Soft Power for the 21st Century
On 1 November, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, addressed the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on “Soft Power and Global Governance in the 21st Century”.
Speaking before a large audience of decision-makers, business leaders, university rectors and professors, media, Irina Bokova explored the challenges facing all societies today, and the role of UNESCO to promote soft power as foundations for strengthening global governance -- especially in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The event was opened by Mr Gil Rémillard, Founding Chairman of the International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA), Mr Pierre Lemonde, President of the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, and closed by HE Ms Hélène David, Minister for Higher Education of Quebec.
Ms Manon Gauthier, Member of Executive Council, for Culture, Heritage, Design and Living Space and the Status of Women, Montréal City, also spoke in the introduction. Ms C. Cameron, President of Canadian Commission for UNESCO, was also present.
“In a world of diversity, building peace starts with living together, through social media, in the workplace, in the theatres and public spaces of multicultural cities,” said the Director-General, underscoring the need to learn how to live in diversity, through education and skills, new and sharper public policies.
The Director-General noted the rise in too many countries of the politics of withdrawal and rejection, highlighting also new forms of violent extremists, placing a premium on dialogue, on the basis of respect and mutual understanding.
“It is precisely in this turbulent context that we must do everything to restore confidence in the potential of cooperation and dialogue, and give new meaning to the culture of tolerance,” said the Director-General.
“We need ‘soft power’ to build a culture of peace through education, culture, sciences and communication and information.”
In all this, the Director General highlighted the rising importance of UNESCO’s cooperation with Canada, and she thanked the Government for its champion support, in areas ranging from freedom of expression to advancing Holocaust education, and actions to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda. She noted here the leading role of Quebec, as a beacon of diversity, culture and dialogue.
Irina Bokova commended the profound commitment to promote cultural diversity as a force for peace, embodied also by the city of Montreal, a UNESCO Creative City for Design.
In closing, the Director-General cited the great Canadian advocate for peace, Leaster B. Pearson, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957:
“Of all our dreams today there is none more important - or so hard to realize - 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.”
On the same occasion, Irina Bokova, held a meeting with 10 of Canada’s UNESCO University Chairs, from Quebec.
“I see UNESCO’s global network of University Chairs as one of the jewels in the Organisation’s crown,” said the Director-General, thanking chairholders for their commitment, as ambassadors for the values and priorities of the Organization, key actors in building knowledge societies.
The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme was launched in 1992. It promotes international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. There are 19 UNESCO University Chairs in Canada as a whole, with 12 in Quebec.
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