Mr Vishal V. Sharma, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of India to UNESCO,
Ms France Marquet, Principal Trustee of the Madanjeet Singh Foundation,
Distinguished laureates of the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence,
It is my great privilege to open this Master Class on Tolerance, which is held in celebration of International Day of Tolerance and of the 2020 edition of the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence.
Today’s session highlights the significance of the values of tolerance and pluralism, which are among UNESCO’s core values, in addressing the various contemporary global challenges and in fighting against social ills such as racism and discriminations. This is something you have joined us to fight for and I think that this fight is all the more important in the current times. We see the increase in racism, we see the increase in discrimination, we see that the current crisis is affecting groups of people so differently and therefore we need to raise our voices in a powerful way because only you can help UNESCO deliver on this.
Let me express my gratitude to the Madanjeet Singh Foundation. I also wish to thank the former and current Laureates of the Prize and of course you, the young advocates for tolerance, who have joined us from all around the world. We at UNESCO engage youth in many activities, we believe that they are not only the future of mankind, but they are also agents of change and that is why we need to invest in them. Within the current context of the pandemic, the role of youths has become increasingly evident in addressing the adverse effect of the health crisis as we can see from the various stories of youth-led responses around the world.
We know also that youths are among the most adversely impacted by the crisis in facing the harsh realities of discrimination and intolerance in their everyday lives, noting significant challenges in access to civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. Because of this, we know that youths are at risk of shouldering much of the long-term economic and social consequences of the crisis, leading to a decrease in well-being and intergenerational inequalities.
But you also have the power! You are among 1.2 billion young people in the world, representing 16% of the global population. 70% of youth are active in online spaces worldwide. Youth have the means to reverse what UNESCO characterizes as the disinfodemic associated with the coronavirus pandemic which has contributed to hate speech, socio-political polarization and an gigantic increase in acts of violence against women and girls. This must come to an end!
We need to involve young men in combatting violence against women and girls. I know that the younger generation is less prone to reproduce these ills. During the pandemic, our societies have also been exposed to the increase in violence against women, increase in the risk of girls not going back to school and marrying younger and having their chances for life just curtailed because they were girls and therefore, we count on youth to build our antibodies against these ills. We need to involve youth in building resilience, and collaborate with the governments on its efforts to anticipate the impact and mitigation and recovery measures across different age groups, by applying effective mechanisms.
Let us strive to exemplify the value of tolerance in our lives through words and actions. Together, we can impart this message to all those around us – so that not only today, but every day shall we celebrate diversity and treat others with dignity and respect.
I am very proud to have you all around this table, and today is a day where in a conference in London, the founding fathers launched UNESCO. I think that it is a great occasion to remember that this institution, along with all of you as our partners, is here to protect and promote human rights and human dignity, as well as to promote tolerance and harmonious living together amongst all the communities in the world.
Thank you. I wish you a meaningful and enlightening session.