» The Director-General takes part in the 2nd Youth and Leaders Summit at Sciences Po Paris
16.01.2017 - ODG

The Director-General takes part in the 2nd Youth and Leaders Summit at Sciences Po Paris

On 16 January 2017, Irina Bokova, Director-General, participated in the second edition of the Youth and Leaders Summit, organized by the Sciences Po’ Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), at the initiative of its Dean, Enrico Letta, former President of the Italian Council of Ministers. For its 2017 edition, the focus of the event was on the migration crises.

The Director-General took part in this one-day event in the session entitled “The Migration Crises: Humanitarian Challenges”. The panel was introduced by a PSIA student, who draw a picture of some of the salient issues at stake – the relationship between migrations and extreme poverty and hunger; the exclusion dimension existing in the majority of the narratives on migrations, the need to respect human rights  and address the question of “how migrants have become the accepted faces of discrimination.”

Moderated by Maryline Baumard, journalist at Le Monde, this panel listened to the introductory remarks of all panelists: Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Emma Bonino, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy; and Bruno Stagno-Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director at Human Rights Watch, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica.

In her opening remarks, Irina Bokova commended the Paris School for International Affairs for organizing such a timely event on a question of critical importance.

“We often forget”, said the Director-General, “that the humanitarian crises happen mainly in the developing world. In this regard, it is only recently that the international community became cognizant of this issue,” adding that “previously, urgent support was provided without considering the development dimension”. Irina Bokova insisted on the imperative to ensure a strong link between the humanitarian intervention per se and all the aspects of developmental efforts, working over the long term – including through education, women’s empowerment, the protection of fundamental human rights.

One part of the UNESCO’s response, said Ms Bokova, is precisely to “link the humanitarian and the developmental, as emphasized during the World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul in May 2016, at the initiative of the United Nations which saw a strong presence of UNESCO”.

“Education must be seen as the key element”, she emphasized, recalling the 2011 Global Monitoring Report, dedicated to “Education in Emergency”, and the joint endeavours pursed by UNESCO together with the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui.

“Only 3% of humanitarian aid is currently dedicated to education”, said Irina Bokova. “We know that the European Union has promised to reinforce such aid, up to 6%, but our experts do consider that, to be of use in the medium and long term, the percentage to be reached is rather 10%”.

“When trying to tackle the current crisis, if we do not take into consideration the development agenda, in all its dimensions, we face the risk of seeing violent extremism spread in several regions”, added the Director-General. “This is where education is so important, and this is where UNESCO is active in supporting teachers, in helping to build curricula, to advance the recognition of diplomas, and in many other related areas”, she said.

“Education must become a key in solving, with political actors, current challenges and for our living together”, she concluded.

The Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Christine Beerli, stated, for her part, that the current migration crisis was, in her eyes, rather a crisis of the European Union to cope with the humanitarian challenges related to migrations. This major issue is not new, said Ms Beerli, as Europe has had migrations problems well before 2015. The emphasis should be put on welcoming refugees, taking into account the considerable percentage of internally-displaced refugees.

Emma Bonino, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, insisted on the importance of “integration” and on the challenge of the fight against stereotypes when dealing with the migration crisis.

“It is false to say that we are in the presence of the first major migration crisis”, said Ms Bonino. “Global mobility belongs to humanity”, she added. “Between the two World Wars, 20 million of Italians moved and left the country. This phenomenon is as ancient as humanity itself, and we should, therefore, stop being surprised and stop taking decisions by emotions. We have to go back to the reality of umbers and data”, stated Emma Bonino.

“The problem with linking the humanitarian framework with getting funds for aid is that it may very well lead to not taking into due account the basic human rights of refugees”, said Bruno Stagno-Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director at Human Rights Watch, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica. “We need a strong political solidarity when dealing with migrations and refugees, and the mainstreaming of human rights must always come first”, he added.

The distinguished panelists then discussed questions raised by the audience, touching upon several aspects of the topic. The importance of prevention and anticipation of similar crises was underlined, as well as the political support in the long term. Responding to a question on the practical importance of culture in the fight against stereotypes in societies, in the current context of the migration crisis and the rejection of “the other”, Ms Bokova emphasized the need to step up efforts to ensure the protection of heritage in times of humanitarian interventions.

“Every deliberate attack against cultural heritage in the world is an attack against our shared identity and living together”, she added. “Culture, in the wider sense, must be at the frontline of peacebuilding, and must always be taken into consideration, together with educational aspects, in parallel to the security, political and military dimensions. In the face of violent extremism, radicalization, hatred, including against migrants and refugees, whose rights and dignity are being often being denied, UNESCO relentlessly advocates for education to the values of mutual understanding and knowledge of each other’s culture and history”, she stated, making reference also to the successful global UNESCO campaign “Unite4Heritage”.  


Established in 2010, the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), within the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) offers world leaders of tomorrow an innovative and comprehensive grounding in international affairs.

Launched in January 2016 by the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po, in the framework of the arrival of Dean Enrico Letta, the Youth and Leaders Summit brings aims at fostering discussion and debate between leading global affairs actors and PSIA students on complex international issues.


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