Innovate for Peace, says Director-General at University of Ottawa

A stronger culture of prevention, a new approach to peacebuilding and the recognition of diversity as a global asset are core areas for responding to the world’s complex challenges, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a keynote address at the University of Ottawa on 29 March, 2016.

She spoke at  a conference focused on ‘Canada in Global Affairs,’ co-organized with the Hague Institute for Global Justice, bringing together prominent jurists, academics, experts and government officials around the themes of insecurity and state fragility, the global community and just societies.

The Conference was opened by Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion, who outlined his government’s objective to « make a real and valuable contribution to a more peaceful and prosperous world » through the guiding ethical principle of « responsible conviction. »

Allan Rock, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, said the Conference was spurred by Canada’s reengagement in global affairs, and the need to discuss approaches to create a better, safer and more just future.

Affirming that Canada’s values of diversity, tolerance, dialogue are written in the DNA of the United Nations, the Director-General stated that effective multilateralism has never been more important than at this time of turbulence and uncertainty, citing global challenges ranging for poverty and deepening inequalities to violent extremism and record levels of displacement.

In this context, she said, the nature of power is changing and hard questions are being raised about the ability of the international system to tackle threats that pay no need to borders. 

She affirmed that the rising complexity of global challenges calls for more United Nations and more diplomacy, not less, citing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change as proof of “the thirst that exists for multilateral diplomacy, against all odds.”  These agreements, she said, were reached because they were based on inclusion, openness and country ownership.

She stressed the need for action “that is values driven, that takes human rights and dignity as a starting point, that works for the benefit of all,” emphasizing the importance of partnerships and a new openness with civil society, universities and the private sector “to innovate for peace.”

A stronger culture of prevention encompasses the countering of violent extremism through education, youth engagement and the bolstered monitoring of human rights.

“We need an unbroken chain of action to accompany societies from crisis to stability, to integrate humanitarian, peacebuilding and development efforts, ” she said.

The recognition of cultural and linguistic diversity as an asset is key to building more resilient and just societies and learning to live together.

“I am convinced the resilience of societies depends on our ability to reinforce cultural diversity as well the capacity of people to find in themselves the resources to respond to the challenges they face and craft solutions through training, competences and nurturing their talents, » she affirmed.

In a special dinner address, former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin stressed the need for the G20 to strengthen multilateral institutions  in order to make globalization work for all. In an interdependent world, he said, the furtherance of self-interest depends on reconciling national interest with the greater good – a role played by multilaterals.

The conference brought together experts, including Abi Williams, President of the Hague Institute for Global Justice; the Honourable Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissionner for Human Rights; Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide ; Sir Emyr Jones Parry, former UK Ambassador to the United Nations ; Ibrahim Gambari, Co-Chair of the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance ; Margaret Biggs, former president of the Canadian International Development Agency.