“Transforming mentalities: engaging men and boys to address the root causes of violence against women” High-level Roundtable, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Distinguished speakers,

Honorable participants,

Welcome to this high-level roundtable on “Transforming mentalities: Engaging men and boys to address the root causes of violence against women.” I want to thank our dear Ambassadors friends of gender equality, and the Co-Chairs, the Ambassador from Iceland and from Oman. Welcome to the many speakers that join us today, infatigable champions in this battle. I also want to welcome our wonderful speakers, who have been championing this cause.

It is emblematic that one of the last events I held in presence last March was exactly to launch an Action Plan to end violence against women. At that occasion, we invited two survivors to share their experiences with us. Charlote kneer, a woman who endured violence for more than 10 years, and that when she found herself capable of killing her husband, she better left home and founded an NGO to help other women. We also heard Luke Heart, a young man campaigning against violence, after witnessing her mom dying in the hands of his dad. No human being should have this kind of experience!

I was already shocked at that time and we put together a meaningful agenda to increase the visibility of this problem and to take action.

Who would have told us, that 8 months later, today, we will be meeting to confront the harsh reality of a significant increase of this evil due to the pandemic? 30, 40 or even 50% increase in many countries? Who would have told us that the Secretary General of the UN would have called it the “other pandemic”?

The answer is simple. The COVID 19 magnified our vulnerabilities, our fragilities and violence against women is one of the worst expressions of what is wrong in our societies.  Hopefully, as with many other lessons, will also provide us with the opportunity to put an end as we build forward better.

The task is not easy. The worst of this problem is not the suffering it brings to people, or even its economic cost that is valued on the billions worldwide, as promundo has shown. The worst is that it is condoned, it is accepted, and even a large share of women justify when their husbands exert violence against them!

Our societies justify aggression. At the end, “boys will be boys”.

This is the only case where violence is minimized as a normal state of affairs, and institutions and legal frameworks seem unable to put an end.

This tolerance to violence, is also linked to the gender stereotyping, that reproduce dominant ideas and representations of what is considered appropriate behaviors and attributes for men. When boys are educated to be tough, to exert dominance, competitiveness, we should not be surprised that the finest expression of this education is violence against their own family.  

This is not only incredibly harmful to women and girls – it is also to men and boys. It is the reverse of the kind of stereotypes that tell our girls not to be self-sufficient or outspoken.

Promundo, whose Founder and CEO is with us today, estimates that if a social change occurs within societies and the current set of pre-existing harmful norms of masculinity was eliminated, then sexual violence could be reduced by at least 69%, and bullying and violence against women by 40% every year.

Therefore, to turn the story around, we should also change men’s mindset.  Men actually can become a powerful catalysts of change, by rejecting these harmful role-models, and play a positive role models to their peers and especially to younger generations. They can contribute to change the narrative of abuse and violence. They can publicly refuse to endorse or condone the harmful behaviors and attitudes that lead to violence against women and girls.

By changing this mindset, we will be contributing to the broader strategy to build more peaceful world. This is UNESCO’s core, and peaceful worlds start at home. Starts at school and in the textbooks when they are gender neutral. And when our institutions and legal frameworks deliver for good in all cases.  When incentives, and all stakeholders reject violence.

In UNESCO where gender is a global priority, we will be working on this fighting stereotyping for both, and to end discrimination and racism. We are also doing through the recommendation of ethics of artificial intelligence.

My question to you now is: What should we do to ensure the full success of our efforts to engage men and boys, transform mentalities and foster long-lasting change?

I am looking forward to your answers.

European Coalition of Cities Against Racism (ECCAR) General Conference 2020

Mayor Virgilio Merola,

Mr Benedetto Zacchiroli,

Distinguished representatives of European cities,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my privilege to welcome you to the 2020 General Conference of the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism. I am honoured to represent UNESCO in a Sector that is the contact point for inclusive cities, who are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic.

I was equally pleased to recently meet the President of ECCAR, and I look forward to establishing a strong cooperation with him and this coalition. Since my arrival in July in UNESCO, I was looking forward to meet you. Actually, I was before at the OECD, and it was your network that inspired the Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth.

The time could not be more complex, but where cities have a really important tole to play. Many of your members  have adopted measures to fight the pandemic and protect the most vulnerable populations.

We see global reports on COVID, but it is you who are in the frontline, and I want to commend this effort. I hope we will be able to overcome this dark period together,  with its immense human, social and economic cost.

 I particularly commend the efforts of the inclusive cities which have prioritized anti-discriminatory and antiracist actions against vulnerable groups, and efficiently dealt with homelessness, migrants, segregation, despair and shelters for battered women. Keep up this work!

In the context of increased discrimination, UNESCO is being called by its members to upgrade its actions in this domain. Thus, we were pleased to find that the European Union recently launched its anti-racism action plan for 2020-2025, aiming at increasing the number of countries with dedicated national plans that stands at only 15 from the 27 members. Let’s join forces in this endeavour. We should work in tandem  and develop a common action plan, that will bring the EU, UNESCO and ECCAR together to fight this challenge.

According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the issue of racism and discriminations across Europe is extreme in magnitude and scope. The proliferation of racist actions against people of African descent has reached as high as 14% annually across the European Union. The Agency also reported that discrimination related to anti-gypsyism has seen a 50% increase in the educational segregation of Roma children as recorded between 2015 to 2020. Regarding antisemitism, 39% of those surveyed have experienced some form of harassment. And the same regarding islam.

But not only that, even in Europe, Violence against women is rapidly escalating! The 30% increase in reports of domestic violence in the European Union during the lockdown highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these already adverse conditions. There is an urgent need to strengthen existing measures, including the creation of more shelters and integrated centers as well as improvement in the training and preparation of police forces and social workers. With your help, I would like to organize a landmark event in 2021 that features the work of mayors to eliminate violence against women and girls. We need to recognize the problem, but we also need to energize ourselves with best practices from the continent.

The pandemic also came with disproportionate economic and social impacts. According to ILO, people living under the minimum wage in some European countries reported that 70% of them had a family member who lost their job compared to less than half for more affluent families.

Moreover, the European Network Against Racism shows that although there is an over-representation of more than 30 % of immigrants in COVID related incidences, the barriers to access health care and basic services are multiplying. While the pandemic has devastated the world, it has also presented us with an opportunity to address the social ills that the crisis has unveiled.

At the Social and Human Science sector I am overseeing, we are strengthening our work to deliver for inclusive societies and economies.

Since its creation, UNESCO promotes the values of diversity, tolerance and dialogue by fighting social inequalities through targeted initiatives. UNESCO is elaborating a Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, the first global standard-setting instrument to address ethical and social issues related to discrimination, including gender biases.

We are at the core of the promotion of gender equality, including in AI, but in protecting legal equality and benchmarks. But we also have targeted initiatives to empowerment through sports and quality physical education. We will soon establish a global Observatory for Women, Physical Education and Sport. We have also joined the UN Women led Sports for Generation Equality initiative to make gender equality a reality in and through sport. 

UNESCO has been called upon by its Member States to scale up our work in the fight against racism and discriminations. In my new responsibility as UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, I am strongly committed to doing so in collaboration with ECCAR.

Some of you joined the UNESCO webinar series “Inclusion in the time of COVID-19” and highlighted the importance of addressing the social dimension through local policy interventions during the crisis. We also organized six Regional Expert Consultations which unpacked the societal challenges of COVID-19, resulting in a set of concrete recommendations that will guide UNESCO’s work.

We will develop a roadmap which includes as assessment to strengthen institutional and legal frameworks for anti-racism, affirmative actions in public and private sectors and anti-biases training, such as the intercultural competencies trainings and the Master Classes against Racism and Discriminations. A very successful and innovative edition was recently organized in Heidelberg, and other editions are foreseen in 2021 in Lausanne, Toulouse, Brussels and Liège.

I also commend the efforts of ECCAR through the City of Graz in Austria who partnered with UNESCO and the Arab Coalition of Cities to develop the Toolkit for Urban Inclusion. We will continue to broker for you in order to reach out to other cities.

Another significant platform for international collaboration is the recently concluded World Human Rights Cities Forum hosted by the South Korean City of Gwangju, which welcomed around 2,800 participants from 253 cities representing 76 countries. Four coalitions reviewed their Action Plans during this Forum by affirming their renewed commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals and Habitat III’s Urban Agenda.

The City of Gwangju offers an excellent opportunity for partnership with ECCAR, and we should leverage and encourage collaboration with other coalitions who want to work with us. It is only through collaboration and solidarity that our vision to end racism and discriminations once and for all can come to its full realization.

We look forward to many more years of fruitful partnership! Let’s join forces to deliver on the higher goals that bring us together.

Master Class on Tolerance

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,

Dear students,

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.

Curso Internacional de Derechos Humanos: Monitoreo, Documentación e Investigación en Derechos Humanos

Para la UNESCO es un privilegio apoyar esta cuarta edición del Curso Internacional de Derechos Humanos organizado por nuestro Centro Categoría 2, el Centro Internacional para la promoción de los Derechos Humanos –CIPDH, basado en Argentina. Gracias su directora, Patricia Tappata y todo su equipo.

Un gusto que nos acompañen los Ministerios que han sido campeones en este esfuerzo, tanto del Ministerio de Justicia y derechos humanos, con la Ministra, de Relaciones exteriores, y los miembros del Consejo del Centro. Saludo a la fiscalía de la corte penal internacional y el enfoque de genero, tan necesario en el momento actual, ya que el COVID no solo nos remarca las brechas en tantos ámbitos, sino que nos recuerda que las mujeres todavía no pueden ni asegurar su integridad física con la violencia rampante. Por ello, este curso es importantisimo.

Este Centro es una maravillosa joya para la UNESCO. Como dijo Patricia es el primer Centro Categoría 2 que creamos especializado en derechos humanos, y es el único bajo el sector de Ciencias Sociales y Humanas en América Latina y el Caribe.

Aprovecho para agradecer y felicitar a la Argentina por su apoyo al Centro. Esto habla muy bien del compromiso del país con los derechos humanos, y su liderazgo para que este tema se mantenga vivo en la agenda internacional. La memoria, la experiencia han apoyado este esfuerzo, pero también la mirada a futuro.

Confiamos en que conjuntamente seguiremos fortaleciendo el Centro y consolidando sus iniciativas, y este curso es un buen ejemplo, que van en el camino correcto de promover y profundizar los derechos humanos.

Me da mucha alegría que este curso inicie precisamente hoy que es un día muy especial para la UNESCO. Un 16 de noviembre, pero de 1945, se firmaba, en Londres, el acuerdo que permitió el nacimiento oficial de la UNESCO.

Desde su nacimiento, los derechos humanos han estado en el corazón de nuestro mandato. Precisamente su fundación se daba con el firme propósito de afianzar la “solidaridad intelectual y moral de la humanidad” y buscar el respeto de la dignidad de las personas.

La UNESCO sigue siendo una apuesta por los seres humanos, por el conocimiento, por el aprendizaje. Y precisamente este curso, que empezamos hoy, es un espacio para aprender, intercambiar conocimiento, y para poner la dignidad de las personas en el centro de las prioridades.

Vivimos momentos donde persisten graves violaciones de derechos humanos en diferentes partes del mundo. Discursos racistas y xenofóbicos, violencia de género, ataques contra pueblos originarios, daños al medio ambiente, y una desproporcionada impunidad.

Pero también un mundo en donde demasiados grupos y países se están quedando atrás. Un mundo en donde el código postal de nuestro nacimiento, y la familia de origen establecen nuestras posibilidades de vida. Por ello, los derechos humanos entendidos en su globalidad, incluyendo lo social y lo economico. Y muchos otros derechos que la

UNESCO defiende, con libertad de expresión, de conciencia, de acceso a la ciencia.

Me complace que a lo largo de estas dos semanas se profundice en la documentación e investigación en derechos humanos, con un grupo tan diverso y multidisciplinario, para tocar todos estos temas. Necesitamos fortalecer las metodologías de investigación, impulsar indicadores de medición más robustos, y tener mejores políticas y decisiones judiciales en derechos humanos basadas en evidencia. Necesitamos seguir haciendo ruido. Nuestro progreso no esta ganado por siempre! Un paso adelante y quizá muchos para atrás. Por eso este esfuerzo es tan importante. No podemos bajar la guardia!

Desde UNESCO esperamos que este curso nos ayude a profundizar conocimientos, pero sobre todo que nos ayude a buscar estrategias de acción para superar los retos pendientes.

Cada uno de los que está acá juega un rol en la defensa y garantía de los derechos humanos. Confiamos en que los participantes terminarán el curso con más herramientas que puedan poner en práctica en sus propios contextos.

Felicitaciones de nuevo al CIPDH y gracias a todos ustedes por acompañarnos.

“Racial and economic justice in Covid recovery: Building on the movement for Black Lives” – Paris Peace Forum

Clear action against racism and discrimination is needed: scanning of discriminatory laws and institutions, affirmative action and anti-biase training… Check out this article on the Paris Peace Forum session on this topic, in which I had the opportunity to participate among incredible panelists.

Paris Peace Forum: What now for Black Lives Matter post-Covid?

As heads of state gathered for the third Paris Peace Forum to discuss what the Covid-19 recovery should look like, experts went online to give their input on how to build back better, taking inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement.


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



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.