UNESCO Director-General discusses current global challenges and international cooperation with the President of the Czech Republic, H.E. Miloš Zeman

On the second day of her official visit to the Czech Republic, the Director-General met with H.E. Miloš Zeman, President of the Czech Republic. The meeting took place at the magnificent Prague Castle – which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “the Historic Center of Prague” inscribed in 1992 – and was an opportunity for Ms. Bokova and Mr Zeman to discuss the solid and fruitful cooperation that exists between UNESCO and the Czech Republic, with a view to strengthening it further.

The President commended Irina Bokova for her leadership of the Organization and expressed support for UNESCO’s work in all its fields of competence. The Director-General informed him about the Organization’s specific programme on Preventing Violent Extremism and countering youth radicalization. “This includes action to bolster media and information literacy, and to help young women and men counter radicalization through the Internet” – she said.

The President commended UNESCO’s programme in this field, underlining the Czech Republic’s eagerness to further cooperate with UNESCO on this important and current topics, as well as on other projects across the full spectrum of the Organization’s activities. The discussion then focused on current global challenges and on the importance of dialogue and cooperation between countries and people to promote better understanding between them and preventing radicalization.

On the same day, the Director-General also met with Mr Lubomír Zaorálek, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. During their meeting, the Director-General underlined that UNESCO’s efforts are oriented towards the recognition that education must be an integral part of any crisis response. She further stressed that education of young people particularly in areas of conflict remains considerably neglected, despite the fact that providing educational opportunities to young people is fundamental to counter radicalization.

In this respect, the Director-General informed Mr Zaorálek of UNESCO’s most recent activities centred around the prevention of violent extremism, as well as the increased collaboration with the European Union, who is currently supporting several UNESCO programmes. She referred to the launch of the new teachers’ guide on preventing violent extremism, which aims to support young women and men to achieve new forms of global solidarity, and to provide them with the tools needed to resist and oppose violent extremism and radicalization at the early stages of their lives. Ms Bokova also informed the Minister about UNESCO’s activities in the field of Holocaust education and and genocide prevention as well as fighting anti-Semitism.

Mr Zaorálek thanked the Director-General and commended the Organization for the strong stance taken towards the protection of cultural heritage in conflict areas, in particular in Syria and Iraq. In this respect, he praised the work undertaken by UNESCO in Palmyra and Erbil.

Earlier in the day, the Director-General paid a visit to the Lupáčova primary school, belonging to the UNESCO Associated Schools Network, and winner of the 2014 and 2016 European Language Prize. The Director-General was warmly welcomed by students, the teachers and the Principal of the school, Mr Milan Hausner. Here the school’s international outlook is showcased right from the entry hall, adorned with flags from all European countries. Counting over 700 students and 70 teachers, the school is renowned for its language teaching (including Chinese), projects  to promote knowledge of both Czech and world heritage, use of digital technology and interactive whiteboards, activities to promote social inclusion and cooperation with schools in Europe and beyond.

Students performed music, staged a short play describing the history of a World Heritage site, and showed how tablets were used for learning. Mr Hausner described a range of innovative initiatives, including the “Children like us” project supported by Bill Gates to connect students with children with special needs, partnering with a school in Java to study endangered species; fostering pupil curiosity in science subjects and the Comenius Europe beyond Borders project to encourage learning of foreign language. “Children have to be immerged in education to learn. We need more sharing of experience because there is a lot we can learn from what happens in schools in other countries and regions,” he said.