UNESCO calls for renewed efforts on youth education at UN High Level Forum on Antisemitism
UNESCO’s programs in the fight against antisemitism and radicalization of young people were among those discussed in the High-Level Forum on Global Antisemitism at the United Nations on 7 September. The objective of the meeting was to share experiences, assess and explore responses to antisemitism globally. The Forum was an outcome of the 2015 United Nations General Assembly meeting in antisemitism, the first ever meeting of this kind at UN Headquarters. The forum was held by the Missions of Canada, Israel, the United States of America and the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations.
The Forum brought together some 500 participants, including government representatives and representatives to the United Nations, historians and education experts as well as private sector and nongovernmental organizations representatives.
In his introductory remarks, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, declared that “Anti-Semitism is one of the world’s oldest, most pervasive and deadliest forms of hatred. Despite the lessons of history and the horror of the Holocaust, Jews continue to be targeted for murder and abuse solely because they are Jews (…) Such intolerance and opportunism does more than poison young minds and hearts, it poisons all of society.”
"We must equip young people with the tools and knowledge they need to respond to hatred, which is often fueled by ignorance, and to new forms and antisemitism, which build on distorted vision of historical facts.” said the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, ahead of the Forum.
During the Forum, UNESCO experts shared the Organization's initiatives and experience in the fight against antisemitism notably through Holocaust education, Global citizenship education and inter-cultural dialogue. UNESCO is the only UN agency promoting preventive education to fight intolerance and contemporary forms of anti-Semitism, as well as countering hate speech and youth radicalization, including within educational curricula. The Forum was also an opportunity to highlight the vital importance of partnerships to tackle the multi-faceted challenge of antisemitism today - UNESCO is partnering with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, the Shoah Memorial, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the B'nai B'rith.
For more than 70 years, UNESCO has been leading unique global programs to protect and promote all cultural heritage, including Jewish heritage, and to teach about history, especially that of the Jewish people, in order to fight against all forms of anti-Semitism or denial today, including racist, social, economic and political. Education and the promotion of cultural understanding stand at the heart of the solution against antisemitism. UNESCO calls on all Member States to take further measures to teach the history of the Holocaust and of antisemitism, as well as to value the contribution of the Jewish people to the culture of the world, with a view to encourage respect for cultural diversity and pluralism. Educating against antisemitism requires a renewed effort from both governments and the civil society to help young people better understand the specific nature of antisemitism and its contemporary features, including racist, social, economic and political, and reject all forms of prejudice and discriminations.
The High-Level Forum examined a variety of responses to counter contemporary forms of antisemitism, such as domestic measures taken by governments to ensure the security of Jewish communities and enhance preventative policies, the work of regional organizations to address this threat and support given to Member States to improve their legislation and build capacity. The Forum also addressed the challenge of countering hate speech on the Internet and social media in respect of freedom of expression. Sessions were dedicated to the continuous problem of Holocaust denial and relativization and on the need to build bridges amongst civil society organizations, so as to engage in larger and stronger coalitions to address hate crimes.
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