At a Time When Extremism and Fanaticism Are Too Often Unleashed, and “the Venom of Hatred” Continues to Poison Part of Humanity, “Tolerance Has Never Been more Vital a Virtue”: UNESCO


UNDP Ukraine/Oleksandr Ratushnyak | Children in Ukraine play with an SDG poster illustrating children from different races around the world.

“Tolerance is more than standing idly by or remaining insensitive to differences between men and women, cultures and beliefs”, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said, but instead a “state of mind, an awareness and a requirement.”

In 1996, the UN General Assembly invited Member States to observe the Day each year on 16 November to, among other things, foster mutual understanding among cultures and peoples. The 2019 edition of the Day will be marked this Saturday.

Ms. Azoulay stressed that tolerance is “to realize that cultural diversity is a form of wealth, not a factor of division”.

“It is to perceive that each culture, beyond immediate or apparent differences, is a constituent part of universality and speaks the common language of humanity.”

Quoting former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, she said that tolerance is “a virtue that makes peace possible”.

Combatting intolerance

Since its foundation, UNESCO has aimed to “build peace by combating the intolerance that still too often tears our societies apart, and by relentlessly fighting all forms of racism and discrimination”, the agency chief maintained.

Ms. Azoulay cited the words of former Director-General Federico Mayor: “UNESCO bears and echoes the message of tolerance, true to its mission of being ‘the conscience of the United Nations’”.

In conclusion, Ms. Azoulay invited everyone to share UNESCO’s message of tolerance and peace.

Fighting intolerance requires

  • Law:  Governments are responsible for enforcing human rights laws and banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination against minorities.
  • Education: Greater efforts must be made to teach children about tolerance, human rights and other ways of life, both at home and in school.
  • Information access: Policies must be developed to generate and promote press freedom and press pluralism, to allow the public to differentiate between facts and opinions.
  • Individual awareness: People should become aware of the link between their behavior and the vicious cycle of mistrust and violence in society, by asking yourself if you stereotype people, reject those who are different from you and/or blame you problems on ‘them’?
  • Local solutions: Tools of nonviolent action include discrediting hateful propaganda, co-organizing groups to confront problems and establishing grassroot networks to demonstrate solidarity with victims of intolerance.

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