Education, dialogue to foster peace

Education, dialogue to foster peace

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
Education, dialogue to foster peace I see the Eurasian Economic Summit as an opportunity for critical reflection on the steps that must be taken to make the world a more tolerant place for everyone, and especially, for the most vulnerable communities. In an increasingly interdependent world, we must do much more to strengthen joint actions to promote pluralism, peace, justice and human solidarity as the foundation for a more just, inclusive and sustainable future for all.

Peace and security are closely linked to guaranteeing fundamental freedoms. Societies cannot be secure when over a billion people live in extreme poverty; when people lack access to education, health services and nutrition and when women do not fully enjoy equal rights. The nature of peace is also changing in a world marked by rapid integration. New tensions have arisen that all too often find expression in prejudice and fractures between different cultures and beliefs. While cultures and religions are not in themselves the cause of war or conflict, they have often been used as a pretest for inciting confrontation. Ignorance is invariably is at the root of intolerance, hatred and – ultimately – armed conflict and war. In many cases, conflict arises when dialogue falters or breaks down, just as it can often be mitigated or prevented through dialogue.

Nurturing a culture of peace calls for efforts at all levels to promote intercultural and interreligious understanding. A culture of peace must be underpinned by shared values. There is no better place to promote mutual dialogue, respect and understanding than through inclusive education systems. It is my firm belief that education is the key to fostering peaceful, non-violent and equitable societies. 

Education is essential to promote respect and mutual understanding and to tackling stereotypes and exclusion. By developing capacities for independent judgment, critical thinking and ethical reasoning, we can raise awareness about people’s shared rights and freedoms and encourage tolerance in all areas of public life. For this, we need to mobilize educators, the media, as well as public and private institutions to redouble all efforts to raise awareness on the dangers of intolerance and to promote dialogue and nonviolence.

Likewise, peace and sustainable development cannot be achieved without investing in gender equality. Empowering girls and women is a key to building more just and sustainable societies. We must also ensure that all young people are engaged as respected partners in peace-building processes and sustainable development efforts. The culture of peace is one of peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution, education for non-violence, tolerance, mutual respect and dialogue. It is closely linked to the new humanism, with human beings at the core of all the development processes.

UNESCO is acting across the world to promote the rights and freedoms that fall within its fields of competence – notably, the right to education, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to participate in cultural life, and the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. Within its partners, UNESCO is committed to making standards and principles of international human rights law understood as widely as possible. We need stronger joint efforts to disseminate the values of tolerance and dialogue, to increase knowledge of other cultures and to foster respect for the dignity of all. These are foundations for building the defenses of peace in the minds of men and women, which is UNESCO’s core mission and which remains, 70 years after the organization’s foundation, more relevant than ever.

UNESCO takes this agenda forward at many levels – through education for human rights, through the safeguarding of cultural heritage and through the promotion of cultural diversity as a source of strength for all societies to share. I am convinced that all of this holds the key to more inclusive, more peaceful and stable, more tolerant and stronger societies. Together, we must shape a humanist response to globalization and the forms of vulnerability that permeate societies in transformation.

In this spirit, I wish you all fruitful discussions at this important summit and I thank you again for your engagement with the goals we share.