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.

Virtual MOST Forum of Ministers of Social Development

Your Excellencies

Mrs. Prisca Koho Nlend, Minister of Social Affairs and Women’s Rights, Government of Gabon

Your Excellencies, Ministers from the Central African States

Votre Excellence, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur Gilberto Da Piedade VERISSIMO, Président de la Commission de la Communauté économique des Etats de l’Afrique centrale (CEEAC) Votre Excellence, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur François LOUNCENY FALL, Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général de  l’ONU pour l’Afrique centrale et Chef du Bureau régional des Nations  Unies pour l’Afrique centrale (UNOCA)

Ms Daniela Bas, Director, Division of Inclusive Social Development, UNDESA

Dr N’Dri Therese Assié-Lumumba, President of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Management of Social Transformations Programme

Representatives from the UN system, development banks, regional organisations and other institutions

Researchers,

Members of Civil Society,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this Forum of Ministers of Social Development organized by the Government of Gabon, jointly with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in cooperation with the Economic Commission for the Central African States.

Through the engagement of Her Excellency, Mrs Prisca Koho Nlend, this Ministerial Forum could take place, under the auspices of the President of Gabon, which I am immensely grateful for, allowing us to meet.

The Forum is organized in the framework of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, which is focusing on evidence-based policy making to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and other development frameworks such as the African Unions’ Agenda 2063.

Due to COVID-19 this is the first Virtual MOST Ministerial Forum ever taken place, to address the pandemic’s social impacts showing the need for effective social policies that can reduce the vulnerabilities of our societies.

The Fora allow Ministers to share best practices, and through a dialogue with researchers, the UN system and civil society, addressing social policy challenges and adopting action -oriented Ministerial Declarations for follow-up by each Minister.

Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to see an additional 26 million people living below the international poverty line as a result of the pandemic.

COVID-19 is bringing threats to well-being, such as social capital and to people’s incomes and livelihoods.

This is true for Africa, in which 71 percent, according to a study by of the Economic Commission for Africa work in the informal sector and benefit from none or insufficient social protection.

Vulnerable persons such as these informal sector workers, people with disabilities, women and youths will be most affected. Youths, who constitute nearly 60% of the population of African countries, will require special attention.

Let us turn to focus on engaging on the responses, which will also be valid for the POST COVID-19:

 That is why we are gathering you, counting on your leadership, to find solutions and act in solidarity. 

The social protection of populations must be a KEY response as the rapport titled “UN Framework for immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19”, launched in April 2020, is confirming.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations proposed last week during the United Nations General Assembly a New Social Contract which is about building Inclusive and sustainable societies and ending all forms of exclusion and discrimination. 
It means providing access to education for all and harnessing digital technology —the two great enablers and equalizers of our time, which are also at the core of UNESCO’s mandate.

Let us make a call for UNESCO, through its mandate in education, the sciences, culture and communication, to support you and your countries to address the challenges of the social impacts of COVID-19, especially through our programmes focusing on Education for All, Science and Technology and supporting digital transformations. 

And last but not least, in my capacity as the Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences I would like to stress that I and my team stand ready to support you, using our competencies and expertise and existing normative instruments and programmes, such as the UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers, on the basis of which we will implement strategic activities to strengthen science, technology and innovation in Africa, in collaboration with the Science Sector. Science embedded in ethics is also taking giant steps with ethics and Artificial intelligence, an ongoing UNESCO process that should culminate in a recommendation in 2021. Foresight, which is crucial for critical thinking and using the future, is integrated in our Management of Social Transformations Programme. Through our existing Inclusive Policy Lab, an interactive platform for dialogues on social inclusion, anti-discrimination actions and social programmes anchored in human rights can be designed together for national and regional implementation. Youth as a thematic and key target group, youth as agents of change, partners and beneficiaries of our services, have a key role to play if we engage with them in youth policies design, youth-led initiatives and capacity building. 

The Social and Human Sciences Sector helps Member States achieve Agenda 2030 and related national priorities by applying policy-relevant and high quality social and human science research and knowledge, especially through the MOST Programme and its Ministerial Forums. 

Now UNESCO is here with you, with so many other important members of the UN system and financial institutions and others, to listen to your challenges and together find policy solutions. UNESCO is ready to support you and wish you to give us a strong mandate!

Thank you.

Forum Mondial Normandie Pour la Paix

L’Acte constitutif de l’UNESCO commence par la phrase suivante : « Les guerres prenant naissance dans l’esprit des hommes et des femmes, c’est dans l’esprit des hommes et des femmes que doivent être élevées les défenses de la paix ». C’est ce que nous cherchons à réaliser avec les projets que nous menons, notamment en éducation, en coopération internationale, en dialogue interculturel et, plus récemment, par l’élaboration de la première Recommandation mondiale sur l’éthique de l’intelligence artificielle. La paix est un mode de vie : un instrument permettant non seulement d’éviter la guerre, mais aussi de résoudre les tensions de longue date entre les peuples et la planète, entre les possédants et les plus démunis, et entre les individus et la technologie.

La technologie a un grand potentiel pour assurer la paix, notamment en surmontant les barrières culturelles et linguistiques, en anticipant les facteurs de conflit les plus profonds et en faisant progresser la prise de décision (voir encadré 1). Il est remarquable, par exemple, que l’IA ait pu détecter les signes avant-coureur du début de la pandémie COVID-19, en analysant régulièrement des centaines ou des milliers de sources de données gouvernementales et médiatiques dans plusieurs langues.

Cependant, la technologie peut avoir des effets négatifs, que ce soit à cause d’actions délibérées venant d’individus agissant de façon peu éthique (« de manière intentionnelle »), à cause d’effets secondaires liés à une mauvaise conception (« erreurs d’ingénierie »), ou encore à cause de l’impact de l’environnement du système (« environnement »). L’utilisation dite malveillante de l’IA est encore plus évidente et elle peut menacer la sécurité numérique, physique et politique. De plus, les défaillances constituent également une menace de longue date (voir encadré 2). Les raisons qui les sous-tendent sont nombreuses, allant de pures erreurs d’algorithmes à des biais intégrés ou appris de façon autonome. Nous avons déjà vécu des krachs boursiers causés par des logiciels de commerce intelligents, déjà entendu parler d’accidents causés par des voitures autonomes, et même déjà ressenti de la gêne provoquée par des « chat-bots », parfois racistes et enclin à des discours de haine. On prévoit que la fréquence et la gravité de ces événements augmenteront régulièrement à mesure que les systèmes d’IA gagneront en efficacité.

L’IA se répand de plus en plus rapidement et il n’existe pas de cadre unique pour canaliser les bénéfices et s’attaquer aux risques. C’est pour cela que l’UNESCO a pris l’initiative d’élaborer la première Recommandation mondiale sur l’éthique de l’IA, afin d’en faire une référence.

L’éthique est la base de toute chose, et doit être le fondement moral de l’utilisation de ces technologies. Ce fondement moral se traduit par la décision de développer de solutions basée sur l’IA uniquement lorsqu’elles respectent la dignité humaine, les droits humains et tous les principes mis en avant dans la Recommandation.

Ce projet de Recommandation est tourné vers l’avenir à de nombreux égards. Il fournit un cadre d’anticipation pour aider à atténuer les risques futurs et propose des actions stratégiques concrètes destinées à résoudre les nouveaux défis. Par exemple, il prévoit un outil concret pour sa mise en œuvre – l’évaluation de l’impact éthique. Il prévoit également une valeur fondamentale « Vivre en harmonie et en paix », qui consiste à assurer un avenir interconnecté pour le bien de tous, et le principe de « Proportionnalité et d’innocuité », qui stipule que dans les scénarios impliquant des décisions de vie et de mort, la décision finale devrait être prise par l’être humain.

Il est clair que nous devons appliquer aux domaines numériques les mêmes règles, ou mieux encore, celles que nous avons mises en place pour protéger nos droits et notre sécurité dans le monde réel, afin d’éviter un fossé législatif toujours plus large, qui pourrait avoir des implications importantes pour notre bien-être. Un principe de base du droit est que nous devons appliquer les lois avec cohérence. Nous devons donc trouver des moyens d’intégrer tout le domaine de l’intelligence artificielle dans le cadre éthique régi par des normes et des principes universels.

Nous avons également besoin d’une coopération internationale et d’une appropriation par tous les pays, indépendamment du niveau de développement. Malheureusement, certains pays sont souvent en concurrence sur le plan technologique, juste pour être les premiers. Cette compétition peut impliquer des prises de raccourcis dans le développement de l’IA, y compris sur le plan éthique, ce qui peut être lourd de conséquence. C’est pourquoi l’effort de l’UNESCO sur la scène mondiale est si important et pourquoi il est crucial de réussir une mise en œuvre pratique de la Recommandation.

Encadré 1 – Exemples d’utilisation pratique de l’IA pour faire progresser la paix

  • Surmonter les barrières culturelles et linguistiques – l’IA peut nous aider à comprendre le langage humain et les nuances des dialectes dans le cadre des efforts d’alerte précoce de l’ONU :
    • Mieux analyser le contenu des médias sociaux et le relier aux contextes locaux de conflit
    • Suivre méthodiquement ce que disent les discours de haine dans un endroit où le risque de conflit est élevé
  • Anticiper les causes profondes des conflits – en associant les nouvelles techniques d’imagerie à l’automatisation :
    • La rareté de l’eau alimente les conflits et sape la stabilité dans les environnements post-conflit
    • L’enfoncement des terres est un indicateur fiable de l’épuisement de l’eau, mesuré par l’imagerie satellite et les drones.
    • Si vous combinez les techniques d’imagerie avec l’apprentissage automatique, vous pouvez anticiper les futurs conflits liés à l’eau et permettre un engagement proactif pour réduire leur probabilité.
  • Faire avancer la prise de décision :
    • les décisions relatives à la cessation des hostilités et au maintien de la paix sont intrinsèquement complexes et reposent sur des objectifs contradictoires et des options non découvertes, dans un contexte où les informations et les préférences politiques sont limitées.

L’apprentissage automatique peut être utilisé pour améliorer les prévisions et aider à orienter les décisions complexes sur l’application, la construction et le maintien de la paix.

Encadré 2 – Exemples de premières occurrences de défaillances non intentionnelles de l’IA (dont beaucoup ont également été observées par la suite)

  • 1959 L’IA conçue pour résoudre des problèmes généraux n’a pas réussi à résoudre les problèmes du monde réel.
  • 1982 Un logiciel conçu pour faire des découvertes, a découvert à la place comment tricher.
  • 1983 Le système d’alerte précoce des attaques nucléaires a prétendu à tort qu’une attaque avait lieu.
  • 2010 Un logiciel complexe d’IA pour la négociation des actions a causé un crash flash de plusieurs billions de dollars.
  • 2011 L’assistant électronique qui a reçu l’ordre de “m’appeler une ambulance” a commencé à appeler l’utilisateur “Ambulance”.
  • 2015 Un logiciel de marquage d’images a classé des individus Noirs comme des gorilles.
  • 2015 Un robot de saisie de pièces automobiles a attrapé et tué un homme.

2016 L’IA conçue pour converser avec les utilisateurs sur Twitter est devenue verbalement abusive.

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

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

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

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

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

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

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

Excellencies,

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

For all of this, we believe dialogue is key;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellencies,

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.


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

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

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

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

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

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thank you for your attention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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