Irina Bokova champions inclusion at 2016 Conference of Montreal
On 15 June, 2016, the UNESCO Director-General gave a keynote speech at the 22nd International Economic Forum of the Americas. Coming under the overall theme of ‘Shaping a New Era of Prosperity,’ Irina Bokova spoke on the importance of inclusion for shared prosperity, before a room packed with several hundred leaders from government to business and civil society.
Irina Bokova began by congratulating Canada for its deep-rooted commitment to advancing inclusion for shared prosperity.
“The lessons of history are clear,” she said. “The most prosperous, the most resilient, the strongest societies are those that are the most inclusive, building on democratic debate and the strengths of all their members.”
Irina Bokova said inclusion is essential to give every woman and man a chance to shape the destiny of their societies, building on diversity as a force for innovation and creativity, as well as on respect for human rights. She pointed to the importance here of education, along with intercultural dialogue and freedom of expression, and she highlighted the vital need to empower girls and women as a transformational force. «This is the spirit of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which makes the promise to leave no one behind,” she said.
The Director-General highlighted the rising challenge of youth inclusion. “Young women and men today are the most educated, connected and outspoken generation the world has ever known,” she said. “At the same time, they shoulder the heaviest burdens of change.”
She pointed to staggering figures of youth exclusion, with 73 million young people unemployed, and over 200 million young women and men living on less than US$1 a day. An estimated 1.5 billion people live in fragile or conflict affected countries – 40 percent of them are young people.
In this context, Irina Bokova made a powerful plea for inclusion. “Inclusion cannot wait until growth has returned, until a conflict is over, until the dust settles after a disaster. Societies and economies are transforming across the world – we need inclusion built into all processes, to ensure transformation is positive for all, today and tomorrow.”
Irina Bokova emphasized the importance of education to provide young people with the skills they need for a world of change and societies with well-educated citizens. The conclusions of studies on the power of education show that one extra year of schooling can increase an individual’s earnings by up to 10 percent and average annual GDP by 0.37 percent. The impact of educating girls and young women reaches across the board. The IMF recently estimated that if women participated in the labour market to the same extent as men, GDP could increase by 5 percent in the United States, by 9 percent in Japan, and by 27 percent in India.
Irina Bokova pointed to the powerful business case for education, and called for more innovative partnerships with the private sector to take forward education goals of benefit to all society.
“Education today must be more than learning to read and write – it must nurture the values and behaviours we need for the 21st century,” said the Director-General. She pointed to the need for education for sustainable development and new forms of global citizenship education. She also underlined the leading role of education in the prevention of violent extremism, as well as through the ‘soft power’ of intercultural dialogue, civic engagement and new forms of media literacy. In this respect, Irina Bokova thanked Mr Philippe Couillard, Premier of Québec, for his leadership and support in organising a second international conference in October in Montreal on preventing youth radicalisation on the Internet.
The UNESCO Director-General gave the speech in the presence of S.E. Christine St-Pierre, Ministre des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie du Québec,as well as Mr Michael Fortier, Vice-Chairman of RBC Capital Markets, Mr Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, Mr Louis Audet, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cogeco and Cogeco Communications, and Professor Alan Shepard, President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia University.
The Director-General closed with the words of Lester B. Pearson, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957: “Of all our dreams today there is none more important -- or so hard to realise -- than that of peace in the world. May we never lose our faith in it or our resolve to do everything that can be done to convert it one day into reality.”
As UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova is a member of the Board of Governors of the Conference of Montreal, and Co-Chair of the 2016 Conference.
The Conference of Montreal is committed to heightening knowledge and awareness of the major issues concerning economic globalization, with a particular emphasis on the relations between the Americas and other continents. The Conference also strives to foster exchanges of information, to promote free discussion on major current economic issues and facilitate meetings between world leaders to encourage international discourse by bringing together Heads of State, the private sector, international organizations and civil society.
<- Back to: All news