On 31 March, 2015, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova took part in a round table on the theme “Human Rights and the Protection of Cultural Diversity,” held at the University of Geneva, with the participation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UNESCO Special Envoy for Intercultural Dialogue, Metin Arditi and author, psychoanalyst and university professor, Julia Kristeva.
Bokova emphasized that “cultural diversity is an expression of human rights – the persecution of minorities, religious and ethnic, and the looting and pillage of cultural heritage are part of a deliberate global strategy to eradicate history and memory, the identities and the existence of these peoples and communities, and, through them, the cultural diversity that is our common heritage.”
Arditi highlighted that “the destruction of cultural heritage is but a symptom of the destruction of the Other,” noting that “the West is living through an unprecedented intellectual crisis – we need to restore the humanities at the heart of our societies, as the cradle of ideas and intellectuals for the future. Universities have a historic responsibility here, to prepare society for its own transformation and to help people understand and live together.”
All speakers stressed the importance of teaching about religions through the humanities, as areas of knowledge and understanding, as well as debate and discussion — “in order for beliefs to not become the sole possession of fanatics and extremists.”
The General-Director concluded on the key role of education for global citizenship, as promoted by UNESCO, including education for human rights as the mainstay, stressing the need for cultural literacy and development of intercultural competences to make the most of contemporary multicultural societies and the challenges of living together.
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