The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, opened the MED FORUM 2016 debate with the message that investing in a generation is the only viable roadmap to "moving beyond extremism". The 42-country Forum, taking place from 23rd to 25th October in Valletta, represents the largest youth and civil society gathering of its kind for intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean.
UNESCO Director-General Bokova told international delegates: "No one is born a violent extremist - violent extremists are made and fuelled. Young people are learning to hate - we must teach them peace. And this starts on the benches of schools", adding that "Education is the best way to disarm processes that can lead to violent extremism, by undermining prejudice and ignorance, by advancing intercultural skills and digital literacy."
Rethinking Education, with a focus on embedding intercultural learning in schools, has emerged as a central theme of MED FORUM 2016. This view was shared by panellists at the opening plenary debating alongside Ms Bokova, including the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Lamberto Zannier, the former Prime Minister of Tunisia and World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid, Mehdi Jomaa, Facebook's Lead Policy Manager on Counterterrorism, Brian Fishman, and Hajer Sharief, Co-founder of "Together We Build It" and Member of the Advisory Group for the Progress Study of UN SCR 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, who underlined "the need to take a long-term perspective on issues as well as solving the root causes of radicalisation". It was also agreed that there is a ‘‘global fight for hearts and minds’’ especially of the youth. This fight had to start with teachers at school teaching a new narrative of peace and human rights and preparing a generation for co-existence for ‘‘global citizenship’’.
UNESCO Director-General Bokova underlined "We can empower youth with skills and opportunities so they can be global citizens, advocates and actors in the positive transformations of their immediate communities."
"By mobilizing all stakeholders, from youth organizations, media professionals and online youth communities, to educators, the private sector and the general public, we nurture civic engagement, empower youth organizations, create networks, advance alternative media narratives and employment environments. It is time to act together in partnership with Youth."