» Director-General chairs new initiative against violent extremism
19.09.2017 - ODG

Director-General chairs new initiative against violent extremism

© UNESCO/Joel Sheakoski

On 18 September, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, chaired the Global Hope Coalition Summit in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, an initiative bringing together public leaders, private sector ‎and civil society advocates in the fight against intolerance and violent extremism.

On this occasion, a special tribute to everyday Heroes in the Global Campaign against Violent Extremism and Intolerance was held in the New York Public Library. The event highlighted individuals leading the struggle to prevent and counter violent extremism -- including Muzoon Almellehan (Syria), Dr Waleed Arian (Afghanistan), Colonel Matthew Bogdanos (USA), Jim Estill (Canada), May Makhzoumi (Lebanon),  Dr Denis Mukwege (Congo), Mansour Al-Nogaidan (Saudi Arabia), Sammy Rangel (USA), Lt. Kochar Saleh (Iraq) and Latifa Ibn Ziaten (France-Morocco). The event was moderated by CNN journalist, Brooke Baldwin.

The occasion brought together high-level speakers and guests including the President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta; the President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev; the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo; the President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca; His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid of Marocco, HE Dr Ibrahim Al Jafaari Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, HE Minister Falah Mustafa, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair; former First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush; and UNESCO Special Envoy, Forest Whitaker.

"If there is one lesson we learned in the struggle for human rights, it is the importance of hope,” said the Director-General. “Today, more than ever, we need new heroes to inspire hope to defend the values and freedoms that make us who we are…”

The Summit brought together Heads of State and government and United Nations heads of agencies, business leaders, cultural icons, philanthropists and human rights activists to launch the Global Hope Coalition to prevent and counter violent extremism and intolerance, preserve cultural and promote intercultural dialogue. Ms Deborah Lehr is the Chairman of the Board of the Global Hope Coalition USA. Mr Abe Radkin is Global Coordinator of Global Hope Coalition.

‎"With the newly formed Global Hope Coalition," said Irina Bokova, "we're coming together as a global community to help fight violent extremism and intolerance, protect cultural heritage, and encourage intercultural dialogue."

On the same occasion, Ambassador Ron Lauder presented a special tribute to the late Samuel Pisar -- UNESCO Special Envoy -- for his championship of human rights and dignity in the fight against anti-semitism, represented by Judith Pisar, UNESCO goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy.

In the same context, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan presented a special award to Ms Laura Bush, former First Lady.

On the same day, the Director-General took part in the Global Hope Panel Discussion on “Women, Children, and the trauma of Extremism: An Urgent Call to Action” in the presence of the First Ladies of Mali and Rwanda, where they discussed the need to protect the most vulnerable victims of terrorism and violent extremism.

"We need strong measures to tackle this challenge, starting as early as possible, through education for human rights and for a culture of peace," said H.E. Ms Keïta Aminata Maïga, the First Lady of Mali, reminding all of the millennial history of Mali as a hub of learning and model of tolerance and living together.

"We have lived through great pain and loss during the genocide," said H.E. Ms Jeanette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda‎, reminding of the urgent need to act as early as possible against the warning signs of violent extremism.

“Women and children stand on the frontline of this struggle, and shoulder its heaviest burdens, for which we must support them,” said Irina Bokova. "At the same time, girls and women are increasingly vulnerable to the lure of radicalisation.”

“We must respond with the most powerful weapon we have,” declared Irina Bokova. “Education is the way to disarm processes that can lead to violent extremism, and to address the trauma of extremism."

In addition, the Director-General opened the Global Hope Coalition Leadership Council conversation on the theme of “Cultural heritage under attack : how to fight back ?” opened by Deborah Lehr, Chairman of the Board of the GHC USA, chaired by Ambassador Ron Lauder, with Fouad Makhzoumi, Juan Zarate, as well as Richard Kurin, Ambassador at Large, the Smithsonian Institution, Emily Rafferty, President emerita of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Professor Iber Ortayli‎ and HE Minister N'Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo of Mali.

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