Director-General stresses the role of Education for Preventing Violent Extremism at Salisbury University
On 6 April, as part of her visit to the United States of America, Director-General Irina Bokova gave a lecture on “Preventing Violent Extremism in the 21st Century: Fostering a New Generation of Global Citizens” at Salisbury University in Maryland. Some 400 students and university staff attended the event, which was part of the “One Person Can Make a Difference” lecture series hosted by the Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution.
On this occasion, the Director-General was awarded the President’s Medal of Salisbury University. "I present this medal to Ms Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, in recognition of her lifelong dedication and service to the global community of Nations, and for her major contribution to ensuring that girls have equal access to education and are empowered in their communities as women; advancing dialogue among people and nations by building our common heritage; and promoting diversity," said Dr Janet Dudley-Eshbach, President of Salisbury University.
In her lecture, the Director-General reflected on ways for peace, the challenges of its construction and the difficulties related to its maintenance. “Across the world, we see conflicts changing shape, with culture moving to the frontline. […] We have seen intentional destruction of irreplaceable cultural landmarks, and organized looting for illicit trafficking. […] All of this is part of the same strategy of “cultural cleansing”. This seeks to destroy identities by eliminating heritage and cultural markers”, she stated.
The Director-General highlighted the importance of soft power in the struggle against violent extremism, emphasizing that radicalization, false interpretations of faith, hatred and intolerance cannot be countered through the exclusive use of hard power. She emphasized the crucial importance of education in fostering peace and preventing radicalization, underscoring that combatting violent extremism begins on the benches of school.
“Violent extremists are made – they are fueled. Young people are learning to hate – we must teach them peace. Violent extremists promote fear and division – we must respond with skills, with opportunities for civic engagement, for intercultural dialogue. Violent extremists preach exclusion and hatred. We must teach human rights, dignity, tolerance and solidarity.”
Referring to UNESCO's programme on Global Citizenship Education, the Director-General commended Professor Brennen, UNESCO Chair for Rural Community, Leadership and Youth Development. "Professor Brennen is one of UNESCO's greatest champions in the United States. His contribution to Global Citizenship Education is outstanding" she said.
The event at Salisbury University was by Professor Brian Polkinghorn, Distinguished Professor and Executive Director of the Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution at Salisbury University and Professor Mark Brennen, UNESCO Chair for Rural Community, Leadership and Youth Development at the Pennsylvania State University.
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