”. 

It encourages UNESCO “to continue monitoring safety of journalists worldwide” ;to “sensitize governments to the importance of freedom of expression and against threats that impunity for crimes against media practitioners represent by implementing the UN inter-agency Plan of Action on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”; and to facilitate dialogue among Member States and other stakeholders on the freedom of expression implications of social networks and new media”. 

Finally, it asks the Organization “to ensure that the inclusion of press freedom, safety of journalists, the issue of impunity and safety on-line are integrated in the international development agenda”.

The Conference also convened side-events involving 13 UN agencies in Latin America and government representatives from Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras. 

One of the highlights of the event  was the award ceremony on 3 May of the UNESCO / Guillermo Cano prize. The 2013 laureate is Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu, who is currently serving a five-year prison term. . All information and photographs from the ceremony can be found in the following article: "Who will reveal the hidden truths?"

Media contact:
Lucia Iglesias Kuntz,
Tel + 336631543036

*The full text of the Declaration will be published on UNESCO website.


The Federation of African Societies of Chemistry (FASC) is teaming up with Addis Ababa University to organize the First African Conference on Research in Chemistry Education on 5-7 December this year. University staff members, chemistry educators and chemistry teachers from across the African continent and beyond will come together in Addis Ababa for a unique pan-African forum, sharing ideas, best practices and new research findings to solve problems facing education in African countries.

Under the umbrella theme of Chemistry Education for Human Development in Africa, the conference will look at a wide range of subthemes, including education in nano-chemistry, microscale chemistry teaching, the pedagogical use of ICTs and multimedia, green chemistry, new trends in student assessment and ethical issues. The deadline for the receipt of abstracts is 15 August.
The Federation of African Societies of Chemistry was founded in 2006 with strong UNESCO backing. UNESCO Programme Specialist Dr Temechegn Engida from the International Institute for Capacity-Building in Addis Ababa was instrumental in federating African Societies of Chemistry and has been the federation's president since 2006. He will serve as Conference President.
The conference will mark the 50th anniversary of the African Union.

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