Remarks by the High Representative for the Alliance of United Civilizations
at the UNITAR event on ‘Peace, Education and Dialogue’
New York, September 26, 2022
Excellency Mr. Nikhil Seth, Assistant General, Executive Director of UNITAR
Your Excellency Dr. Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the King Hamad Center for Peaceful Coexistence,
I am very happy to talk about this important topic. The interdependence between peace and education and the interdependence of peace and dialogue.
Just a few days ago, the Secretary-General of the United Nations convened the Transformative Education Summit. He set out his vision for education which was also included in his Our Common Agenda report.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on learning around the world and negatively impacted progress on Sustainable Development Goal 4. The pandemic has also exposed the digital divide that has deprived billions of students from all over the world to access the courses.
But even before the pandemic, we saw setbacks in our education systems, from inequalities in educational opportunities to poor quality of education in many countries around the world, including rich ones. Current education systems are failing students and societies. They are not suitable for use.
Looking at the current global scene, we see a sharp increase in stigma, polarization, racism and hate speech against vulnerable communities. This is where education comes in. Teaching universal humanistic values of compassion, mutual respect, diversity and human dignity for all.
While traditional education, focused on improving literacy and facilitating the transmission of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next, remains vital, there is a growing need for transformative education such as global citizenship education that nurtures these universally shared values. Traditional education and transformative education complement each other.
Transformative education is one that develops students’ ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world and equips students with a set of skills that meet the needs of the new labor market.
We at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations have long recognized that education is an essential part of any healthy, diverse, just and inclusive society. Therefore, education is one of the pillars of UNAOC’s work intersecting with the youth pillar.
Here are some examples of these projects/programs
UNAOC Youth Peacebuilders Program is a peace education initiative that creates a safe space to help young people acquire knowledge and skills to strengthen their positive role in issues of peace, security and the prevention of violent extremism. The program also brings visibility to actions initiated by young people in favor of peace and the promotion of diversity and dialogue.
The scholarship program promotes cross-cultural cooperation between young civil society leaders from Europe, North America and the MENA region. During their educational exchange trips, UNAOC Fellows interact with a wide range of local actors to explore opportunities for collaboration and exchange good practices on how to address current global challenges (including violent extremism) .
The PLURAL+ youth video festivala partnership between UNAOC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), supports the global distribution of youth-produced media, amplifying youth voices on topics such as migration, diversity and social inclusion.
The Youth Solidarity Fund supports youth-led organizations that promote peaceful and inclusive societies. Seed funding and capacity building are provided to projects that demonstrate innovative and effective approaches to intercultural and interfaith dialogue.
Global Forums of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) are a leading platform for the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the prevention of violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism, as well as forging collaboration with like-minded partners. Participants include members of government, policy makers, experts, representatives of civil society and the United Nations. Youth events take place during UNAOC Global Forums and are designed as an opportunity for dialogue between young people and decision-makers.
The United Nations Plan of Action for the Safeguarding of Religious Sites developed by my office in 2019 following the attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Action Plan devotes a section to the issue of prevention to identify and address the underlying root causes and societal grievances that lead individuals and groups to carry out terrorist attacks against people of other faiths in their places of worship. Among the recommendations to States and religious leaders, emphasis is placed on investing in education from an early age to ensure that children have access to programs that promote tolerance and mutual understanding; and on the promotion of educational initiatives that highlight the role of religious sites in bringing people together.
We have learned that empathy, compassion, respect for diversity and the ability to recognize and challenge discrimination are key skills that young people need to learn. These skills can only be learned at home or at school, especially at an early age. These traits are universal and overarching values that form an essential component of global citizenship education. It protects increasingly polarized societies. Recent research shows that social-emotional skills help build resilience in young people, especially in times of crisis. In collaboration with UNESCO, UN Counter-Terrorism and the Mahatma Ghandi Institute, we have partnered in the project “Intercultural Dialogue and Socio-Emotional Skills for Peacebuilding”. This is a video game project training young people to use video games in peacebuilding.
We have invested in the use of sports and video games as accessible and effective educational tools
Finally, UNAOC has created a global space for dialogue through its biannual Global Forums in which state and non-state actors, including youth, religious actors, religious leaders, media experts, academics and business leaders, explore new ideas through meaningful dialogue in which they truly listen to each other in a spirit of mutual respect and acceptance. On this note, I wish to inform you that the 9th UNAOC Global Forum will be held in Fes, Morocco on 22-23 November 2022.