In Africa, ancestral social relations based on the traditional values of family solidarity, clan unity and social cohesion have been and continue to be sorely tested by modern economies. Economic inequality and the exclusion of social groups in all sectors of the population are among the many factors of instability that exacerbate the loss of meaning of the African traditions of solidarity and sharing. They are not the only causes but they are the most visible ones and they generate the most rapid transformations – rampant urbanization, rural exodus, insecure employment, street children, insecurity and mass youth emigration. The prevalence of certain practices rooted in ancestral traditions does not encourage the promotion of freedoms and rights, in particular those of women and girls.
How can an approach that focuses on social ties be reconciled with one that concentrates on the economic good?
How can extant “traditional” education based on established relations be linked to the requirements of a “modern” and resolutely outward-looking education? How can these tensions be prevented from becoming permanent conflicts and threats to stability and development?
In Africa, too, many conflicts and wars have broken out within and between States in the last three decades, with consequences such as the mass displacement of entire populations, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, and the destruction of social and cultural infrastructure.
In particular, education systems, the cultural heritage, scientific and cultural infrastructure and biodiversity have been affected indirectly by these conflicts and have been damaged irreparably in many cases.
These conflicts might also lead to other evils such as organized crime, piracy, drug trafficking, environmental depredation and a booming war economy, all of which further weaken many States that are still unstable and vulnerable in terms of security and stability.
Action of UNESCO
The challenge of a culture of peace and collective security continues to be topical issues for UNESCO. UNESCO is involved, through several sectoral and intersectoral programmes, in resolving the abovementioned problematic issues and it will continue, through innovative action, to work closely with regional African bodies to that end.
Ongoing programmes designed to promote a culture of peace and to support education, in particular education for peace and education for sustainable development (ESD), culture as a pillar of sustainable development and the teaching of the General History of Africa are all examples of activities which will be pursued. These are some of the levers UNESCO could activate for ensuring that ongoing social transformations are forces of peace, development and continuity.