Annual High-Level Meeting of the UNAOC Group of Friends “Shaping a Better World: Building Cohesive and Inclusive Societies in a Challenging COVID-19 Environment”

Your Excellency, Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A few months ago, a tiny virus began to cause a global cataclysm, touching every aspect of our civic, economic, and political lives.

The pandemic hit all the world, but its effects were very different. While the most vulnerable are being hit hardest – with 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy losing some 60% of their income[1] – the digital economy is booming. The capacity to resist the virus was determined by access to the technologies that are keeping our economies and education afloat, but a huge digital divide exists, with just 19% of people in least developed countries having internet access, as compared to 87% in the developed world[2].

And levels of inequality, growing already before the pandemic, are having a severe consequence on material opportunities open to people in its wake. UNESCO statistics show that 825 million students remain affected by school closures[3], creating a real risk of a generation lost to unequal chances, whilst levels of human development are projected to decline for the first time since records began in 1990, with the biggest reductions recorded in those states with already low levels[4].

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The pandemic is a warning shot, showing us the catastrophe that emerges when development is not fair, when too many people are left behind.

It has underscored that when there is despair, trust will be lost and division will grow, rendering intercultural understanding and sustainable peace as elusive goals.

And it has reminded us of the importance of hope; hope that emerges from solidarity and compassion, of which we have seen countless examples emerge in our shared struggle against the virus. 

Excellencies,

To create hope, to build back better, we need to work together to create fairer, more inclusive, and more sustainable societies.

For all of this, we believe dialogue is key;

…to show diversity is, and has always been, a source of strength;

…and to empower individuals and societies alike to make the most of this reality for the benefit of all.

This is what UNESCO seeks to achieve through every one of our activities:

It is why we have created an innovative framework to measure the enabling environment and impact of intercultural dialogue, looking to strengthen the evidence-base on what works and why.

It is why we are working with communities to develop intercultural skills – respect, empathy, mutual understanding – empowering them with the competences to resolve issues before they lead to conflict.

It is why we mobilise the arts to advocate for human rights and dignity as the inalienable foundation of intercultural exchange, working with the most vulnerable to facilitate post-conflict reconciliation and integration.

It is why we are developing a normative instrument on the ethics of artificial intelligence, ensuring that the benefits of technological progress are fairly distributed.

And it is why we created the COVID-19 Global Education Coalition, ensuring that every single learner continues to be able to exercise the right to learn.

Excellencies,

If we are here today, then we are heeding the charge of UNESCO and the UN AoC.

We know that a world of more hope is possible, and we understand that we have both the roadmap and tools to realise it.

Now is the moment for action – action that is more relevant, more ambitious, and more coherent.

In the words of Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize winner: ‘we have globalized everything. It is time to globalize compassion, and ensure that human dignity is upheld in all corners of the world.’

Congratulations to the UN AoC on your 15th anniversary – we look forward to expanding our joint action towards this vision that I know we share.

Thank you.


[1] United Nations (2020). The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/

[2] ITU Publications (2019). Measuring digital development. Facts and Figures. https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/facts/FactsFigures2019.pdf

[3] UNESCO. Education: From disruption to recovery. https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse

[4] UNDP (2020). Human Development Perspectives: COVID-19 and Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery. http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/covid-19_and_human_development_0.pdf

Ordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport (CIGEPS)

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the 2020 Ordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport.

I am glad that, notwithstanding the uncertainty that surrounds us, we are able to get together and advance UNESCO’s important agenda on sports.  We would have certainly preferred to be in Geneva under the generous offer of the ILO, but these are unprecedented times.  But I am glad that we could connect. This is important to reflect how the work of CIGEPs would need to adapt to the post-COVID context.

COVID has a devastating impact on sport, from sport supply chains related to athletes’ working conditions, the management of sporting events and mass gatherings, and occupational safety and health.

This has been documented by the enquiries and studies carried out by international and regional organizations and, lately by the UN Secretary-General’s report intitled Sport: a global accelerator of peace and sustainable development for all (cf A/75/155). More than 1.5 billion children and youth could not attend schools.

At the same time, sport is a key part of the answer to the post-COVID world. We need to get our act together, so this message is loud and clear, and when countries consider they recovery plans, they consider investing in sports.   As DG Azoulay mentioned in the Sports day, it is not only the physical effort, but the values that we convey through sports.

Thus, it is this very essence of sport that we must endeavor to further collectively when building back. This cannot be business as usual.  We need to turn the challenge into an opportunity to increase the investments our countries do on sports and focus on sport policies.

This will complement the bottom up approach that my colleagues in UNESCO’s field offices have pursued by engaging youth, through webinars and media campaigns to share their views on how to overcome obstacles to the practicing of sports; and for the need for sports to be more inclusive.

 This was a major opportunity to build on the unbroken energy of often young women and men in the world who show their commitment each day, as volunteers and professionals, to fostering the spirit of sport as an infinite source of renewal and vitality for societies.

I have the great pleasure to salute among us Ms. Maureen Ojong from Cameroon who is one of those many young people who will address you in a few minutes.

I also would like salute among us Mr Gert Oosthuizen, outgoing President of CIGEPS , who steered the process leading to MINEPS VI and the adoption of the Kazan Action Plan. As he envisaged, the Plan has turned into the overarching framework for a coordinated development of international and national sport policy. Sport Ministers in all regions, be it at the level of the African Union, the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe, ASEAN, the Pacific region, or the American and Inter-American Sport Councils, are endeavoring to align their strategies and programs with the Kazan Action Plan.

Great progress has been made in the implementation of the five individual actions of the Plan, and I would like to commend and thank those partners for the substantive investments in leading those actions, organizing collective work based on  voluntary contributions from all over the world: the governments of Switzerland and of Catalonia, Spain, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Council of Europe, and last but not least, the UNESCO Chair at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, Ireland. Together with these –  let us call them ‘Champions’ – Angela Melo, Director for Policies and Programme  in my sector will later brief you on the work accomplished.

I would like to welcome the designation of Kenya by the Director-General to host the next MINEPS VII Conference in June 2021. This timely Ministerial will provide us with the elements we need for the post pandemic recovery.  Having Kenya also marks a milestone in the implementation of UNESCO’s Priority Africa Strategy and follows upon the successful first African Regional Follow-up Conference to MINEPS VI held in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in 2019. We shall hear from the delegation of Kenya how preparations for the conference can continue under the circumstances.

 So, in summary , we are counting on CIGEPs strengths, including its renewed mandate in the 40th Conference  and its multistakeholder composition, to position sports as part of the solution when building back better, and when delivering of the SDG.

The time we are living calls for this. COVID is threatening to slow down, suspend and undo progress in sustainable development, peace building and the promotion of human rights. Almost 100 million people has lost their jobs, and the industries linked to entertainment, including sports, are one of the most affected. Youth is also hardly hit, not only on their career prospective, but also in their mental health. Again, sports can provide some answers.

Following up from the conversations last August, the Committee is invited to discuss the establishment of two working groups on (i) the update of the Kazan Action Plan and (ii) strengthening the evidence base for increased investments into physical education and sport. The work to be developed will be informed by COVID, and we hope they will help us to find the answers. We should also aim to advance policy developments and the effective national implementation of relevant policy standards, recommendations and guidance.

The pandemic has also aggravated the resource constraints of public sport authorities, in a moment when they are deeply needed. We will need to develop novel forms of alliances and partnerships to tackle this issue. I think in particular of a specific opening to the business community, beyond the sporting goods industry with whom we already collaborate.

In my former position at the OECD, I had the opportunity to establish a global business network  for inclusive growth, and I believe that  CIGEPS can benefit from business perspectives and expertise together with new funding opportunities for our programs and projects. 

Because, ultimately, Member States will judge the efficiency of the work of CIGEPS and UNESCO’s physical education and sports program by the impact it has on the ground. Bringing our work closer to the populations that look up to UNESCO for the promises it makes for their sustainable wellbeing is the challenge we must live up to.

In this sense, I recognize the immense responsibility that falls upon the new Chairperson of the Committee and the members of its Bureau that you will elect today by consensus. Together with my colleagues and the Secretariat of CIGEPS, lead by Philipp Müller Wirth, I stand ready to accompany CIGEPS and each of you in the Committee’s noble cause.

I thank you for your attention.

Without further ado, I now invite the outgoing Chair of CIGEPS, Mr Gert Oosthuizen, to take the floor.

Virtual High-Level Expert Meeting on the Establishment of a Global Fund – Social Protection for All

Speech by Mrs Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences during the Virtual High-Level Expert Meeting on the Establishment of a Global Fund – Social Protection for All, 22 September 2020, convened by the French government & the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

The pandemics of COVID-19 exposed the well-known fact that the resilience of societies is limited by inequality and inequalities were already very high in a world in which top income earners own from 50 to 80 percent of wealth.

That unprecedented level of inequality provides the context for a world in which half a billion people face being pushed into poverty, amid the world’s worst recession since the Great Depression.

400 million jobs lost and a half a billion people are expected to be pushed into poverty. But not everyone is losing out. 32 of the world’s largest companies stand to see their profits jump by $109 billion more in 2020.

The crisis also found us ill prepared, and the cost of the crisis is way higher given the lack of access to health services, or to unemployment or basic income benefits. Even the most advanced social protection systems were put into strong stress due to the large number of claims, plus the fact that they have to be delivered in the context of confinement.

Many governments put in place social protection measures, but having unemployment insurance, health coverage and pensions linked to jobs, is considerably inadequate to address the urgent basic needs of the most vulnerable: poorer households and those dependent on informal employment, women, indigenous people, those living with disabilities, seasonal migration or mobile livelihoods, refugees, and the displaced, as well as those that suffer from stigma and discrimination due to age, ethnic and religious conditions.

Nevertheless, the efforts that countries have made to protect the lives and the livelihoods of people has been impressive, and you count it in the trillions. However, this should not blurr the fact that we were ill prepared to face this pandemic, even the most advanced countries. We need to re-think the social protection systems and learn from the COVID experience.

Countries expanded massively the coverage of social protection programs. The World Bank indicated that for the first part of the pandemic, from March to July, all countries planned or put in place 1,055 social protection measures.  Social assistance accounts for 60% of those measures.

In terms of cost, for a subset of countries for which data is available, a total of 589 billion dollars is being reported.  So we know that, when duty call, the financing is made available to face these kind of shocks.

However, not having in place systems that can help palliate the effects of crisis like this, or the climate emergency, is really costly. We have heard that there is not financing that would be enough to ensure social protection floors as defined by the ILO. We believe at UNESCO that, if we do not think out of the box, and find mechanisms to protect people, it will always be more costly to the world economy, and to people.

Therefore, this conversation is really important. This is about equity, but also about avoiding that the hug social impact of the crisis, affecting those that were already being hurt by the growth model we have followed, turn into political crisis of major dimensions.

We need to build the business case on how social protection systems are insurance systems for the whole economy, and for the State, and not only for those that is aimed to serve.  We need to change the narrative and ensure that the budgetary cost of the social programs are considered investments.

Now, we need to be bold. One lesson from the crisis is that, again the duty of care falls in the hands of governments.  Rethinking the welfare state did not happen with COVID, as we already were imagining how to ensure that, in the context of the digital transformation, we could protect people whose jobs would disappear and change due to technological developments. We concluded that it may be necessary to protect the people and not the jobs, and many ideas were floating around about individual accounts, with portability of benefits from jobs to jobs. We were also looking at the possibilities of ensuring universal basic income, with main critics calling into question the impact on job creation and on growth itself. The main debate was also linked to the issue of who finances this entitlement.

COVID has pushed us to reconsider these debates. When you see that countries like Colombia need to spend 2 percent of GDP to protect people from the economic impact of the pandemic, it sheds new lights on how to ensure that we are not found in the very vulnerable conditions in which we are now.

The question on how to finance should not be an obstacle. We have seen how much coming back to progressive tax systems where the Wheaties pay their faire share of taxes can help built this. The development cooperation can also receive a boost. And why not, tinking on a global fund. We haed it for vaccines, and for climate. Let’s do it for people.

It is about protecting people, but also about addressing the inequalities.

MUJERES QUE HACEN E INSPIRAN

Sra. Gabriela Ramos, Subdirectora General de Ciencias Sociales y Humanas de la UNESCO, el 2do dia de la 4ta Edición de la Jornada Internacional de Fundación Global “Mujeres que hacen e Inspiran, Beijing +25”, 17 de septiembre.

Buenos días.

Me complace mucho unirme a ustedes en este importante evento. Me gustaría elogiar a la Fundación Global por reunirnos hoy.

Este año se celebra el 25º aniversario de la Declaración y Plataforma de Acción de Beijing, aprobada en 1995 por 189 gobiernos, y se convirtió en el hilo conductor de todos los esfuerzos internacionales en favor de la igualdad de género.

Su escala y ambición sin precedentes fue visionaria en su momento, y hoy, en un momento en que estamos en medio de una crisis mundial como nunca antes, la mayoría de nosotros, sólo podemos reiterar lo crucial que siguen siendo sus compromisos, especialmente en el contexto actual.

La pandemia COVID-19 es una lupa reveladora de las numerosas, polifacéticas, intersectoriales y crecientes desigualdades y tendencias discriminatorias que se enconan en nuestras sociedades. Es un recordatorio de lo lejos de aún tenemos que llegar por recorrer para lograr la igualdad de género.

Si la COVID-19 nso enseñó algo, es que las mujeres y las niñas siguen siendo abrumadoramente más propensas que los hombres y los niños a vivir en la pobreza extrema, a no asistir a la escuela, a ser objeto de violencia sexual o física a manos de una pareja íntima, a tener trabajos inestables de bajos salarios y bajos beneficios, a que se le impida el acceso al liderazgo y a la toma de decisiones, y la lista sigue adelante.

Sin embargo, no quiere decir que no haya habido ningún progreso. La lucha por la igualdad de género ha avanzado en los últimos 25 años. Pero este progreso ha sido lento: según el Informe sobre la Brecha Global de Género del Foro Económico Mundial para 2020, ni nosotros ni nuestros hijos viviremos para ver la paridad de género, y estos datos se publicaron antes de que la pandemia nos hiciera retroceder.

Como paréntesis, recientemente participé en el debate de la Comisión Lancet sobre la violencia de género y sus vínculos con COVID-19. La Comisión ha podido recopilar datos y elaborar 30 documentos de política sobre cómo aumentó la violencia contra la mujer durante la pandemia y qué medidas funcionan -y no funcionan- para evitar que esto vuelva a suceder. ¡Este es un muy buen comienzo!

La enfermedad discrimina las múltiples y duraderos impactos socioeconómicos, y los más vulnerables fueron y seguirán siendo los más afectados. Entre ellos, en primer lugar, se encuentran las mujeres y las niñas, que soportan de manera desproporcionada la carga de la pandemia y, sin embargo, son los hombres los que parecen mantener el control de las decisiones adoptadas para luchar contra la pandemia.

Las mujeres tienen un largo historial de subrepresentación en los puestos de adopción de decisiones y, aunque el porcentaje de mujeres en el parlamento ha aumentado en diez puntos, del 11 al 21%, desde la Conferencia de Beijing, las mujeres de todo el mundo siguen estando subrepresentadas en todas las instituciones de adopción de decisiones.

Constituyen menos del 25% de los parlamentos nacionales. Menos aún llegan al cargo de ministro, ya que constituyen al menos el 40% de los ministros en sólo 30 gabinetes en todo el mundo; y constituyen sólo el 36,3% de los funcionarios electos en los órganos deliberativos locales.

Lamentablemente, esos datos reflejan lo que surgió poco antes del brote de la pandemia, a saber, que aproximadamente la mitad de la población mundial afirmaba creer que los hombres eran mejores líderes políticos que las mujeres.

La subrepresentación de las mujeres parece ser particularmente preocupante cuando se trata de los ministerios de salud. De hecho, aunque constituyen el 70% de la fuerza de trabajo sanitaria mundial, sólo el 24,7% de los ministros de salud del mundo son mujeres, y ocupan sólo el 25% de los puestos de responsabilidad en las instituciones sanitarias, según ONU Mujeres.

A la luz de estas alarmantes cifras, una transformación en la forma en que se toman las decisiones de salud pública es primordial. Como líderes y creadores de cambio al frente de la respuesta de la COVID-19, evitando que nuestras sociedades se derrumben, estos asientos son legítimamente suyos.

Entre los ejemplos de buenas prácticas figuran las cuotas y la acción afirmativa, tanto en los espacios políticos como en el lugar de trabajo, para la representación tanto pública como privada.

Además, muchas de las 21 mujeres Jefas de Estado y de Gobierno del mundo se encontraban entre las que debían ser aclamadas públicamente por su mayor eficacia en la lucha contra la pandemia y, en particular, por haber adoptado respuestas que no se limitaban a medidas destinadas a “aplanar la curva”, como las medidas de confinamiento, el distanciamiento social y las pruebas generalizadas. 

Lo que quiero decir, en pocas palabras, es que, en un mundo de discursos y decisiones dominado por los hombres, es necesaria la participación equitativa de la mujer en la toma de decisiones. Es la única manera de asegurar que se escuchen las voces de las mujeres, que se tengan plenamente en cuenta sus preocupaciones, necesidades y aspiraciones, y que se incluyan en los paquetes de seguridad y en las nuevas políticas públicas soluciones para hacer frente al aumento de sus ingresos y a la inseguridad social y la inseguridad general en estos tiempos difíciles.

Estas consideraciones sustentan los esfuerzos de la UNESCO para dirigir su Coalición Internacional de Ciudades Inclusivas y Sostenibles (ICCAR) hacia un mayor compromiso con la incorporación de la igualdad entre los géneros en la adopción de decisiones y medidas locales. Sólo la integración de la mujer en las decisiones políticas y en los debates internacionales garantizará la calidad de las intervenciones para la solución de problemas.

Por eso, en medio de la pandemia, la UNESCO invitó a mujeres líderes de todo el mundo a expresarse y a hablar de sus acciones.

A este respecto, la COVID-19 también nos mostró las oportunidades y desventajas de las tecnologías digitales para hacer frente a la crisis. Ayudaron a mantener la economía en marcha, y avanzaron soluciones útiles para contener la crisis con las tecnologías TTT.

Sin embargo, todos sabemos que, si hay desigualdades en el mundo analógico, éstas son tres veces mayores en el mundo digital. No sólo en términos de acceso, ya que hay más de 300 millones menos de mujeres que utilizan teléfonos inteligentes, sino también en la representación de las mujeres en la industria y en los estudios de las TIC.

Según ONU Mujeres, la brecha de género en el uso de Internet aumentó del 11% en 2013 al 17% en 2019, alcanzando el 43% en los países menos adelantados, donde un 20% menos de mujeres que de hombres poseen un teléfono inteligente, y el 80% de los nuevos desarrollos de software fueron realizados por un equipo exclusivamente masculino.

Dentro de la comunidad científica, las oportunidades de empleo y los ascensos para las mujeres son escasos en los puestos de dirección, gestión o responsabilidades.

Las mujeres no sólo se enfrentan a barreras laborales, sino también a un precipicio de cristal, con salarios más bajos, espacios, posiciones inestables y precarias, y más responsabilidades adicionales en el lugar de trabajo que no se traducen en una mejor remuneración, promoción o reconocimiento.

Para rectificar este titánico descuido, en 1998 se crearon los Premios L’Oréal-UNESCO “La Mujer y la Ciencia” para recompensar anualmente a cinco laureadas de todo el mundo con la suma de 100.000 dólares cada una.

Esta es también la razón por la que, en 2017, la UNESCO adoptó la Recomendación sobre la Ciencia y los Investigadores Científicos, con el objetivo de crear un futuro más brillante para las mujeres y las niñas en la ciencia y abordar los retrocesos estereotipos perjudiciales que obstaculizan el acceso de las mujeres a la educación y el empleo.

Entre esos importantes retrocesos, los ciberataques y el acoso constituyen otro ángulo problemático que aumentó durante la COVID-19, y que conduce a la autocensura de las mujeres y las niñas en la red.

La UNESCO está también elaborando actualmente una Recomendación de Ética de la Inteligencia Artificial, un primer instrumento normativo mundial que abordará el riesgo de que aumenten los prejuicios y estereotipos de género en el desarrollo y la investigación de la inteligencia artificial y proporcionará recomendaciones concretas y aplicables para contrarrestar la falta de participación y representación de la mujer en el mundo digital garantizando la inclusión, la transparencia y la rendición de cuentas tanto en línea como fuera de ella.

Pero para que esto suceda, debemos eliminar finalmente todas las barreras sociales, económicas y culturales, así como las leyes y prácticas discriminatorias que impiden a las mujeres y las niñas desarrollar todo su potencial.

Es fundamental que animemos a las mujeres a convertirse en pioneras, que les proporcionemos una formación adecuada para el liderazgo y la toma de decisiones.

Si no tienen modelos de conducta, entonces debemos asegurarnos de que las mujeres de hoy – no mañana, hoy – se conviertan ellas mismas en modelos de conducta para las jóvenes de las generaciones futuras.

Los estudios muestran que los hombres sobreestiman sus capacidades y su rendimiento, mientras que las mujeres subestiman ambos; que los hombres son mucho más propensos que las mujeres a solicitar puestos – o postularse a un cargo – aunque carezcan de las calificaciones adecuadas.

Por esta razón, la UNESCO trata de crear una transformación de las normas de género, incluso abordando las normas de las masculinidades, para asegurar que las mujeres aumenten su confianza y dejen atrás su síndrome de impostor.

Por ejemplo, la UNESCO promueve el empoderamiento de las niñas a través de los deportes y la educación física, ya que ahora es bien sabido que los deportes empoderan a las niñas con conjuntos de ética, competencias y negociación, trabajo en equipo y aptitudes de liderazgo; las ayudan a desarrollar su confianza en sí mismas y les enseñan los valores de determinación, perseverancia, compromiso, excelencia, solidaridad, amistad, respeto de sí mismas, de los demás y del estado de derecho.

En otras palabras, los deportes crean mujeres poderosas. Para asegurar que todos nuestros esfuerzos se dirijan en la dirección correcta, la UNESCO establecerá pronto un Observatorio mundial de la mujer, la educación física y el deporte en Suiza.

Concluiré diciendo que se trata de una cuestión de voluntad política y eficacia.

Los gobiernos deben tomar la iniciativa en la lucha contra las barreras laborales que siguen limitando la posición y los ascensos de la mujer mediante la adopción de incentivos económicos y políticas públicas inclusivas para socavar las normas sociales y culturales de género que hacen que sea una carga unilateral de la mujer el ocuparse de las tareas no remuneradas y el cuidado de otras personas.

Los permisos parentales bien remunerados y desarrollados para ambos miembros de la pareja que dan la bienvenida a un nuevo miembro de la familia son cruciales para la distribución equitativa de las tareas domésticas y de cuidado en el hogar.

A medida que continuamos enfrentando la pandemia, necesitamos tomar medidas efectivas para aumentar la presencia de las mujeres en la toma de decisiones. Esta es la única forma de volver a construir el mejor.

Gracias.

UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. 1st edition

Welcome address by Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO during the opening of the first edition of the UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. 1st edition: Africa

Excellencies,
Distinguished panelists,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the first edition of the UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. My name is Gabriela Ramos and I am the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO.

Let me first of all remind the participants that English and French interpretation is available during this online meeting. You may wish to switch your channel to your preferred language.

This expert consultation comes at a very crucial juncture for the international community. In an era of globalization and multiculturalism, the COVID-19 crisis has further unveiled the harsh realities of racial inequality, injustice and stigmatization with the most disadvantaged groups disproportionally affected, especially women and girls who are more likely than men and boys to live in extreme poverty, to be out of school, to be subject to sexual or physical violence, to have unstable low-wage and low-benefit jobs, to be prevented from accessing leadership and decision-making, and the list goes on.

According to Tendayi Achiume who is the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, “many of the groups who have been subject to racist and xenophobic attacks because associated with having spread the disease, were already subjects to latent intolerance and xenophobia. It is of the utmost importance to tackle the root causes of intolerance and racism taking into account the specificities of each context”.

As the custodian of UNESCO’s work to promote social inclusion and the fight against racism and discriminations, UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector is upscaling its ongoing work. In order to do so, it is crucial that we understand better the mechanics of discrimination in all its forms, including racism and gender based discrimination, its history and legacies, and ultimately their repercussions on societies. It is also fundamental that we address the critical data gaps at the global level in an effort to ensure science-informed decision making and action. Given the lack of consolidated and analytic data in Africa, especially related to COVID, UNESCO has recently partnered with the Association of Canadian Studies and Metropolis in collaboration with African cities to identify key issues, indicators and socio-demographics to generate evidence-based responses that address the social and economic dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, including discriminations and inequalities.

Through these expert consultations, we wish to privilege a scientific assessment of the situation and the needs of specific groups by involving experts from various disciplines to bridge their perspective on racism and discriminations to the policy responses of national/local governments, as well as to the fundamental needs assessment mechanism targeting the most affected populations. Today’s edition is focused on the African region.

One of the most significant aspects in analyzing racism and discriminations revolves around the concept of communal identity. In Africa, data from the past year indicates the persistence of intercommunal conflicts and violence within a number of countries. Urbanization has also exacerbated ethnic grievances with an “urban dilemma” highlighting the intersection between urbanization, poverty and violence.

Violence is another heavy consequence of discrimination that has exposed society’s flawed ways of thinking and uncivilized behavior. There are for example striking examples of these heinous acts committed against people living with albinism, who are regularly dehumanized, bullied, abandoned, mutilated and killed in complete social silence and indifference.

It is paradigmatic of the issue of racism which has prevailed throughout the years despite the innovative measures taken by governments, institutions and citizens to eradicate it through scientific research, legal frameworks and education, among others.  It has also been significantly pushed further into the forefront of global issues as a result of the accounts of racial and gender-based violence and discrimination heightened by the COVID-19 crisis.

The example of the global movements against racism and discriminations carry with them unequivocal narratives of racial injustice, discrimination and intolerance. Around the world, these voices may be different – but the narrative remains the same. It resonates not only with the marginalized groups who continue to face adversities in their respective societies but also with the individuals, governments and institutions who are committed to helping change these narratives for the better. 

This is the context in which the world must mobilize itself in today. This is also the aspiration UNESCO seeks to fulfill in this regional expert consultation series: to engage experts in a meaningful exchange of knowledge and experience, facilitate an evolution of the organizational mindset and strengthen the approach to eradicating racism and discriminations.  The insights gained from the regional expert consultation series will be an indispensable step in the right direction for UNESCO on the road to achieving this mission.

UNESCO’s present initiatives alongside the emergence of global movements is predated by its already long-held stand in the fight against racism and discriminations and the promotion of universal human rights for more than 70 years. Beyond its landmark Declaration of Race in 1950which pioneered the rejection of racial inferiority or superiority due to its non-existent scientific foundation, it also held scientific conferences in the post-Second World War where statements on racial equality as an ethical principle were issued. The 59 member cities of UNESCO’s Coalition of African Cities against Racism and Discrimination represent a unique city-level platform in the UN system aiming to fight against racism and discriminations through the development of inclusive policies, capacity-building activities and advocacy initiatives. UNESCO launched for instance in November 2019 the Master Class Series against Racism and Discriminations for secondary level students that seeks to empower young women and men to become champions against racism and discriminations in their own schools and communities, and undertake local actions to fight them. These UNESCO programmes continue to evolve to remain relevant in optimizing opportunities in the midst of these unprecedented social transformations.

UNESCO is also in the process of elaborating a Recommendation of Ethics of Artificial intelligence, a first global standard-setting instrument that will address the ethical and social issues related to discrimination, including gender bias and stereotyping, in the development and research of artificial intelligence.

The COVID-19 pandemic also reminded us of how fast, useful and convenient the use of digital technologies could be to address the crisis, and yet of how unequal it remained. Not only in terms of access, as there are more than 300 million fewer women than men using smartphones. The digital divide reaches 43% in least developed countries, which has an enormous impact on women’s and girls’ education and mobility, but also in women’s representation in the industry, in the ICT studies and in terms of gender-based violence. Cyber discrimination has also increased during the pandemic and tends to lead to self-censorship and exclusion of vulnerable groups. This digital discrimination is yet another problematic angle that our discussions should explore.

We are very honored to host this important expert consultation series with our distinguished panel of experts. We look forward to being enlightened and inspired by the insights and exchanges that will be shared in the session, and hear about the perspectives and recommendations on the way forward regarding UNESCOs upscaling of its work against racism and discriminations, which also includes the Slave Route project. Your invaluable contribution, expertise and experience will undoubtedly help shape our organizational direction in the fight against racism and discriminations. Let us take heart today as we engage in this meaningful discussion and work together towards achieving our collective goal: to end racism and discriminations once and for all.

Thank you.

Hand-Over Ceremony for the Draft Recommendation on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Speech delivered by Ms Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, during the Hand-Over Ceremony for the Draft Recommendation on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI), on 17 September.

From left to right: Mrs. Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO ADG for Social and Human Sciences; Mrs. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General; Mrs. Dafna Feinholz, Chief of Section – Bioethics and Ethics of ScienceSector for Social and Human Sciences. Photo credits: ©UNESCO/Fabrice Gentile.


Dear Director-General,

Dear Member of the Bureau of the Ad Hoc Expert Group for the Recommendation on the Ethics of AI,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the hand-over ceremony of the Draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. This is a culminating point of months of hard, grueling work by the Ad Hoc Expert Group, which I would call nothing less than heroic, considering the circumstances and the volume of work at hand.

The mandate that the Member States provided for UNESCO in 2019 acquired renewed importance with COVID-19 and with the acceleration of Artificial Intelligence technologies to contain the pandemic and to keep the economy going. The ethical framing is essential if they are to continue to deliver for the benefit of the people.

Every member of the Bureau, with the support of our secretariat, made a commitment to deliver high quality work – and they achieved it. I want to commend particularly the leadership of Professor Emma RUTTKAMP-BLOEM from South Africa, who brought the entire group together. Emma was supported by the Members of the Bureau – Rapporteur Professor Sang Wook Yi from the Republic of Korea and the Vice Chairs: Constanza Gomez Mont from Mexico, Dr Irena Nesterova from Latvia, Ms Golestan (Sally) Radwan from Egypt, and Dr Peter-Paul Verbeek, from the Netherlands, who is the Chairperson of the UNESCO’s COMEST.

It is a pleasure to have all six of you together again, still online, but hopefully in not-so-distant future in person as well. 

Before giving the floor to Emma, I want to recognize the very strong support and leadership of DG Azoulay on this issue, and her vision for UNESCO’s work in this area. We are now well equipped to make UNESCO’s count in this important field. I would like to give the floor to Professor Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem, the Chairperson of Ad Hoc Expert Group, to be followed by brief interventions from the Members of the Bureau.

Second Anniversary of the Launch of the UN 2030 Youth Strategy

Statement by Ms Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO at the Briefing to Member States on the Occasion of Second Anniversary of the Launch of the UN 2030 Youth Strategy, 16 September 2020.

I would like to thank the Permanent Missions of the Slovak Republic and Sri Lanka for the invitation to this event.

The Youth Strategy brings together the individual strengths of all entities of the UN System  and provides a means through which the UN can advance the paradigm that youth are true partners in the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda.

We have only 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, societies, politics and economies are transforming under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic and the exacerbated challenges to inclusion, human rights and equality.

Education, employability and income, social and economic inclusion, mental and physical well-being, are youth development determinants gravely impacted by the crisis.

The closure of schools and universities has affected 60.5% of total enrolled learners – more than 1.5 billion children and youth worldwide! Unemployment rates are affecting youth more than other age groups. According to ILO, almost 25% of youth between the ages of 18 and 24, stopped working due to the pandemic. Recent research confirms significant psychological impacts of social distancing and quarantine measures on young people causing stress, anxiety and loneliness.

Young adults (aged 18 to 29) experience higher level of distress compared to other age groups. Considering the impact of the pandemic, prospects for future well-being are among the major concerns of young people in the long run.

Yet, young people are not only “victims” of this crisis – they are also the big hope for better, innovative and more effective solutions. UNESCO’s youth storytelling campaign, My COVID-19 Story, has gathered more than 300 inspiring stories showcasing how young people across the world have been engaging, proving resilience and inventiveness, notably by developing new forms of solidarity.

The response to the crisis will require that governments prioritize actions to support youth in their development, in the integration in the labor markets, in finding responses to their concerns. We should avoid by all means having a lost generation, as we did in 2008. The social fabric is so stressed, that this will have a negative impact in our societies for the time to come.

At the macro level, we need to provide targeted youth support and budgets from the fiscal packages that respond to the crisis. Short-term emergency responses must be aligned with investments into long-term economic, social and environmental objectives to ensure youth wellbeing. Given that governments and Central Banks have been core to keep the economy going, in the recovery packages, partnering with the private sector, they should promote opportunities for youth.

Finally, youth-related programming at country level must be incorporated in the overall national development planning to address the crisis. Youth-related actions must not be a separate, standalone chapter but rather embedded in the overall response to the crisis.

This could happen through 3 inter-connected transversal investments to boost the Strategy’s roll-out:

  • Firstly, we need data to map out the impact of COVID on youth. Real time quantitative and qualitative data on all aspects affecting youth well-being and livelihoods. At UNESCO we have launched a global “Youth As Researchers Initiative” that aims to produce such knowledge. Many other agencies have also launched data collection processes. Partnerships should be built, and data consolidated and further supported.
  • Secondly, enhanced technical guidance must be offered to national governments and youth related stakeholders. In this sense, UNESCO and UNFPA are supporting an initiative put forward by the government of Morocco, to organize technical and policy meetings of the Fast-Track Countries, in line with the Strategy.
  • Finally, meaningful partnerships and engagement with young people will be the game changer. Establishing platforms and mechanisms to collaborate and engage with the numerous young changemakers, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists and innovators, as well as with the vibrant youth networks and organizations that have capacity to also reach out to the most vulnerable and excluded, is fundamental to shaping better, more efficient and sustainable solutions.

Thank you for your attention.

High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace

Opening segment by Ms. Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO at the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace, on 10th September 2020.

Your Excellency Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the General Assembly, Your Excellency Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Distinguished Ambassadors and representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first thank the President of the General Assembly for having convened this Forum, a valuable tradition that gains new significance within the current climate.

Excellencies,

Our world has been deeply shaken by the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has not only taken a tragic toll of human lives, but it has also dramatically exposed our vulnerabilities, shed light on our injustices, and disrupted our assumptions.

The numbers speak for themselves:

Livelihoods and economic prosperity are being decimated with up to 340 million jobs at risk – 11.9% of the world’s total workforce[1], whilst between 71 and 100 million people are projected to enter extreme poverty because of the crisis[2].

The opportunity gap continues to grow, with UNESCO statistics showing that 825 million students – 47% of the global total – remain affected by school closures[3], exacerbating levels of inequality already unprecedented in modern history, and contributing to the first decline in human development since records began in 1990[4]. And discrimination and violence are on the rise (including through many populist governments), with the number of reported incidences of racism and xenophobia increasing significantly.

31 million additional cases of gender-based violence are expected to emerge over the next 10 years as a result of COVID-19[5]. And I want to commend the SG leadership on defending the rights of women in the current context.

All this create the conditions for a perfect storm that is not conducive to peaceful and cohesive societies.

The pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our world.

But it has also confirmed that among our growing diversity, we remain fundamentally interconnected and unavoidably interdependent.

It has reminded us of the need for a culture of peace – a culture of peace that is a way of life: an instrument not only to avoid war, but to address longstanding tensions between individuals and technology; people and planet; and those who have and those who do not.

This requires a commitment to build peace in the minds of men and women all the way through, and a clear understanding that an unfair and unsustainable world cannot be the basis for truthful, peaceful and trusting relationships among countries and people.

Pursuing this vision is why UNESCO exists, and what we seek to achieve through every one of our activities:

This is why, among others:

We have created an innovative framework to measure the enabling environment and impact of intercultural dialogue, looking to strengthen the evidence-base on what works and why, and create actionable insights to help leaders build effective processes to address difficult issues before they lead to conflict or violence.

We work with communities to develop intercultural skills – respect, empathy, tolerance, and mutual understanding – providing the socio-emotional basis to learn and engage with those different from ourselves. This in turn can help to tackle challenges as varied as the integration of migrant communities in Austria, the participation of indigenous populations in Costa Rica, and gender-based exclusion in Zimbabwe.

We mobilise the arts to advocate for human rights and dignity as the inalienable foundation of intercultural exchange, working with the most vulnerable to facilitate post-conflict reconciliation, integration, and the prevention of violence.

And we are developing an instrument to address the ethics of Artificial Intelligence to ensure that these amazing technologies contribute to a peaceful world.

The need for a culture of peace, the need for UNESCO, is more pronounced today than ever before. Peace is as an essential enabler, and an ultimate outcome of a fairer, sustainable world.

We cannot rest on our laurels, and at UNESCO, we are building the evidence of what works, and what does not, we have increased our investments and strengthened our partnerships and commitments.

We hope that this will support the efforts of those that are now rowing against the tide in a world that is not as we would like it to be. Too much confrontation, too much violence, too much despair.

I am sure that today’s celebration will serve as an important catalyst for action in this direction. Count on UNESCO at this critical time.

Thank you.


[1] International Labor Organization. (2020). ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Fifth edition. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_749399.pdf

[2] Gerszon D., Laknerr M., Castaneda Aguilar A., Wu H. (2020). Updated estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty.
https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/updated-estimates-impact-covid-19-global-poverty

[3] UNESCO. (2020. Education: From disruption to recovery.
https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse

[4] UNDP. (2020). COVID-19 and Human Developement: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery.
http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/covid-19_and_human_development_0.pdf

[5] UNFPA. (2020). Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage.
https://www.unfpa.org/resources/impact-covid-19-pandemic-family-planning-and-ending-gender-based-violence-female-genital