On 17 September 2017, the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ambassador Ronald Lauder, hosted a special event in honour of the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in New York, on the margins of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.
"I want to thank you for your courage, despite difficult times," said Ambassador Lauder. He underlined her champion work for education: "with the right education, we can conquer everything, and this is thanks to your dedication and commitment."
The Director-General thanked Ambassador Lauder for his support to UNESCO.
“Over the past years, we have built a special relationship between the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO, and this would not have been possible without your trust and respect for the work of UNESCO,” declared the Director-General, expressing her gratitude to the World Jewish Congress.
The Director-General underscored UNESCO’s unique role within the United Nations, notably in leading the fight against anti-Semitism: “The fight against anti-Semitism today must be founded on an intellectual effort to understand the roots of hatred and to defuse the discourses that exploit ignorance,” she said, recalling UNESCO’s dedicated global programme to teach the history of the Holocaust as a force against anti-Semitism today.
“I am convinced that education, culture and knowledge have become key security issues at a time when violent extremism is spreading, fuelled by distortions of faith and history, and perverted narratives about cultures,” said Irina Bokova.
“This is not an easy task, but there is really no other way, and we need the support of all our partners … with B'Nai Brith … the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee... with our UNESCO Special Envoys and the support from the World Jewish Congress, I am convinced we can move mountains, and so we will.”
On 17 September 2017, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, addressed the annual meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, held in New York, in the presence of H.E. Mr Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, Mr Carlos Slim Helu, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation, and Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union.
"We need to ensure broadband gets high attention in the development agenda, combining connectivity and applications," said President Kagame.
"For Africa, and other developing regions, this is a major concern. Our growing and youthful population is an asset, but we have to ensure there is sufficient economic opportunity.”
Carlos Slim spoke the revolutionary progress achieved across the world, thanks to new ICTs. He reminded all of the goal of the Commission to harness broadband for the marginalised: "this is the importance of connectivity for the least developped countries especially."
The meeting was opened with a message of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who underlined the importance of such multi-stakeholder partnership, "to ensure all enjoy the benefits of new technologies," especially developing countries facing "risk of being left behind." New technologies should work "human dignity and the global good."
“Much has changed since 2010, but the conviction of this Commission has never been so relevant,” said the Director-General, taking stock of progress made by the Commission since its launch seven years ago.
“We believe new technologies are a transformational force to build inclusive knowledge societies. Our conviction is that access is essential – but access must include investments in skills, education, relevant content,” declared Irina Bokova.
She highlighted that digital skills and digital literacy are the focus of the new Report of the Education Working Group launched on the same day, called ‘Digital Skills for Life and Work' as well as the 2nd OER World Congress in Slovenia.
In this context, she highlighted the role of the Broadband Commission within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Change.
“The digital revolution must be a development revolution … a sustainable development revolution,” stated the Director-General. “We need broadband to strengthen the sustainability of development efforts.”
As this was her last meeting as Director-General, President Kagame thanked Irina Bokova for her champion leadership for human rights and dialogue as the basis for sustainable development and peace. On behalf of the Commission, he presented a plaque thanking Irina Bokova for her outstanding action at UNESCO and as co-vice Chair of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development.
Director-General Bokova is co-vice chair of the Broadband Commission, which she launched in 2010, with co-chairs, H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Mr Carlos Slim, CEO of the Carlos Slim Foundation, along with co-vice chair, Mr Haolin Zhou, Secretary-General of the ITU. The Broadband Commission brings together high-level officials with leading executives in the private sector, from across the world, to harness the digital revolution as a development revolution, for all women and men.
On the same day, the Director-General signed an agreement with the CEO of Nokia Corporation, Mr Rajeev Suri, to renew the Letter of Cooperation previously (2014) signed with Alcatel-Lucent (which merged with Nokia in January 2016) to promote equal participation and representation of women in STEM/STEAM education and careers.
The Director-General also congratulated the Broadband Commission for the launch of Equals Partnership that continues the work of the Broadband Commission Gender Digital Divide Working Group, co-led by UNESCO and GSMA, and that aims to create a global movement where women and girls are equal participants in the digital technology revolution. Under the Equals Partnership, UNESCO will co-lead the “Skills Development” coalition.
Prior to this meeting, the Commission issued the 2017 edition of its flagship State of Broadband report on 14 September, a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.
From 16 to 22 September, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova is in New York to take part in a range of high-level events within the framework of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Director-General will join Heads of State, Government leaders, along with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and civil society to share UNESCO’s all-out contribution to taking forward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and in promoting dialogue and lasting peace.
The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly takes place in turbulent times, when the world is facing enduring conflicts and humanitarian crises. This is throwing a shadow over entire regions, and placing pressure on societies and governments. In this context, the UNESCO contribution to the overall action of the United Nations focusses on advancing the empowerment of women and men, and societies, through education, through social inclusion and respect for diversity on the basis of human rights. These are the foundations for stronger societies, more sustainable development and lasting peace.
Securing top-level political commitment for investment in education and skills to achieve the SDGs is a theme running through the UN General Assembly Week. The Director-General will lead a panel on country-led reform during a high-level side event on “Financing the Future: Education 2030” on 20 September, co-hosted by Norway, France, Malawi and Senegal, with the participation of the UN Secretary General and several Heads of State, in partnership with the Education Commission, UNESCO, UNICEF, the Global Partnership for Education, the Malala Fund and the One Campaign. She will address issues of domestic financing on September 20 at an event organized by the Global Campaign for Education, and underscore the role of partnerships at a high-level breakfast co-hosted by the State of Qatar and UNICEF on 22 September. The Director-General will also draw attention to the necessity to equip youth with competences to live together during an event on Education for Peace, organized by Romania on 20 September, in the presence of the Romanian President and several Heads of State. She will bring her support to the work of Education Cannot Wait during a meeting of the High Level Steering Group on 19 September Strengthening partnerships to prepare youth for the jobs of tomorrow will be the focus of meetings that she will attend, organized by the Global Business Coalition for Education on 20 September, which is also launching a new Commission on Youth Skills and Innovation co-chaired with Intel.
The Director-General will make a strong case for the power of education as a transformative force, to build more inclusive and peaceful societies and to fight against violent extremism. In this context, on 18 September, the Director-General will host the Global Hope Summit alongside the Leadership Council of the Global Hope Coalition, during which a special session will take place to pay tribute to Heroes in the Global Campaign against Violent Extremism and Intolerance. The Summit aims to bring together Heads of State and government and United Nations heads of agencies, business leaders, cultural icons, philanthropists and human rights activists to launch the Global Hope Coalition to fight violent extremism and intolerance, preserve cultural and promote intercultural dialogue. Irina Bokova will also participate in the Global Hope Panel Discussion on “Women, Children, and the trauma of Extremism: An Urgent Call to Action” with the First Ladies of Mali and Rwanda and other high-level speakers, to discuss the need to protect and assist the most vulnerable victims of terrorism and violent extremism. The event will be moderated by Professor Phyllis Magrab, Director of the Georgetown University Center for Human and Child Development.
Within the framework of the 2017 Concordia Annual Summit, held on the margins of the UN General Assembly, the Director-General will participate on 18 September in a public conversation with Forest Whitaker, UNESCO Special Envoy. They will discuss the progress made since the adoption of the SDGs two years ago and examine work left to achieve peace and security for all. The session will be moderated by CNBC Chief International Correspondent and “Power Lunch” Co-Anchor, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. Every year, the Concordia Summit convenes the world’s most prominent business, government, and non-profit leaders to enable effective partnerships for impact.
On 20 September, the Director-General will highlight the importance of water cooperation and the central role of water to achieve the SDGs at the high-level event “Towards Implementation of the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Sustainable Development’ 2018-2028”. The event is organized by the Permanent Missions of Canada, Ecuador, Japan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Tajikistan, as well as UNDESA, UNDP, UNESCO-WWAP and UN-Water, and will take place in the presence of the President of Tajikistan H.E. Mr Emomali Rahmon, champion if this Decade aimed at building support and momentum for the implementation of water related SDGs.
On 21 September, Irina Bokova will make the case for the power of culture and the importance of cultural literacy in the prevention of war, early-warning signs and peacebuilding, at high-level side event on “Protecting cultural heritage from terrorism and mass atrocities”. The event is organized by the Permanent Missions of the European Union and Italy to the United Nations, together with UNESCO, UNODC and the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect.
On 17 September, as Co-Vice Chair, Irina Bokova will also participate in the meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development, with the President of the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Mr Paul Kagame, the President of the Carlos Slim Foundation, Mr Caros Slim Helú, and the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, Mr Houlin Zhao, and a wide range of Commissioners.
On the margins of the UN General Assembly, the Director-General is expected to hold several bilateral meetings.
New York, 17 September-- A new report from the Broadband Commission entitled “Digital skills for life and work” shows that education systems worldwide are only just beginning to help learners cultivate the digital skills they need to excel in in our increasingly digitized societies.
The report, released today, highlights the emergence of a new global skills gap where gender, class, geography and age can have a huge impact on whether a person is able to harness new technologies or not. It also presents strategies for ensuring all groups of people can develop these skills.
Underscoring the importance of the new report, Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, urged the Broadband Commission and countries around the world to take heed of the recommendations and “support the development of a new generation of ‘digital citizens,’ with the right skills for life, work and engagement in the connected communities of today and tomorrow.”
Drafted by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's Working Group on Education, chaired by Ms. Bokova, and John Galvin, Vice-President of Intel, the report identifies essential digital skills and competencies from basic skills to high-level professional skills.
Findings show that the development of these digital skills depends on a number of factors such as appropriate involvement of government, blending traditional ‘non-digital’ education approaches and digital applications, bridging formal and non-formal digital skills provision, and enhancing the digital competencies of teachers.
The report also focuses special attention to the often overlooked ‘complementary’ skills required to navigate technology-driven societies, such as an understanding of privacy considerations; knowledge of how to engage as responsible digital citizens; and awareness of how digital technology, big data and algorithms are shaping society.
Included in the report are policy recommendations that advise for governments to:
Maintain public involvement in the increasingly commercially driven space of digital skills development.
Redouble efforts to address inequalities in the provision of digital skills and competencies.
Generate increased data on digital skills across populations to identify and fill gaps through education.
Promote open digital resources and address needs not met by commercial providers.
Foster partnerships with various stakeholders—including industry partners—to expand and improve the quality and relevance of digital skills development initiatives.
Included in the report is a compendium of case studies illustrating successful examples of public and private sector working together in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America to ensure that all people have the skills and competencies they need to participate in the knowledge-based economy of the future.
“Cumulatively, the case studies demonstrate that the health of local economies is improved by access to technology and - equally vital - knowledge of how to use this technology for social good” said John Galvin, the Vice President and General Manager for Worldwide Government and Education at Intel.
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 and comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors. They are committed to actively supporting countries, United Nations experts and Non-Governmental Organisations to fully leverage the huge potential of Information and Communications Technologies to drive national Sustainable Development Goals strategies in key areas like education, healthcare, gender equality and environmental management.
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Around a hundred youth volunteers from around the world will take part in the second International Conference on Youth Volunteering and Dialogue, which will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 25-27 September. This year’s theme is “Preventing Violent Extremism and Strengthening Social Inclusion.”
Organised by UNESCO with the financial support of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Programme for a Culture of Peace and Dialogue, this conference aims to highlight the importance of youth volunteers in tackling worldwide challenges. It will also provide a platform for exchanging ideas to influence the international peace and development agenda, and to reinforce international collaboration between young volunteers.
The idea of the Conference is to promote solidarity, empathy, critical thinking, social engagement and civic participation. The discussions will focus on four main themes: refugees and migration; the importance of intercultural education; the role of the media and social media in constructing positive dialogue and youth engagement with cultural heritage and the arts. Participants will be initiated in different techniques, such as dramatic arts workshops, the concept of the “human library” – a technique to counter discrimination – and the role of sport in combatting violence.
Key partner organisations for this initiative such as the United National Volunteers programme, the Scouts, the King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue will be represented at the highest level, as well as the Coordinating Committee for International Volunteering and the UNESCO field offices of Nigeria, Thailand, Lebanon and Zimbabwe.
Volunteering can help reinforce young people’s feeling of belonging, their motivation and skills, all of which are key elements in constructive dialogue between and within communities. Young people have an essential role to play tackling the challenges linked to development, particularly in the current international context with the proliferation of extremist discourse and violence.
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Lisbon, 8 September: Ministers responsible for Ocean, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs from over forty-five countries expressed their support for the IOC proposal to declare the period 2021-2030 as the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
The proposal put forth by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) aims to stimulate international cooperation in marine science to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, leading specifically to the development of new policy-relevant knowledge and technology that could help fill the many remaining information gaps about the state of our ocean and its resources.
Ministers formally welcomed the UNESCO’s IOC proposal as part of a larger Ministerial Declaration on Oceans and Human Health, endorsed at the ministerial segment of the two-day Oceans Meeting 2017 (Lisbon, 7-8 September) organized by the Portuguese Minister of the Sea, Mrs. Ana Paula Vitorino.
Beyond forty-six national ministers, senior officials of nine major international organizations also took part in the Ministerial Segment of the Oceans Meeting.
The Ministerial Declaration on Oceans and Human Health referred explicitly to the IOC Decade of Ocean Science proposal:
“10. Welcomes the proposal of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO for an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to be established for the period 2021–2030 under the United Nations, with the aim to stimulate international cooperation in marine science to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”
The full text of the declaration is available on the Oceans Meeting 2017 website.
The IOC Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin highlighted the concept of a Decade of Ocean Science in a talk entitled “Ocean and Society: A Tribute to Prof. Mário Ruivo” – a reference to the late former IOC Executive Secretary and public Portuguese environmental figure.
“There is much that remains to do in the areas of ocean science, observations, data collection and capacity development. The proposed decade, the leadership role of Portugal therein, and the symbolic contribution of Dr Ruivo to its design and realization can guide us in defining the ocean we need for the future we want.”
After an enthusiastic reception in Lisbon, IOC officials are set to flag their Ocean Decade (2021-2030) proposal at the Our Ocean conference on 5-6 October in Malta. The proposal is currently under discussion in the United Nations General Assembly, which could vote to start the Decade’s formal preparatory process this fall.
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On 15 September, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in the Athens Democracy Forum, organized by the New York Times under the theme “Solutions for a Changing World”.
The Director-General took part in an interactive round-table discussion on “Bridging the Generational Gap”, featuring 23 students who explored ways of engaging young people with the democratic process from voting to civic engagement. Speakers included Serge Schmemann, Member of the Editorial Board of The New York Times, Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and Brian Smith, President, Europe, Middle East and Africa Group of The Coca-Cola Company.
The Director-General underscored the importance of Global Citizenship Education, and UNESCO’s work in this field currently focusing on the prevention of violent extremism, awareness raising and advocacy, guidance, capacity building and partnerships.
In the discussion with young students, UNESCO Director-General declared "I understand the criticism from new generation towards global leaders today, and the many challenges on the table, from uncertainty to climate change. But If I were to speak in defense of what has been done by my generation, I would mention that Gender Equality, which was not on the Agenda a generation ago, is now a priority concern. The Paris Agreement and the UN sustainable development goals are also a major political achievement. There is a strong social movement and quest for dignity around the world and this needs to be sustained and supported. It starts on the bench of schools and the education we need is about skills and competences for decent jobs, but is also about values and democracy. You cannot have a democracy if you do not have informed citizens equipped with critical thinking and this is why UNESCO integrated the notion of global citizenship into the UN Education goal."
Within the framework of the Athens Democracy Forum, the Director-General also participated in an event on sustainable tourism with the Google Institute in the presence of Mr Laurent Gaveau, Head of Google Arts and Culture Lab. “Tourism has tremendous potential to contribute, to inclusive economic growth and sustainable consumption, but it is also a driver of dialogue for mutual understanding and citizenship.” said Irina Bokova, recalling that the United Nations declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
“Cultural tourism accounts for nearly 40 percent of world tourism revenues,” she continued, explaining that for UNESCO, this is an opportunity to focus on role tourism could play in protecting heritage. In this context, she launched a call for action to innovate and harness the full potential of tourism to develop sustainable jobs and foster global citizens.
While in Athens, the Director-General visited the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis – ELPIDA” Oncology Children's Hospital (Athens) and was honored to receive the Elpida Honorary Award, on behalf of the Association of Friends of Children with Cancer “ELPIDA”. “I am humbled to receive this award,” said the Director-General. “I take this as a recognition of the work of UNESCO and the great cooperation we have built together with Marianna Vardinoyannis", recalling the commitment of the later as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
Education Ministers and other experts will meet to discuss how the potential of Open Educational Resources (OER) can be unlocked to support achievement of the Education 2030 agenda, at the 2nd World OER Congress to be held from 18-20 September 2017 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Milan Brglez, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, will welcome over 500 experts and delegates, including more than twenty Ministers of Education and Science, to explore solutions for integrating OER practices into education systems worldwide.
Participants will address challenges to mainstreaming OER, which consist of any teaching, learning and research materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution.
Among the key issues are how to promote multilingualism and how to ensure OER are available to people with disabilities.
This Congress builds on the 1st World OER Congress held at UNESCO Headquarters, which adopted the 2012 Paris OER Declaration encouraging the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds. This year’s Congress also marks 15 years of growth and development in open-licensed learning and teaching resources since the term “OER” was first coined at UNESCO in 2002.
In the run-up to the 2nd World OER Congress, six regional consultations, organized by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in partnership with UNESCO, brought together experts and policy-makers from more than 100 countries, to discuss progress in implementation of the 2012 Paris OER Declaration. * National OER Surveys also were received from some 100 countries.
The Congress is expected to conclude with the adoption of the 2017 Ljubljana OER Action Plan, reflecting the recommendations from the six regional consultations, an open online consultation of global OER stakeholders, as well as the deliberations that will take place during the Congress itself.
*These were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (December 2016); Valletta, Malta (February 2017); Doha, Qatar (March 2017); Port Louis, Mauritius (March 2017); Sao Paulo, Brazil (April 2017); and Auckland, New Zealand (May 2017).
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Trois jours après la célébration de la Journée internationale de l’alphabétisation, du 8 septembre 2017, une journée de mobilisation, concernant la Validation des Acquis de l’Expérience (VAE) pour les facilitateurs en alphabétisation, a été organisée par la Coordination Nationale des Opérateurs en Alphabétisation au Sénégal (CNOAS), à Dakar, en présence de près de 700 opérateurs et facilitateurs dont 80% de femmes.
Le Président de la CNOAS a remercié l’appui de l’UNESCO pour la mise en place du dispositif de VAE qui corrige aujourd’hui une doléance vieille de plusieurs années. Les acteurs de l’alphabétisation se sont toujours battus pour que l’expérience des facilitateurs soit certifiée et que leur formation initiale soit assurée par les centres régionaux de formation des personnels de l’éducation (CRFPE). Il a encouragé les opérateurs et les facilitateurs à aller s’inscrire dans les inspections d’académie et a appelé l’Etat à une revalorisation du métier de facilitateur.
Dans son allocution, le Directeur de l’UNESCO Dakar s’est pour sa part félicité de cette expérience réussie par le Sénégal qui est le premier pays, en Afrique subsaharienne, à mettre en œuvre cette initiative qui contribuera notamment à l’atteinte des ODD 4 (éducation) et 8 (emploi décent). Il a rappelé que l’UNESCO, à travers son programme CapED, continuera à accompagner le Sénégal à relever les défis auxquels il fait face, notamment dans les domaines de la qualité des enseignements-apprentissages, dans une perspective d’éducation tout au long de la vie.
Le discours de clôture a finalement été prononcé par la Directrice de l’Alphabétisation et des Langues Nationales. Elle a d’abord remercié la CNOAS d’avoir organisé cette journée de mobilisation, à l’occasion de la célébration de la semaine nationale de l’alphabétisation, qui a comme parrain cette année feu Amadou Wade Diagne qui a largement contribué à l’élaboration du manuel de VAE. Elle a rappelé l’importance, pour les facilitateurs, de la VAE qui trouve son ancrage dans le pilier 2 du Plan Sénégal Emergent « Développement du Capital Humain ». Elle a également remercié l’UNESCO de son appui constant dans la professionnalisation du personnel de l’alphabétisation et a elle aussi exhorté les facilitateurs à se rendre dans les Inspections de l’Education et de la Formation pour s’informer davantage sur la procédure et commencer à constituer leurs dossiers de candidature.
SRGBV is a phenomenon that affects millions of children, families and communities in West and Central Africa, as in all countries of the world. It refers to acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence perpetrated in schools and their environment, resulting from gender norms and stereotypes and imposed by unequal power relations.
The effects of SRGVB on youth, including children, are considerable. Beyond the suffering and health consequences, violence has negative repercussions on school performance and long-term educational outcomes. The workshop participants in Senegal pointed out that “SRGBV constitute an obstacle to education and reduce the return on national investment in education. The education sector has a role to play in responding to school-related gender-based violence. It is up to the sector to fulfil this role and take action accordingly.”
Response to SRGBV involves actions at different levels, including curricula, teacher training, sectoral policies and regulatory provisions. In order to evaluate the responses, UNESCO has developed an analysis and imaging tool that has been used by the Institute for Demographic Training and Research (IFORD). The sharing of results across the three countries has provided valuable information to complement the diagnoses. In particular, IFORD now has a more comprehensive list of national documents on the four components, and can identify good practices to be shared among the three countries. Building on these elements, workshop participants were able to decide together on next steps to strengthen education responses to SRGBV. In particular, UNESCO will support ministries in the development of harmonized teacher training modules, and propose concrete solutions to strengthen sectoral policies, regulation, and classroom teacher practice.
The three workshops, organized with the support of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France (MEAE), in collaboration with UNESCO's Multisectoral Regional Offices for West Africa (Sahel) and Central Africa (ECCAS), the ministries in charge of education of each country and the Cameroonian and Togolese National Commissions for UNESCO, took place on 23-24 August (Togo), 29-30 August (Cameroon) et 5-6 September (Senegal).
On 13 September 2017, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova addressed the opening session of the Blue Shield International General Assembly, held in Vienna, Austria, in the presence of the Vice-Mayor of Vienna, Johann Gudenus and the Interim President of the Blue Shield International, Mr Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen.
“UNESCO and Blue Shield International share a common goal,” declared the Director-General addressing the Public Plenary Session.
“We seek to protect cultural property, and, by extension, humanity’s cultural legacy,” she continued underscoring that this is more than a cultural issue, “This is about renewing the basic tools for peace building and security.”
The Director-General took stock of all the progress made since UNESCO’s 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict ratified by 128 States Parties, including by the United Kingdom most recently.
“This is true testament to a new global recognition of the role of cultural heritage in modern conflict, and our role is to transform this new consciousness into effective networks, law enforcement tools and concrete protection measures,” said Irina Bokova, recalling recent programmes led by UNESCO to train military officials, police forces and customs professionals in this area.
During the Ceremony, Colonel Keba Sangare (Mali) and Major Corine Wegener (USA) received the Blue Shield International award for their outstanding commitment to the protection of heritage. President Karl von Habsburg described notably how during the battle for Timbuktu in 2015, Colonel Keba Sangare decided not to call the air force and pursue the battle on the ground to defeat violent extremist so as not to inflict severe damage upon the great most of the City. "This is forbidden by international law," he said at the time. "The 1954 Convention is not only international law, it is part of humanitarian law and of law of war," said the President of Blue Shield, and to defeat violent extremism, we need to do so through the means of international law.
“We have come a long way since 1954, and yet, now more than ever, we need to strive for peace,” said Irina Bokova, calling for stronger coordination amongst all actors, and for deeper cooperation between the military, the judicial, humanitarian and cultural experts.
Addressing the recent listing of the historic center of Vienna on the World Heritage list in danger, the Director-General recalled the importance of the City as "the heart of European spirit and culture", and expressed UNESCO's readiness to work with Austria to implement the recommendation of the World Heritage Committee, to ensure the heritage of the city is transmitted to future generations.
Government representatives, biosphere reserve managers and experts came together in Ibadan, Nigeria, to share the results of innovative projects in African biosphere reserves and expand regional cooperation. They gathered for the 5th General Assembly of the AfriMAB network, which includes 75 biosphere reserves in 28 countries and promotes efforts for better conservation and sustainable management of the ecological and socio cultural heritage in African biosphere reserves. The approach combines the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources, to empower people to improve their livelihoods sustainably.
“The principles of participation, solidarity and dialogue are the cornerstones of the democratic governance of biosphere reserves”, reminded UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, Flavia Schlegel, in her keynote presentation. “The concerted management of resources within biosphere reserves promotes dialogue between actors and thus helps to reconcile sometimes divergent interests and thus to establish a sustainable peace. As model regions for sustainable development, biosphere reserves provide local solutions to the global challenges of sustainable development, including climate change.”
The participants will share lessons learned through case studies and projects across Africa, notably the Green Economy in Biosphere Reserve project that aims to conserve biodiversity by reducing the immediate adverse effects of local reliance on forest products (such as fuel wood), reduce poverty by diversifying the economy, and promote sustainable development by building the capacity of the communities in a holistic manner to ensure sustainable biodiversity businesses. It was implemented in three sub-Saharan biosphere reserves with similar ecosystem types: tropical humid forests in Bia (Ghana) and Omo (Nigeria), and tropical submontane and evergreen forests in the East Usambara (Tanzania). Participants will visit the Omo biosphere reserve to familiarize themselves with four green economy initiatives first hand.
The meeting provides an opportunity to present a new project aiming to promote peace in the Lake Chad basin through the sustainable management of its resources. Over 30 million people depend on this critical ecosystem for water and livelihood, and it is facing environmental, social, and economic and security issues, through land and water degradation, overuse, pollution, climate change, leading to loss of job opportunities and livelihoods. The project will apply the lessons learned in biosphere reserves and World Heritage sites to strengthen the capacities of Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Niger and Nigeria to safeguard and sustainably manage their hydrological, biological and cultural resources.
The 5th General Assembly of the AfriMaB network is taking place from 12 to 15 September. It was opened by the Minister of Environment of Nigeria, Mr. Ibrahim Usman Jibril, and counted with the participation of high-level decision makers and representatives of leading environmental institutions, biosphere reserves and UNESCO. Prof. Augustine Isichei, member of the Nigerian National Committee for the Man and Biosphere programme of UNESCO (MAB) gave a keynote presentation on African Biodiversity and Challenges of Conservation.
The United Kingdom has joined 128 other countries in becoming a party to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, often referred to as the 1954 Hague Convention. H.E. Matthew Lodge, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to UNESCO, delivered to Director-General Irina Bokova the instrument of ratification today, on the same day that he officially submitted his credentials as the new ambassador.
The Director-General welcomed the move. “This is very good news for the protection of heritage in times of conflict, and I see this also as a mark of a renewed commitment of the United Kingdom to the mandate and work of UNESCO.”
The UK also acceded to the two Protocols to the Convention (1954 and 1999) which add further safeguards for protecting cultural heritage important to all humankind.
The accession to the Second Protocol will make the United Kingdom the second permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to be party to this agreement, following the accession by France in March 2017 to this instrument.
The United Kingdom’s ratification of the Hague Convention and the accession to the two Protocols is another significant step for further strengthening the legal framework for protecting cultural heritage at an international level, following adoption of UNSC Resolution 2347 by the United Nations 15-member Security Council, earlier this year, under the Presidency of the United Kingdom. The resolution, unanimously passed, affirmed that attacks on cultural heritage sites might constitute a war crime and their perpetrators must be brought to justice. It was the first UN Security Council resolution of its kind.
The United Kingdom first announced its intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and accede to its two Protocols, including the two protocols in 2004. The Cultural Property in Armed Conflict Bill passed in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, on 19 May 2016 paving the way for the necessary domestic legislation to be adopted.