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Welcoming remarks by Eric Falt,
Director of the Outreach Division, DPI

Good afternoon to all.

It is my pleasure to welcome you all today at the United Nations as we observe the third annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.  I am truly delighted that we are collaborating with B’nai B’rith International to mobilize teachers, civil society and Member States for Holocaust remembrance and education.

As many of you know, the Department of Public Information’s “Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme” was established just two years ago.  In that short time, we have built an international network of educators, NGO’s, and Holocaust institutions to fulfil our mission, which is to help others learn from the lessons of the Holocaust to help prevent future genocide.

General Assembly Resolution 60/7 is very specific on what our role should be vis-à-vis Holocaust education.  It asked DPI to create an environment that fosters learning and idea-sharing while working with partners all around the world.  And we are doing this by organizing seminars and briefing on best practices for Holocaust education and the prevention of genocide.  We also have a film series that raises awareness of the Holocaust and warns against the dangers of hatred and bigotry.  By developing alternative means to attract different target audiences, we know that we are reaching more and more people with our messages.  As a result, our partners are increasing and the programme continues to grow. Due to high demand, we webcast all of our events and archive them on the UN website for worldwide access.

Another very important element of the Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme is the support that we give to Member States that wish to develop educational programmes on the lessons of the Holocaust, as urged in the Holocaust remembrance resolution of the General Assembly.  We do this in a number of ways.

First, the Programme’s gateway website connects educators and students with many excellent institutions that provide ready made curricula.  On our site you can find our “Electronic Notes for Speakers”, developed with various partners.  These briefing notes, available in English, French and Spanish, provide concise, detailed information on the history and human experience of the Holocaust and have been praised by educators.

Second, this website also links educators to guidelines for Holocaust education prepared by the International Task Force for Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, in which our Outreach Programme plays an active role.  We are also very grateful to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, le Memorial de la Shoah, Yad Vashem and the House of the Wannsee Conference Educational and Memorial Site, for sponsoring training seminars for UN information officers to improve their ability to raise awareness and develop grassroots outreach programmes on the Holocaust in all regions of the globe.

A third tool that supports educational efforts are the position papers drafted by leading Holocaust and genocide scholars around the world.  These papers stimulate debate and have even raised the level of dialogue regarding the role of the United Nations in helping to prevent mass atrocities.  Each article is presented with discussion questions that help stimulate classroom discussions.

Lastly, I would also like to add that my Division’s “UN Cyberschoolbus”, also contributed to Holocaust education efforts by publishing an online Holocaust timeline and a module unit for middle and high-school teachers on the Holocaust in its unit on racial discrimination.  They are useful to Member States and educators and are available at: www.cyberschoolbus.un.org.

In closing, I welcome UNESCO’s initiatives relating to its new mandate “to promote awareness of Holocaust remembrance through education”, as UNESCO is uniquely positioned to work directly with Member States on this issue.  We are confident that UNESCO, through its work with national ministries of education and teachers, will strengthen the ability of Member States to ensure that Holocaust education will reach schools around the world. 

 I am also pleased that we will have the chance to hear from our panellists about the “Paper Clips” initiative, another grass-roots effort that mobilizes the world around a single educational effort, and shows the great importance of associating youth to outreach projects.