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International Day for Tolerance
16 November

UNESCO Director-General's Message for 2013

The International Day for Tolerance is an opportunity for each of us to renew our commitment to practicing tolerance and promoting harmony. Globalizing quickly, the world is also increasingly fragile. This is why every day, in every society, we need to build new bridges of tolerance, trust and understanding.

This takes commitment and time. We must begin with quality education, to combat ignorance, prejudice and hatred, which are at the root of discrimination and racism. We need education to disarm the fears that many feel of the unknown and of other people, their cultures, life choices and beliefs. Education is the best way to foster a culture of peace and build inclusive societies.
Intolerance is a global challenge that takes many local shapes. To be effective, global action must be combined with national, local and, not least, individual measures.

At the global level, UNESCO is leading the United Nations International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, launched this year, to promote the benefits of exchange and dialogue across cultures and to build new networks to fight against racism and discrimination.

We act also on the ground, where needs are most acute. This was the objective of a recent UNESCO project to promote a culture peace among young women and men living in Tripoli, Lebanon. Through exchanges through theatre and the arts, UNESCO worked with young people throughout the city, to deepen mutual understanding, to learn to live and work together, to resolve differences through dialogue.

To create positive change, we must constantly ask ourselves the following questions. How are the rights of persons belonging to social, national, ethnic, religious, linguistic or other minorities guaranteed in our community, State and region? Are we doing enough to promote the equal rights and dignity of indigenous people, migrant workers, asylum-seekers and refugees, or people with disabilities? Answering these questions must lead us to action.

This International Day is a chance to deepen our commitment to dialogue and solidarity, in our families and communities, in relations with other peoples.

Tolerance can never be taken for granted. It is a way of living that we must constantly reinvent for new times, to recognize the differences of others as the same as our own and the riches of other cultures as the wealth of all to share.

In a world of uncertainty, in societies undergoing deep transformation, this has never been so important for lasting peace and sustainable development.

Irina Bokova

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