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Remarks of Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal
Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information
Holocaust Education: Tools and Techniques
Professional Development Programme for Educators
United Nations Headquarters, New York
2 May 2013

Good morning. I am Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.

I would like to welcome all of you to the “Holocaust Education: Tools and Techniques” workshop. Our goal today is to share with you effective methods and technology to teach the Holocaust.  We will also examine the role of teachers in encouraging students to respect diversity in the classroom and beyond.

I am very pleased that Ahmad Alhendawi, who was recently appointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth, is with us today.

I would also like to warmly welcome and thank our partners – the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority; the Anne Frank House; the Anti-Defamation League; and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute – for kindly agreeing to present workshops for you today. We are grateful to all of them for their continued support.

This is a notable year for many of our partners. It is the centenary of the founding of the Anti-Defamation League. It is the 60th anniversary of Yad Vashem. And it is the 20th anniversary of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Thank you for your outstanding contribution to Holocaust education.

Today’s programme has been organized by the United Nations Holocaust Programme, by Kimberly Mann and her team. And I’d like to thank them for the effort they put into the Programme, which was established in 2006 to encourage Holocaust remembrance and education to help prevent future acts of genocide.

Since then it has developed a global network of civil society partners and a multi-faceted programme that includes online and print educational materials, exhibitions, special events, a film series and the worldwide observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day each January. 

In all its activities, the Programme draws essential links between the underlying causes of genocide, the lessons to be learned from the Holocaust, and the promotion of democratic values and human rights. 

You as teachers perform a vital role in society, shaping the minds of young people – our future leaders – to become responsible and contributing citizens of our world. And your work is directly related to the aims and objectives of our work here at the United Nations.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is making education a priority for his second term in office, and in that context he launched in September 2012 the Global Education First Initiative. Its goals included putting every child in school, improving the quality of learning and fostering global citizenship.

We recognize that one of the most important contributions of teachers is to teach students to respect one another.

As the world becomes more mobile, and classrooms more multicultural, teachers are working even harder on the front lines to promote respect for all races, religions and gender – basic human rights that the Declaration of Human Rights says we are all entitled to.

And to complicate your job, you are faced with the challenges that technology brings about. Youth worldwide are increasingly connected all the time, and young people can easily be influenced by negative messages distributed via these media – and even repeat them – if they haven’t received guidance from you and their parents.

One of the topics most talked about in the media over the last year and related to human rights and the work of the Holocaust and the United Nations Programme is bullying. Bullying is often linked to hate speech, and studies show that the experience of bullying in childhood can have profound effects on young people all the way into adulthood.

How do we teach our children to recognize hate speech? How do we teach them to decipher its true meaning and intention? How do we teach our children to reject it and stand up for what is right?

Each of today’s workshops is designed to help us effectively engage students in the study of the Holocaust so that they can better understand why it is still relevant for them today.

Its study will help students to reflect on the consequences of hatred and discrimination, examine incidents that occurred in their daily lives and place those in a broader context of racial and ethnic conflicts.  We very much hope that this programme will prove valuable to all of you and will bring contributions to the lessons of the Holocaust into your classrooms.

At this point we are fortunate to be joined by Ahmad Alhendawi, the United Nations first-ever Envoy on Youth of the Secretary-General at the United Nations. Ahmad joined us a few months ago as part of the team of the Department of Public Information and has started with a worldwide tour. And youth is at the heart of his activities.