Irina Bokova leads the 3rd High Panel on Peace and Dialogue among Cultures
“This is a moment for debate about a key issue for lasting peace and sustainable development today – how to engage young people and to empower them to lead the world towards greater justice, stability and inclusive development." said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at the 3rd meeting of the High Panel on Peace and Dialogue among Cultures held on 19 November in UNESCO Headquarters. The theme of the debate is “Building Peace: UNESCO’s role in the next decade” – with special emphasis on engaging youth in building sustainable peace and societies.
The Director-General underlined the importance of this meeting at a time during which UNESCO is also elaborating its future Medium-Term Strategy for 2014-2021.
The meeting brought together decision-makers, intellectuals and artists from all regions of the world including:
- His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud (Saudi Arabia), Chairman, Board of Directors, King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies
- Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser (Qatar), President of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly; High Representative, Designate, of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
- Akhtar A. Badshah (USA), Senior Director of Microsoft Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Homi K. Bhabha (India), Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities & Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University
- Vicente Fox (Mexico), Former President of Mexico (2000-2006), co-President of the Centrist Democrat International and founder of the Vicente Fox Center of Studies, Library and Museum
- Attiya Inayatullah (Pakistan), Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and former Minister for Women Development Social Welfare of Pakistan
- Nasser David Khalili (United Kingdom), Scholar and entrepreneur, Founder of the Khalili Collections; Chairman of the Maimonides Foundation and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
- Amin Maalouf (Lebanon), Author, Member of the Académie française. Prix Goncourt in 1993 (Novel:“The Rock of Tanios”). Awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature (2010 edition)
- Luc Montagnier (France), Virologist, laureate of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- Jean Ping (Gabon), former Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (2008-2012), President of the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, and former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and la Francophonie of the Gabonese Republic (1999-2008)
- Laetitia Yamon Sagno (Guinea), Vice-President of "O.S.E.R. l'Afrique” and Project Manager on Africa of the Center for Studies and Prospective Strategy
- Rabbi Arthur Schneier (USA), President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, New York
- Vladimir Yakunin (Russian Federation), Founding President of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”
Throughout the exchanges, the members of the High Panel explored how to best promote the twin objectives of lasting peace and sustainable development with youth at the helm of positive change. To succeed, the High Panel agreed, UNESCO must work not only for young people, but with them.
The High Panel explored the rise of new technologies providing new tools and vehicles for dialogue and for learning as perhaps never before. However, the Panel discussed UNESCO’s role in contributing to developing truly inclusive content and equal access to ensure this dialogue draws on all voices and all experiences of young people from all cultures. The focus fell on UNESCO’s role in developing educational curricula for skills and also for values, along with the strengthening of cultural literacy competences.
As Amin Maalouf stated in the discussion, “the question is not if we can live together but how, because there is no choice –there is only one planet.” This was echoed by the statement of Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, that “we are different cultures, but only one world.”
His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud said, “the world is becoming smaller but there is a sense of disjointedness.” In this spirit, Irina Bokova underlined the imperatives of social inclusion and equity to sustain both peace and development. The members of the High Panel addressed the challenges of an ever more fragmented world in which peace must be actively searched for and constructed in the same way as peace was actively pursued following the two World Wars and the genocides that have devastated the world in the past decades. In this context, Rabbi Arthur Schneier stressed that “you cannot change the past but you can certainly help build tomorrow”.
“The search for rapid growth should not lead us to lose sight of core values whose impact is difficult to quantify but which are fundamental to the growth of humanity as single community,” said the Director-General. “The role of UNESCO is precisely to uphold and strengthen the commitment of all to these shared values, especially among young women and men.”
In this context, the High Panel made a strong call for more effective multilateralism. The Director-General highlighted the importance of UNESCO’s partnership with the Alliance of Civilizations and her commitment to deepen this ever further.
This was the subject of the bilateral meeting between the Director-General and Excellency Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, who will assume leadership of the UN Alliance of Civilizations on 1 January 2013. Both reaffirmed the need for stronger multilateral cooperation to facilitate mediation, intercultural dialogue, as well as youth engagement, and both committed to deepen the partnership between UNESCO and the Alliance of Civilizations to these ends.
The call for new humanism was a leitmotif throughout the discussion. In this respect, Homi K. Bhabha noted the vital importance of the humanities in all education, in line also with the priorities of the United Nations Secretary-General’s new global initiative, Education First. He further emphasized that globalization certainly provides many tools but we should not forget to focus on the contents of these tools and the teaching of the humanities is central in this respect in order to help develop critical thinking amongst youth.
The High Panel is a forum established by the Director-General in 2010, on the occasion of The International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Its mission is to accompany UNESCO’s work by introducing a diversity of perspectives from various regions of the world and a wide range of stakeholders.