UNESCO Roundtable at the Centre Underscores Importance of Education to Promoting Inclusive Societies
“UNESCO and the Global Centre for Pluralism are guided by the same vision – the promotion of inclusive societies,” declared Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, during her opening remarks at a roundtable hosted by the Centre on March 30th, 2016. Senior representatives from Global Affairs Canada, Canadian Heritage and select Canadian educational and research institutions joined Madame Bokova at the Global Centre for Pluralism for an engaging discussion on the role of education in promoting inclusive societies.
The Centre and UNESCO share a commitment to education as an essential vehicle for fostering and sustaining peace and development around the world. The education sector is critical to achieving the long-term, transformative changes in behaviour and attitudes needed to advance and sustain positive responses to diversity.
The participants addressed the need to move beyond access and employable skills when discussing education. Content and quality need to be prioritized in order to capitalize on the potential for education to foster positive attitudes around diversity.
In her remarks, Madame Bokova highlighted the links between marginalization and the rise in violent extremism, especially among youth. She positioned education as a tool to address this. She said, “The discussion about pluralism and diversity is sometimes neglected – the rise of violent extremism is bringing this discussion back.” Participants agreed that there is a need to focus on values-based education to both address and prevent the conditions leading to ideological radicalization and extremism.
Madame Bokova also spoke about the opportunity for Canada’s refugee integration process to provide an important example to other countries. The Canadian experience can also help to change the negative discourse surrounding this crisis. “Many xenophobic, populist ideas come from fear, but Canada doesn’t fear difference, you welcome it.”
Finally, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals were discussed in relation to education. With many of the SDGs focussing on social, economic and political inclusion, the education sector will be critical for equipping new generations with the skills and competencies to value and embrace human diversity within their societies.