(Photo: UNESCO)

Education is our greatest ‘soft power’ for peace

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(Reposted from: UNESCO.  September 20, 2017)

On 20 September 2017, on the margins of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, took part in a high-level side event on “Making Education for Peace”.

Organized by the President of Romania, H.E. Mr Klaus Werner Iohannis, moderated by Mr Igor Remus Pricopie, Rector of National ‎School of Political Studies, with participation from the Moldova Prime Minister Pavel Filip and Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, as well as former Afghan Education Minister Haneef Atmar and David Malone, Rector of UNU.

President Iohannis stated “education for peace is the key stone of our vision for the future of our countries.” 

The President called for education for peace and civic education at the heart of conflict prevention and peacebuilding — as a human right for every child.

Prime Minister Filip was clear: “security measures are not enough to prevent conflict and terrorism — we need comprehensive measures starting with education, with support to children, to their rights and their full development, especially in situations of tension.”

“Education is a basic human right that provides sustainability to all development – it is also our greatest ‘soft power’ force for peace, a force to prevent violent extremism and advance respect and tolerance,” declared the Director-General. “This is why education stands at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as a stand-alone goal that is essential for all goals.”

“Education today cannot only be about learning to read, write and count,” said the Director-General. “Every generation is faced with a unique challenge – our challenge today is to promote the values of inclusion and peace, to build new forms of solidarity based on human rights, global citizenship and tolerance.”

“This must begin on the benches of schools,” concluded Irina Bokova.

As former Minister Haneef Atmar said, “we need to teach peace to prevent terrorism from teaching our children.”

Education for peace has become one of the main priorities for UNESCO and other UN bodies, starting with the concept of education for peace as a fundamental right. UNESCO is acting across the board, through teacher training, through education planning, media literacy and literacy for young people. This includes teaching the history of the Holocaust and other genocides to fight discrimination and anti-Semitism, UNESCO’s literacy programme in Afghanistan providing skills to 6 000 000 women and men, and capacity building to prevent violent extremism through education with countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa and the Sahel. In addition, education and skills for young women and men are the heart of UNESCO’s work with Forest Whitaker, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, in Mexico, South Sudan and Uganda.

“The pen is my sword, a girl inscribed on the Aysweha–Durrani Girls School in Kabul — this is our message,” said Irina Bokova.

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