International Peace Forum in Nanjing

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great privilege to address you today at this Nanjing Peace Forum, at the very same moment when we celebrate the United Nations 75th Anniversary with so many institutions and distinguish participants around this platform.

Source: https://news.qq.com/mobile/

On behalf of the Director General of UNESCO, I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the organizers of this Forum, in particular, the Municipality of Nanjing with its long track record to support pacific solutions.  Thank you Mr. Han Limming and thank you to our cluster office and to our Regional office in Beijing. Thank you Marielza Oliveirs. Thanks to the republic of China for its support to UNESCO beyond this wonderful occasion.

Dear friends, you all know that building peace in the minds of men and women is the main goal of UNESCO. We do it through a shared understanding of what makes us all humans, through education; through culture and through science.

In the Social and Human Sciences sector that I have the privilege to lead, UNESCO pursues peacebuilding measures through social and human sciences; through Intercultural Dialogue, through our fight against racism and discrimination, through gender equality and ethics in science and through the promotion of sports as a vehicle for social cohesion and inclusiveness.

Our Management of Social Transformations (MOST), Youth, General and Regional Histories, Routes of Dialogue, and its Inclusion and Rights Programmes also contribute to these goals.

For instance, through the General and Regional Histories, UNESCO fills in missing details within the history of humankind, and challenges prevailing historical narratives. These histories contribute to the emergence of a global consciousness, promoting mutual understanding and reciprocal knowledge of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. The often referred as “soft” disciplines of the humanities can transform the conditions of social change.

In addition, within the Routes of Dialogue programmes, and in particular the Silk Roads programme, UNESCO seeks to underscore the shared heritage that flourished along these historic trade and communication routes and has furthered work on the mutual influences of cultures.

With our work on the ethics of science, and  more recently, the ethics of artificial intelligence, we aim to ensure that the amazing progress and service that the new digital technologies bring to  our societies are always achieved through the reaffirmation of human rights and human dignity, including gender equality.

Our quest for a peaceful world is all the more relevant as we try to navigate one of the most difficult moments in our lifetime, with the unprecedented health, economic and social crisis brought by the COVID pandemic.

The pandemic is unfortunately accompanied by many countries going inward and trying to find individualistic solutions to a global crisis.  Multilateral solutions are not the preferred way for many, and mounting populism and nationalisms is being felt. Current misunderstandings, mistrust, and potential for conflict, risk worsening.

Thus, we need to upscale our efforts, and strengthen our toolkit to address the crisis in ways that we strengthen resilience, solidarity, and lay the foundations for a culture of sustainable peace and mutual respect. We should join forces to be together, as the Major shared also with us.

Building sustainable peace also requires a fairer world. The pandemic has dramatically magnified the unacceptable trends of increasing inequalities of income, wealth. outcomes and opportunities in many countries in the world for many decades. Those that were already vulnerable; without access to quality education or health care; those in precarious jobs or informality; those on the move, migrating or moving away from violence, and women in particular, have been badly hit by the pandemic.

Building back better will call on us to ensure that everyone can live a fulfilling life, and that no one is left behind. It will also require that the needed ecological transition would consider the needs  of the most vulnerable.  We need a new growth model that considers equity and environment at the same level than efficiency in markets.

The peaceful world we all aspire is nothing more than the one defined by the Sustainable Development Goals, and the UN Sustaining Peace Agenda, as a critical pre-requisite for the other development priorities.

As we heard at the beginning. It is time to take a stand. In a globalized world, we must ensure that we globalize compassion, solidarity and peace. count on UNESCO, and have a fruitful Forum.

UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. 6th edition: Arab Region

Good morning to one and all.  It is with pride that I am involved in this sixth series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations.  This is the last one. We have had consultations in all the regions around the world.  We have had Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, North America  and this is UNESCO work looking at the way racism and discrimination are expressed.  There has been an increase in such sentiment over recent times.  It is our pleasure that you agreed to be part of this exchange of knowledge so that we can see how we can take action.  Welcome to our speakers,  Mr Omar Fassatoui, Mr Charles Harb, Ms Khawla Ksiksi, Ms Nadia Meflah, Ms Saadia Mosbah, and our Moderator, Mr Béchara Al Ghaoui. 

Racism and discrimination is not new to UNESCO.  This is central to our role and central to our mandate to promote peace in the minds of men and women.  We have a very interesting basis to build up the knowledge and try to pass strong action against racism, starting with the seminal work by Claude Lévi-Strauss in the 1950s regarding race that established no superiority of any race going to our Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice in 1978, and our programmatic activities like the Slave Route Project, the General History of Africa, the Master Class Series against Racism and Discriminations and the work of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities, so we have a vast display of activities and reflections to counter this evil.  We also are launching a Recommendation of Ethics of Artificial Intelligence that is really trying, among other things, to avoid that the discriminatory actions and the biases that we have in the analog world are not translated into the digital world.  We are also trying to move ahead not only in terms of what we know but also on what the world of the future will be if it is based on more tolerance and more understanding. 

Racism and discriminations have been a prevalent issue in our history.  It is not something new, but we know that the COVID crisis has made it really visible. It is indeed shocking that, depending on the color of your skin, depending on your gender, and depending on where you come from you may have more chances to be alive or not, to have access to health services, to have access to education, to  have access to internet that will enable you to continue teleworking, ultimately, to be able to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

Discrimination in the Arab region is also prevalent.  It takes shape in a variety of forms and has affected the different aspects of society – spanning from the dimensions from everyday life to work-related practices and legal frameworks.  We know that anti-black racism is widespread in many Arab nations and it affects both migrant communities and Arabs of Sub-Saharan African descent. We are proud to hear that Tunisia adopted the law on the elimination of all forms of racial discriminations. This is also a platform to try to change good practices of what have worked and what have not.  But black communities are not the only victims of racial and structural discrimination in the Arab world as this phenomenon also affects other minority groups.  It comes to acts of injustice, oppression and categorization directed against a group of people that has to do with “race” but has also to do with religion and sectarianism is present in the region, which has continued to divide religious communities and that has really paved the way for discriminations and violence.

And what about women? Discrimination against women is prevalent all over the world.  COVID has been a magnifier of all the vulnerabilities that women experience in their lives and the lack of support systems when this kind of shocks happen.

The Arab region unfortunately remains among the lowest performing across the world in terms of the Global Gender Gap Index.[1] Gender-Based Violence including domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual assault, sexual harassment, child and forced marriage, continue to prevail in the region.  Moreover, the ILO data in this region show that women spend almost 5 times more hours than men on unpaid care and domestic work, especially related to child-rearing.[2]  This has to do with stereotypes and role modeling of what is good for men and what is good for women.  It is reflected in the labor market.  The rate of female labor force participation in the region is the lowest in the world at 18.4%.  It is not only bad for women, but it is also bad for the economy because governments have invested in the education of girls and then they do get the returns for this investment as women are no table to contribute to the economic growth and development.  The global average for women participation is 48%, which is very low but still in the region you even have less than half of the global indicators.  For the women that are already in the labor force, only 11% hold managerial positions which is lower than the average of 27% and the political participation is also very low.  In Congress, it was 18% in 2017, the second lowest globally.  All of this is threatened by the fact that by 2010 only 59% of women over 50 years were literate.  They have increased their rate of participation in education, but it is still low by international standards.  

In addition to this gender-based racism and discrimination, migrant workers again suffer from other forms of discriminations as they are often excluded from labor law protections.  This is true in many countries and of course, the fast-growing countries in the region attract a lot of labor migration when the protection is not there, and the abuses are also widespread.  Migrant women, who are usually employed as domestic workers, are particularly vulnerable. The victimization of migrant women continues to abound.  Despite the ban on slavery, slave descendants in some countries still continue to face racism and discriminations.[3]

Structural discrimination against refugees including those from Arab countries, is another important issue which highlights the limitation placed on the enjoyment of several important rights.[4] The Arab region together with Turkey is home to more than six million refugees and over 10 million internally displaced people fleeing violence.  Many countries in the region must be commended for being generous enough to host these refugees but again they also face a lot of discrimination. 

The context is somber, but there are also some positive signals about progress made in some domains. I, myself was pleased to support the Minister of Gender of Tunisia when she repelled the laws that impeded women to become privy to heritage and eliminate laws that will force victims of rape to marry their aggressors. Morocco has set up an Intergovernmental Commission to fight human trade, and the International Organization for Migration provided assistance to officially reported victims of this crime. Within the Maghreb countries, awareness raising campaigns have also been positively received. Many civil society organizations have continuously and strongly advocated for inclusion and non-discrimination and progress in the legal framework has also been achieved in many countries. 

But we should address forcefully the downsides of this story. We cannot accept  prevailing trends of racism and discrimination– UNESCO will not accept. 

That is why we want to bring your knowledge, we want to bring your insights and we are being called by our Member States on how we can upscale the efforts and bring innovative solutions and help the world move away from these discriminatory practices.  A great debate is wished upon you all.  There is a lot that will be learned from you.  This is the closing session and we close with great speakers and inspiration.  It is our hope that we will be able to build something meaningful to address this challenge that we all confront.

Thank you so much.


[1] Global Gender – Gap Report 2018

[2] ILO World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2019 

[3] Data from the UNESCO’s Rabat office

[4] https://www.unrwa.org/where-we-work/lebanon

Lanzamiento fAIr LAC Medellin

Buenos días a todos y a todas.

La pandemia del COVID-19 ha expuesto nuestras fragilidades y el estado deplorable de las desigualdades crecientes del ingreso y las oportunidades, en nuestras sociedades. Desigualdades que incluyen las relacionadas con las tecnologías de la información. Desde hace mas de dos décadas, sabíamos que el código postal de las familias tenía más peso en la determinación del futuro de los individuos que su esfuerzo o la educación. La situación de la mujer no escapa a estas tendencias.

De hecho, el impacto de la pandemia tiene rostro de mujer. Al representar 70 por ciento de los trabajadores del sector salud; el 90 por ciento de la economía del cuidado, al tener menos protección social, apalancamiento financiero o incluso protección contra la agresión física, su exposición al riesgo ha sido significativa. Su participación y representación en los sectores de punta también ha sido mucho menor.

Esto tiene que cambiar. Particularmente si consideramos que las tecnologías de la información, y de comunicaciones, y la inteligencia artificial están llamadas a continuar proveyendo de soluciones para contrarrestar los impactos económicos, sociales y humanos de la pandemia. Están llamadas también a lograr soluciones en los temas de salud y de cooperación internacional como lo han venido haciendo de una manera muy impresionante.

Si queremos que las tecnologías de la información y las telecomunicaciones, y que la inteligencia artificial den buenos resultados, tenemos que asegurarnos que no se reproduzcan los sesgos y las desigualdades del mundo analógico. Por ejemplo, mientras más del 80% de las personas de las economías avanzadas tienen acceso a Internet, sólo el 35% de las economías en desarrollo tienen dicho acceso [1].  Las disparidades en materia de conocimientos digitales y de propiedad y acceso a los datos son también significativos.

Las mujeres siguen estando subrepresentadas en el sector de las tecnologías de la información y comunicaciones: sólo el 22% de los profesionales de la inteligencia artificial a nivel internacional son mujeres [2] – y su participación en puestos directivos es aún más bajo que en el sector empresarial en general. Según un reporte que produjimos en la OCDE, el 85% de las descargas de software que se utilizan para desarrollar ejercicios de inteligencia artificial fueron realizadas por equipos exclusivamente formados por hombres. Las empresas innovadoras dirigidas por mujeres en el sector recibieron sólo alrededor del 12 al 15% de las inversiones. ¿Y qué podemos decir de la agresión en línea? Ésta es particularmente dirigida contra la mujer y la repetición de estereotipos está a la orden del día.

Para eliminar estos sesgos, y alinear el desarrollo tecnológico con la dignidad y los derechos humanos, y por supuesto con lo mejor que tenemos como seres humanos, la UNESCO ha sido llamada a desarrollar una Recomendación sobre la Ética de la Inteligencia Artificial, y aquí reconozco a Constanza Gómez Mont por su participación en este esfuerzo. El proyecto de recomendación subraya que estas tecnologías tienen que estar siempre informadas por lo mejor del ser humano, para avanzar la armonía y la convivencia en la paz y en la tolerancia. La Recomendación establece la necesidad de contar con mecanismos claros de rendición de cuentas, de reparación y de recurso; asegurando que se respete el estado de derecho en línea como lo hacemos fuera de línea. En materia de género, llama a alentar a más niñas a realizar estudios sobre las TICs y lo que se conoce como STEM – las ciencias, las matemáticas y la ingeniería – y a garantizar que los paquetes fiscales nacionales, esos cuantiosos paquetes que han sido adoptados para paliar la pandemia, tengan una inversión dedicada a la mujer, una inversión con perspectiva de género.

Este es el tipo de hoja de ruta que necesitamos para paliar los efectos de la pandemia y para corregir los efectos de este mundo tan desigual. La recuperación y reconstrucción después de la catástrofe que estamos viviendo, necesitan una buena dosis de equidad de género. El mundo mejor al que todos aspiramos solo se puede concretar si logramos que los desarrollos tecnológicos generen la inclusión.  Ese es el tamaño de nuestro reto. Ese es el tamaño de nuestro compromiso en UNESCO.

Agradezco su atención y les deseo un debate muy fructífero.


[1] https://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?type=webcontent&articleId=2073263#:~:text=Accessibility%3A%20While%2080%20percent%20of,impact%20of%20the%20digital%20divide.

[2] https://news.itu.int/gender-bias-is-a-threat-to-future-artificial-intelligence-ai-applications-opinion/

UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. 5th edition: Asia Pacific

Good afternoon for Asia Pacific. Good morning for Europe.  I am very pleased to open this 5th Edition of the UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. The UNESCO video that you just saw embodies what the consultation aspires to achieve which is for us to take action and to learn from our distinguished experts from around the world who have accompanied us in all the editions of these discussions and particularly today. I want to welcome: Ms Kristin Dadey, Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration in the Philippines, Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, Executive Director of Research Initiatives Bangladesh, Professor Sohail Inayatullah, UNESCO Chairholder in Futures Studies, Ms Raushan Nauryzbayeva, Executive Director of the Development of Civil Society in Kazakhstan, and Professor Gyonggu Shin, Director of Gwangju International Center. The moderator of today will be Ms Sue Vize, Regional Adviser for Social and Human Sciences in the Asia Pacific in Bangkok.

This consultation was launched because society has witnessed an increase of racism and discriminations all around the world. The figures need not be placed in front of you – as they are known by you. This debate has brought us together because of this worry that we share in terms of how much politics, societal changes and international relations are being colored by extreme assertions of nationalism, populism and discrimination. Society is witnessing horrible things happening like what happened in France against a professor. These excesses continue to confront us with the shared reality that things need to change.

Since its creation, UNESCO has been fighting against racism and discriminations illustrating its long legacy around these issues which have always been at the heart of our mandate.  From the initial initiatives led by Claude Lévi-Strauss in the 1950s to the normative work such as the adoption of the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice in 1978, and to the programmatic activities like the Slave Route Project, the General History of Africa, the Master Class Series against Racism and Discriminations that was launched just recently and the work of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities, our House UNESCO is  demonstrating that we have this strong commitment to fight racism and discriminations through the years.  Thanks to a very strong mandate of our members, an elaboration of a Recommendation of Ethics of Artificial Intelligence has been launched.  Looking at how much this impressive digital revolution is, it is not just translating the biases and problems it is encountering in the analog world into the digital word and therefore, Science and the Artificial Intelligence must also be understood deeply.

The harsh realities that are endured by the groups that are being discriminated must be put on the table in order to move forward with the meaningful agenda.  This is a call to our experts in the dialogue that we have today – to share their expertise in terms of how things happened and how they can be addressed.  More than anything, it is a call to think together how we can upscale our efforts to go against discrimination.

The magnitude of the movements that are being witnessed today, not only Black Lives Matters but also the different movements of minority groups in many countries are telling us that society is  bound to change and that it needs to take this opportunity also to advance better policies and to advance better decisions on these issues. These movements have real significance because they are an appeal to the essence of humanity – to act justly, to embrace diversity and treat one another with value and respect, despite our differences.  It is imperative that all sectors of our society – individuals, governments, organizations and institutions, hear this call to action and work together towards eradicating racism and discrimination once and for all.  It is widely known that this has become even worse in the COVID pandemic or more accurately, that the COVID pandemic has illustrated the state of the world and how much the groups that have been discriminated historically, have also been confronted with more challenges and being more harmfully impacted by the pandemic because their initial conditions were not the best that they could have.

This consultation is  looking to break down and to understand the existing barriers in society by understanding the different facets surrounding racism and discrimination and by providing insights towards addressing them around their given contexts and specificities.  In some countries, these barriers have manifested themselves as obstacles to political participation where a number of groups have been disenfranchised and experience difficulties as a result of the systemic exclusion they are faced with.  The lack of political participation is a real problem because then their voices do not exist and the racist sentiments remain prevalent in some countries including in schools, the workplace and access to government jobsThere are government systematic discrimination.  There is discrimination based on religion and there is an awareness around  some of the worst experiences that are happening in the region of Southeast Asia and many Asian countries experience tensions and violence in view of their multi-ethnic and multicultural societies.  The large scale communal and ideological conflicts that have occurred resulted in ethnic violence with a “significant increase in incidents related to identity” citing a frequency of more than three times in the 2010-2014 period. There are people that are discriminated and who are tried to be converted against their religion and this happens in many countries. The indigenous peoples are also not spared from the widespread discrimination, and it continues to affect various facets of their everyday life spanning from cultural, social, economic and political spheres – leaving many of them marginalized and impoverished.  There are approximately 476 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide. The vast majority of them – 70% – live in the Asia and the Pacific region. In addition, they account for about 15 percent of the extreme poor in the world.

Meanwhile, persons with disabilities endure a similar hardship as a result of the discrimination against them in the region: “less than 5% of children with disabilities [attending] school” with women and girls having even less access to education due to the “double discrimination” they experience.

Discrimination against the LGBT community in Asia and the Pacific also remains a significant issue, with some countries being grounds for hostility and prejudice against this group.  In addition, migration is another area in which there is a lot of discrimination which leave all these people behind.  Of course women, it is always women – and gender-based discrimination. Women are also prone to this situation and we have seen the fact that COVID had made things worse in increasing violence and increasing plain threats to the integrity and the survival of women.

A recent United Nations multi-country study of men and violence in the Asia Pacific reveals that 10% to 62% of all interviewed men reported having raped a woman or a girl in their lifetime.  It also shows that in some places more than 75% of women ages 15-24 think that there are conditions under which it is justified for a man to beat his wife.  This is terrible because this talks about the younger generation.  A global UN Women’s study from last April shows that fewer women than men receive information to prepare for the COVID-19 leaving them and their families more vulnerable to the outbreak. During these times of the pandemic, they also have less access to critical care and care insurance while simultaneously bearing the brunt of increased levels of unpaid care, domestic work, stress and risk of losing jobs and sources of income.  This is especially the case for women and informal workers that are already living in poverty.  For this reason, the capacity-building and awareness-raising initiatives within in the framework of legal systems can really help to close the gaps that have just been mentioned.  The aspiration for us is to advance reviewing the legal and institutional frameworks.  It should start there. There is a need to legislate equality and by addressing the data gaps in an effort to ensure science-informed decision making, it is our aspiration to advance the knowledge and understanding of the issue of racism and discrimination in order to take concerted, careful and collective action through participatory and holistic mechanisms such as this consultation.

The Organization will continue its commitment against this evil through the continuation of our programmes and initiatives against racism and discrimination.  It is truly a pleasure for us that this group of wonderful experts are here as our participants to share insights, to share new ways of addressing the issue, to share with us positive experiences.  It is sad to put the problems on the table but it is a must to be optimistic that solutions can be found with your help. I wish you the best and I look forward to the debate.

Thank you.

Qatar meeting on Sports Diplomacy

Chairperson,

Excellencies,

distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s discussion on Sports Diplomacy, convened by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of Qatar 2020 – together with the UNESCO Office for the Gulf States andYemen, the Josoor Institute and Generation Amazing – is very timely.

It remind us of the power of sports, no only to advance international cooperation and development, particularly through sports diplomacy, but to contribute to addressing the biggest challenges in our lifetimes due to COVID.

As is all too evident by now, the world has almost been brought to a standstill over the past year due to the pandemic. While its overall impact may not yet be fully understood – both in terms of its human toll, and its socio-economic effects on nations across the globe – it is already clear that the long-term consequences will be devastating, and recovery could take decades. The IMF just released its latest numbers: the decline in the world economy in 2020 is without precedent.

The impact of the pandemic on the sports sector has been also significant, with the disruptions and cancellation of major sporting events across the world, including the Olympics and Paralympics.

These decisions have inflicted a huge financial toll on an industry with almost USD300 billion in annual revenue, with immediate consequences on athletes, coaches, fitness instructors, across the sector, and on SME’s linked to physical activity.

There has been much discussion of the most affected industries linked to tourism, air travel and cultural activities. Less has been said about sports. So let’s take the opportunity to raise our voices and urge our governments and stakeholders to prioritize financial support and investment in the sport sector. The return on this investment  is high, as it will not only help us reduce the negative impact on our economies, it will catalyze the positive contribution that sports can make in the recovery from the COVID pandemic, and in rebuilding the health, well-being and resilience of our economies and societies.

It will help us particularly with one of the most worrisome impacts of the pandemic: the situation of youth. We risk having a lost generation of youth, with lost perspectives and an acute impact on their mental health.

Sports, and international sports events will continue providing the platforms for engaging people and countries with different interest, and building bridges through sports diplomacy.

This is particularly relevant in cases where official channels for direct communication may not exist.

For example, in its most recent history, UNESCO has worked with the two Koreas to inscribe Ssireum/Ssirum (Traditional Korean Wrestling) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a major achievement in the realm of sport and cultural diplomacy.

In all this, you can count on UNESCO’s longstanding role in promoting cooperation among countries – particularly through education, culture and sports.  We are convinced that, through this cooperation, sports can also contribute to our development agendas, the agenda 2030 and national plans, like the Qatar Vision 2030.

There is  a substantial set of UNESCO tools and frameworks in this domain: the Kazan Action Plan; our Ministerial Forum on Sport and Physical Education (MINEPS); UNESCO’s International Charter for Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport; the International Convention against Doping in Sport; and our recently launched sports education partnership Fit for Life.   The latter promotes values in sports education, advocates the transformative potential of leading an active life, promotes value-based learning, and emphasizes physical activity to overcome isolation and mental illness.  All of these tools are at your service in these trying times.

These efforts should be intensified in the coming months and years, bringing on board new partners such as regional multilateral development banks and the private sector, as we collectively work towards minimizing the impact of the pandemic on sport.

We have a great opportunity to make sports count in the current situation. We are well prepared to do so, as we have all shown our commitment to this agenda. I am sure that your discussions and exchanges will open the door to innovative solutions and to an agenda to build more resilient societies going forward. I wish you the most fruitful debates.

Thank you.

UNWomen Sport for Generation Equality Launch Event

At UNESCO, we are so proud to join this fantastic initiative on Sports for Gender Equality. The power of sports, and the power of us getting together to fight for gender equality is a real promise to support more sustainable, peaceful and healthy societies. 

Congratulations to friends from UN Women and for all the fantastic partners that preceded me.

We also come well prepared to support this initiative, and all of its principles, but particularly for principle 6, to ensure that we monitor and assess progress. We need to make sure that we live up to our commitments. We need change!

Gender equality is a strategic priority of UNESCO and it permeates all its programmes. It has been also a guiding light in my own personal and professional career, here in UNESCO, at the OECD, and at the G20.

And we have a track-record in the sports and equality agenda. With our Kazan Action Plan which has gender equality as an important objective. With our Intergovernmental committee for physical education, and our Ministerial Meetings on Sports, which also focus on equality.

Let me just share with you that the  UNESCO’s International Charter for Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sports, underlines the importance of universal access and gender equality in and through sport, providing that [quote]

“equal opportunity to participate and be involved at all supervision and decision-making levels in physical education, physical activity and sport (…) is the right of every girl and every woman that must be actively enforced” [unquote].

This is all the more important in the COVID context, where our vulnerabilities have been exposed, with the impact on women and girls way higher than on other groups. Sports have also been widely affected.

So the agenda that gathers us today are essential for a balanced recovery.

We should set our objectives high. We must envisage a world where statistics on the 100 best paid athletes will include more than only on woman and where media time for women’s sport raises from the generally observed 10%.

A world in which abuses of women and girls in sport are no longer an issue. I am in Paris, and I dream of a world that celebrates the gold medal of the lyon female football players the way they celebrated the males semifinal.

Sport for girls is important because it brings girls out of their homes and provides autonomy and self-confidence, helps shatter gender stereotypes, increases mobility, expands social networks, builds leadership, agency and skills sets, while significantly improving health.

As Mbali’s efforts have shown, the outcomes for girls’ engagement in sports are reduced school drop-out rates, delayed marriage and childbirth, enhanced aspirations and employability, to name just a few.

The visual power of girls claiming public spaces at par with their male counterparts has a long-term cascading impact of social mind sets, while changing the narrative in favor of gender equity.

 We have also additional good news for achieving principle no 6: UNESCO and Switzerland are making progress for the establishment of a global observatory for women, sport, physical education and physical activity.  That will certainly contribute to our goals today.

The Observatory will:

Connect and Convene as a space for coordinated efforts between stakeholders to promote women in sports

Guide and Advise major actors in conducting sector analyses and creating action plans for gender equality in and through sport.

Produce evidence and evaluation methodologies as well as conduct independent monitoring of gender equality and sport commitments.

Gathering disaggregated data for in-depth research;  evidence-based advocacy, policy, decision making and resource allocation is essential to achieve change in the world of gender equality.

At UNESCO we have also launched a world-wide survey on quality physical education provisions in schools. The Survey includes specific questions related to equality in school physical education programmes for girls and for boys.

We also put at your service our recently launched sports education partnership Fit for Life that promotes values in sports education, advocates the transformative potential of leading an active life, promotes value-based learning, and emphasizes physical activity to overcome isolation and mental illness.

The world is currently at work on response, resilience and recovery plans. However, the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in sports has yet to be well studied, and should gain a bigger space in the budget allocation of the massive fiscal programs that our countries have put together to survive the pandemic.

There are so many areas in which we need to impact Women and girls must be equally participants and leaders in the process of building back better, so their gains are not lost, and a better future for all becomes a reality. Count on UNESCOs Social and Human Science Sector to contribute to this.

Serie de Consultas Regionales de Expertos de la UNESCO. 4a edición: América Latina y el Caribe

Muchas gracias, muy poco que decir después de este video tan poderoso, con un mensaje muy claro y de muchos lideres de este tema. También me complace de estar con los lideres de la región de este tema y les agradezco mucho  y por supuesto a nuestros equipos que han estado apoyándolos en este esfuerzo por consultar, por intercambiar y primero que nada tratar de identificar que es lo que tenemos que hacer para tomar esa acción en la UNESCO. En el sector que ahora me digno a dirigir, hacemos iniciados esta serie de consultas regionales contra el racismo y la discriminación. Hay un interés por nuestros países miembros por elevar el nivel de la discusión pero también el nivel de acción y esta es nuestra cuarta edición de la Serie de Consultas y me da mucho gusto de poder presentarla en español.

La lucha contra el racismo y la discriminación es uno del mandato mas importante de la UNESCO desde su creación. Tenemos contribuciones seminales como el reporte de Claude Lévi-Strauss de los años cincuenta sobre raza que evidentemente demostraron que no había ninguna superioridad de razas y que la característica pseudocientífica de las teorías que pretendían que hubiera esta clasificación se vieron desclasadas con este estudio. Luego tenemos la Declaración sobre la Raza y los Prejuicios Raciales de 1978 y nuestros programas y actividades como el Proyecto de La Ruta del Esclavo, la Historia General de África, la labor de la Coalición Internacional de Ciudades Inclusivas y Sostenibles y la recientemente iniciadas Serie de Clases Magistrales contra el Racismo y la Discriminación conducidas por mucha región. Entonces un elemento importante de esta discusión es el trabajo que estamos haciendo en inteligencia artificial, la recomendación sobre ética, que evidentemente se enfoca  sobre la inteligencia artificial pero también se enfocamos a los sesgos que permiten que haya grupos muy importante de nuestra población que no participan en estos grandes desarrollos tecnológicos.

La pandemia de COVID-19 ha exacerbado las desigualdades preexistentes, no es sorpresa que las vulnerabilidades que hay en nuestras sociedades se exacerben con esta pandemia, quienes están preparados y tienen el apalancamiento financiero, quienes tienen la educación, quienes tienen las posibilidades de tener el acceso a la tecnología, han sobrevivido la pandemia de una manera menos dolorosa de lo que ha sido para aquellos que están simplemente en el margen.  Nos vamos a despertar una vez que esta pandemia pase, tampoco no sabemos cuando se va a suceder, pero nos vamos a despertar con una crisis a un mayor de afectación de aquellos grupos que siempre ha sido relegados y que se encuentran desfavorecidos.

Las nuevas investigaciones, así como los seminarios internacionales de la UNESCO sobre “La inclusión en los tiempos de COVID-19”, han señalado el aumento de la vulnerabilidad de grupos  específicos también en América Latina y el Caribe. Estos grupos, sin sorpresa, porque por ello aquí les invitamos a compartir con nosotros su visión, las mujeres y las niñas, sobre todo con en tema hacia la violencia, los pueblos indígenas, los afrodescendientes, los migrantes.

Los pueblos indígenas se han enfrentado siempre múltiples obstáculos, desde el escaso acceso a los servicios médicos y de educación hasta la falta de información adecuada en los idiomas indígenas, pasando por la inseguridad laboral y alimentaria.

Los descendientes africanos se vieron también afectados negativamente por el coronavirus o se están viendo afectados, debido a la naturaleza de sus trabajos, sus condiciones de vivienda y las dificultades para acceder también a los servicios de salud.

Los migrantes, empleados predominantemente en el sector informal o en los sectores más afectados por la pandemia (los grupos de hotelería, los restaurantes, la industria minorista, de las  venta  servicios) se encontraron sin empleo y sin ingresos, ya que la mayoría de ellos no reciben apoyos del Estado. Al mismo tiempo, los migrantes también son víctimas de la xenofobia de las comunidades locales, ya que se los consideraba una amenaza para su salud.

Además de estos obstáculos, como ya mencionaba el tema de las mujeres y las niñas que están sobrerrepresentadas del sector salud, pero son aquellos quienes luchas las pandemias porque son las enfermadas, son los trabajadores de los niveles bajos del sistema de salud, pero también son quienes se están sobrerrepresentados en el sistema de educación, son los trabajadores esenciales que es contra-intuitivo que sean esenciales y que sin embargo sean tan mal pagados, protegidos y que hayan sido golpeados de tal forma por la pandemia, además de que las medidas de confinamiento también ya es un data conocido, ha incrementado dramáticamente la violencia contra las mujeres y han reducido los servicios por esta confinamiento. 30 a 50% de aumento, es un dato dramático.

La fuente de la mayor exposición de estos grupos a los efectos de la pandemia fueron las desigualdades preexistentes. Las cifras que ya teníamos antes del COVID-19 son convincentes. La prevalencia de la pobreza en los afrodescendientes y los pueblos indígenas es inversamente proporcional a su participación en la proporción general de la población de la región. El 43% de los pueblos indígenas de América Latina son pobres, según el Banco Mundial y el 24% son extremadamente pobres. Los afrodescendientes también  constituyen  la mitad de los que viven en la pobreza extrema y tienen 2,5 veces más probabilidades de ser pobres crónicos. La pobreza, no es solo de ingreso, tiene todas estas ventajas acumuladas de falta de acceso a la educación de calidad y a la salud. El estar confinados en comunidades que no tienen buena infraestructura, que no tienen acceso a cuestiones digitales ya tener empleo se esta sub-representados en la informalidad.

Según la Organización Internacional para las Migraciones, en la región de América Latina y el Caribe los movimientos Sur-Sur han ido en aumento en los últimos años. Incluso antes de la pandemia, los migrantes internos de la región eran estigmatizados por las comunidades receptoras, nuestros propios países discriminando a migrantes de otros países. Es un elemento de profunda tristeza y que tenemos que abordar. Tiene que ver con el medio que tienen las comunidades locales de perder sus trabajos, eso también causa de deliquencia y de abusos en muchos sentidos. 

En lo que respecta a la violencia de género, América Latina registraba las tasas más altas del mundo antes del brote de COVID-19. Las mujeres y las niñas tienen muchas más probabilidades de estar en el grupo de pobreza extrema. Si la familia no puede seguir a los niños en la escuela, las niñas son las que son sacrificadas y son las coloca en la línea para tener empleos inestables, bajos beneficios, pocos ingresos y no llegar al liderazgo de ninguna institución y con mucho mas factores. 

La pandemia subraya que en América Latina y el Caribe, la etnia, la raza, la clase social y el género están inextricablemente entrelazados y se cruzan constantemente, creando estas dinámicas de retroalimentación que mantienen la compleja estructura de las desigualdades sociales y de la discriminación.

A fin de identificar, comprender y abordar estas desigualdades, los datos son de suma importancia, y es aún más crítico en el contexto actual, de tener datos desagradados de poder entender cuales son los elementos que nos dan estos resultados y por ello vamos a estar intensificando nuestros esfuerzos para luchar contra la discriminación y contra el racismo. No solo entender mejor el racismo contemporáneo, entender mejor los mecanismos de discriminación en todas sus formas, la determinación del alcance en los marcos jurídicos y institucionales existentes y su eficacia, o incluso su contribución porque a veces las instituciones y las leyes contribuyen a la discriminación. Entonces son las cuestiones  que queremos revisar con ustedes. 

Después de esta consulta, lo que queremos hacer es recabar toda la sabiduría que vamos a recoger de los debates para poder presentar una propuesta solida de que es lo que va hacer la UNESCO para fortalecer su contribución a la lucha de estos grandes males de la humanidad.

Gracias por estar con nosotros, vamos a estar aprendiendo mucho de nuestros expertos y del debate y esperamos que esto justamente va a contribuir con este objetivo de una importancia mayor.

Muchas gracias y me da mucho gusto de estar con ustedes.

UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. 3rd edition: Europe

Distinguished panelists

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the third edition of the UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. I am really enthusiastic about the quality and the caliber of the experts that accompany us today and what we can learn together and do together to fight racism and discrimination.    

This consultation was launched because we want to learn from you – from the experts.  We need to benefit from your experience in order to speak up and to take action.

UNESCO has a legacy of working on these issues.  We were born with a mandate to fight discrimination and racism.  We have a long trajectory starting with the 1950s seminal work of Claude Lévi-Strauss on race and also in 1978 with the adoption of the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice.  We have the Slave Route Project, the General History of Africa, the Master Classes against Racism and Discriminations that were launched just recently and we have our network, our International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities. There is a full infrastructure to deal with these issues.  We are now passing a Recommendation on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and among other things, we are also looking at how to avoid these biases that allow for discrimination and the lack of equal and fair treatment. 

Anti-racism should be a duty that we all carry every day.  Now, it is more important with what we are seeing in terms of the COVID pandemic.  These are unprecedented times for all of us.  It is more unprecedented for certain groups and we know that the impact of COVID had been completely asymmetric – the risk of being ill, the risk of dying, the risk of not being covered by the health system, the risk of violence in terms of women.  We know what quartiers or neighborhoods are more affected and this is something that we want to “build back better” as the United Nations Secretary General has spotted on. 

This expert consultation also comes at an opportune time because we know that the European Union has just launched its anti-racism action plan for 2020-2025. We are ready to pursue collaboration with the European Commission.  We all know that everywhere around the world, even those countries that have very strong institutional and legal settings, need to continue increasing the efforts against racism.  According to the 2019 report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, only 15 out of the 28 EU Member States have dedicated action plans and strategies to combat racism and ethnic discrimination.

The wealth of diversity in the region also brings along a myriad of intersectional challenges.

Across Europe, people of African descent are confronted with prejudice and exclusion. Racial discrimination and harassment are commonplace, and experiences with racist violence vary, but reach as high as 14 %. In the same vein, the effects of anti-gypsyism have further highlighted “the plight of the Roma” and this is a long-standing issue that we all care about.  The challenges linked to this issue range from educational segregation of Roma children which has seen a 50% increase in the five-year period from 2011 to 2016. Antisemitism is another pressing issue in the region. It has been documented that some form of antisemitic harassment was experienced by over 39% of those who were asked with an alarming number of respondents at 79% not reporting the most serious incident.  This is of course a sample but we wish that even in the smallest sample, we will not have these kind of numbers. 

Also in Europe, Islamophobia has been a significant issue which has resulted in barriers to employment, education and housing as a result of the discrimination faced by these groups. It is not only discrimination in terms of “race” or violence but it also refers to the opportunities that these groups have to fair a better life.  It was also recorded to have remained high in the region showing an increased trend in discrimination especially in these areas as well as in healthcare with two in five (40%) indicating unfair treatment. It must also be noted that many cases of discrimination still go unreported with only 12% reporting to the authorities as quoted in 2018.  So it’s a call, it’s almost an urgency call. We all need to step up our efforts to counter these numbers, and to counter this reality.  This has been exacerbated in the context of COVID – inequality and discrimination that existed in all the dimensions have also been magnified by COVID. 

There is the additional angle of gender. We have seen not only the fact that women are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, especially the sectors, including the economic sector, that are being touched by the pandemic. More than anything, the increase on violence against women and girls is terrifying: 30% in France, 50% in Colombia, and unreported in Mexico. This is another angle that we need to take a hard look at in terms of how the lockdown has transformed itself into abuse against half of the population.  Sexual violence has been committed against women by intimate partners, and beyond Europe it has been the case of 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 in the last 12 months.  This is something that we need to tackle and this is something that I hope we will be able to hear from you.

So UNESCO is stepping up the effort and we do it in the best way we can, calling on you, calling on the experts, calling on those that are worried by the same issues and trying to grasp what could be done to improve our understanding of the issues and the dynamic of the issues. But beyond that, we need to get into very concrete actions at the legal level, at the institutional level, and look at action plans to counter these very important problems.  We will be scaling up our efforts and initiatives in the fight against racism and discrimination and I am sure that the insights and perspectives that our distinguished experts will share today will undoubtedly inspire reflection and action in the international community and help chart the path towards achieving our collective goal to eliminate any kind of racism and discrimination.  I am glad to be here with you and I am all ears to listen to the conversation that will follow.  

Thank you very much.



Third Plenary Session of the 10th World Human Rights Cities Forum

Welcome to the third plenary session of the 10th World Human Rights Cities Forum, co-organized by UNESCO and United Cities and Local Governments.  My name is Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO.  I want to thank the City of Gwangju for hosting this very important event. For this session, we will discuss “Local Governments Building the Post COVID-19 World: Public Services and Human Rights Challenges.”

Cities are at the vanguard of defending and safeguarding human rights as they are at the front lines of the manifold challenges besetting our contemporary societies – rapid urbanization, human mobility, climate change, rising poverty and inequalities, and now as if we didn’t have enough, the COVID-19 pandemic. The crucial role of cities was once again demonstrated during this crisis, where the local responses called for the need to prioritize the most vulnerable groups, or those that have been most affected, including women and youth. During the crisis, cities have been at the forefront to provide services to save lives and to save livelihoods. Action had to be strengthened given that even prior to the pandemic, socioeconomic inequalities were on the rise, and they have been manifestly magnified during the current juncture.

Over the years, local governments have made progress in advancing economic, social and cultural rights through the development of inclusive social policies and the delivery of public services, including in the areas of education, health and economic security. In a highly unequal world, the commitment of local governments in protecting and promoting human rights, and delivering on those services, is now needed more than ever. 

The commitment to “localize” human rights, including through the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals, should be at the heart of every human rights cities’ mandate. But human rights in its broader sense including the right to socioeconomic development. I want to quote Amartya Sen here, who said: “Development has to be more concerned with enhancing the lives we lead and the freedoms we enjoy”, and it has to be people-centred.

UNESCO has made strides in advancing a global narrative of how cities can contribute to the goals through the SDGs and the Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda. Through the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities, a global platform of more than 500 cities around the world, UNESCO promotes the significance of the human face of urbanization in today’s world. The cities act with a common voice that strive to fight against the social ills that arise from current social transformations.  This has focused also in promoting gender equality and youth empowerment as essential ingredients for urban inclusion and have set a pioneering example of global solidarity and cooperation among local and regional governments.

Once more in the current juncture, we should focus on women and youth. We should avoid a lost generation as a major casualty of the Covid crisis.

But we know that the COVID has had a huge impact on our lives, and on our cities. UNESCO’s data on the access to employment and financial services in a number of Sub-Saharan African cities is huge – and the impact is more felt with the most vulnerable.  70% of the population had difficulty with access to employment services while 54% had difficulties with access to financial services. In addition to these barriers to accessibility, discrimination was prevalent among the population surveyed during COVID-19 with social status as the most widely reported discriminatory factors at 24% of the responses, followed closely by political identification at 21% of those who responded to our call.

This really calls for renewed action against discrimination and cities again play a crucial role in ensuring that people are free from this evil, from racism and violence, which, just like socio-economic inequalities, tend to be compounded in times of crisis. We cannot ignore for example the very unfair burden that has fallen on women’s shoulders, be it as health staff, as caregivers or as the so called “essential workers”.

Even worse, as victims of unacceptable levels of violence, women have really been at the core of this agenda. In the twelve months before the pandemic, gender-based violence affected 243 million women and girls. The pandemic actually exacerbated this growing problem exposing women to threats to their personal integrity.  With aggravating factors such as isolation, financial and food insecurity, unemployment, and the impossibility of escaping from their abusers, this number has increased massively. Only days after the lockdown measures, domestic and intimate partner violence increased from 30% to 50% in certain countries according to UN Women. Actually they didn’t have the services to counter this threat, even the security services. One of the most striking facts is that women have been affected 1.8 times more from the pandemic, considering the economic impact when you compare them with men, increasing of course their initial status of vulnerability. It is a well-known vicious cycle of women being more vulnerable, so in times of shock, things can only get worse.

Therefore, we need cities to focus on gender-based responses to the crisis. Differently from the 2008 financial crisis, this time, the sectors that are more hardest hit are overrepresenting women. There are 527 million women workers in accommodation and food services, real estate, manufacturing and retail trade, and 42% of women in informal economy work in these sectors too. Many women and girls among the rising UN estimate of 214 million people who will be living in poverty. Girls are also more affected by school closures and many will never come back.

So, human rights issues are at the forefront of the response to the pandemic.  Now, more than ever, it is important to recognize the magnitude of its adverse effects on the protection and promotion of universal human rights, and to collectively reflect on the way forward.

Today, local human rights measures are mainly focused on mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in exacerbating existing social issues, with local governments worldwide showcasing their creativity and determination through their best response practices.

However, beyond mobilizing local efforts, it is equally important to be able to analyze with a careful eye, an open mind and an innovative lens the adverse effects of the crisis on the most vulnerable groups and evaluate the various modes of recourse that can be taken to protect them. Thus, we can move forward from this pandemic to build the “next new normal” that will be better if we take the right decisions and if we prioritize again, the vulnerable groups. I cannot emphasize how much we really need to prioritize the vulnerable groups.

This is an unprecedented time for the international community and must be handled with the utmost solidarity, collaboration and innovation. As we engage in a critical dialogue about our challenges and efforts during the crisis, let us encourage one another to be resilient and to uphold the support of empowerment of citizens. 

It is in this regard that we must mobilize our resources and work together in order to use our collective synergies to effectively rebuild the world in the aftermath of COVID-19.  If we want to build back better, we know where the efforts should be put, and include the social inclusion dimensions, through a human rights-based approach at the center. UNESCO stands ready to build partnerships, starting with the City of Gwangju, as well as the other actors in the Forum to advance this agenda. Let us take concrete action and work collaboratively through our networks. It is through partnerships towards our common goal of inclusive urban governance that the best interest of humankind will be served.

Once again, I warmly welcome you to the third plenary session of the 10th World Human Rights Cities Forum.  May it be purposeful, productive and progressive for all of us. 

Thank you very much.

UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. 2nd edition: North America

I would like to thank the UNESCO colleagues and our wonderful speakers for their contributions. This is what demonstrates UNESCO at its best: we do not have all the answers, but we look to the people who know more about it, and these are our distinguished speakers today.

We are very afraid of the current situation. In good times we might diminish the negative impact of racism and discriminations because we rationalize that, in any case, we are doing a little bit better than the day before. In bad times, we face the harsh reality that these issues present. In fact, the effect of the COVID pandemic is not a question of whether this terrible virus exists. It is the realization that we have these terrible vulnerabilities and we have these very asymmetric shocks. It is these unrepresented shares of populations that are suffering the death toll in much higher shares as demonstrated in Canada and in the US.  It is the same I suppose in Mexico or in Europe, where we have those groups who have been traditionally and historically discriminated against then and are less prepared to face the pandemic, and this is evident.

However, I feel that with these facts and with the uncertainties of the situation we are in: not knowing how the virus will behave, whether we will have the vaccine or not, whether people will get themselves vaccinated or not because the fear is great, and therefore not knowing what the real impact will be at the end, we have the duty and the responsibility to discuss these issues. Now. Independent of when the pandemic is over, we need to discuss now and we need to bring bright minds together to help UNESCO underscore our duty since we were created to look at the questions of racism, of peace, and of intercultural dialogue.

I just took office three months ago and I am fascinated by the potential that UNESCO can have with partners like you, to really deliver the right message. What are the specific actions that can help us to address racism and not only to demonstrate its impacts. because I think it is over diagnosed, this question of racism alongside the question of the lack of opportunities, and the question of asymmetric access to those opportunities. But what do we do about it in a coordinated and international way that could have more impact?

In 1950 Claude Lévi-Strauss was asked by UNESCO to produce the seminal work on race. Afterwards, UNESCO adopted the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice in 1978 and launched the programmatic activities such as the Slave Route Project, the General History of Africa, the Master Class Series against Racism and Discriminations and the work of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities.

We are actually also developing a recommendation on ethics in artificial intelligence. I am more aware of gender discrimination and I am always worried about how the biases that exist in the xx world are having a lot of airspace in the digital world.. This is also happening with those minorities and groups that have been traditionally discriminated.

So, we are really looking forward to using all that we have in terms of knowledge resources in looking for more meaningful actions and delivering very concrete action plans.

MLK mentioned the action plans, I think we need that. However, we need that in a very comprehensive manner: the textbooks, the way we tell the story (we teach history), the way we look at the memory, but also the way we ensure that there are equal opportunities for all. I think that equal opportunities as an issue is more important now than ever.

To conclude, I think that we will be learning from you, and whenever we come out with something that we think is useful we will also test it with you.  Hopefully, we can work together to advance a real solution for this terrible problem that we all face.

Thank you.