Kids at an event hold up signs that read peace.
“What is tolerance? It is the prerogative of humanity. We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies – it is the first law of nature.” -Voltaire
Photo:UN Photo / Manuel Elias

Fostering mutual understanding among cultures and peoples

The United Nations is committed to strengthening tolerance by fostering mutual understanding among cultures and peoples. This imperative lies at the core of the United Nations Charter, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is more important than ever in this era of rising and violent extremism and widening conflicts that are characterized by a fundamental disregard for human life.

In 1996, the UN General Assembly (by resolution 51/95) invited UN Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on 16 November. This action followed up on the United Nations Year for Tolerance, 1995, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 at the initiative of UNESCO, as outlined in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and Follow-up Plan of Action for the Year.

UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence

In 1995, to mark the United Nations Year for Tolerance and the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, UNESCO created a prize for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence. The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence rewards significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural or communication fields aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence.

The prize is awarded every two years on the International Day for Tolerance, 16 November. The Prize may be awarded to institutions, organizations or persons, who have contributed in a particularly meritorious and effective manner to tolerance and non-violence.

Two men cultivating cabbages

Centre Résolution Conflits receives UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize 2020

Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC) from the Democratic Republic in Congo is recognized for its work for the defence of human rights, its tireless commitment to the rescue of child soldiers from militia groups, and their rehabilitation and reintegration into their home communities.


For its fiftieth anniversary on 16 November 1995, UNESCO's Member States adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. Among other things, the Declaration affirms that tolerance is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.

The Declaration qualifies tolerance not only as a moral duty, but also as a political and legal requirement for individuals, groups and States. It emphasizes that States should draft new legislation when necessary to ensure equality of treatment and of opportunity for all groups and individuals in society.

Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning. The diversity of our world's many religions, languages, cultures and ethnicities is not a pretext for conflict, but is a treasure that enriches us all.

An illustration of Gandhi working on a spinning wheel with a message that reads: My life is my message.

A Day with Gandhi

In 1994, UNESCO marked the 125th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth paving the way for the proclamation of 16 November as the International Day for Tolerance by the UN. This illustrative book pays tribute to the values of the Mahatma of peace, non-violence and equality.

How Can Intolerance Be Countered?

  • Laws: Governments are responsible for enforcing human rights laws, for banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination and for ensuring equal access to dispute settlement.
  • Education: Laws are necessary but not sufficient for countering intolerance, greater emphasis needs to be placed on educating more and better.
  • Access to information: The most efficient way to limit the influence of hatemongers is to promote press freedom and press pluralism, in order to allow the public to differentiate between facts and opinions.
  • Individual awareness: Intolerance breeds intolerance. In order to fight intolerance individuals should become aware of the link between their behaviour and the vicious cycle of mistrust and violence in society.
  • Local solutions: When confronted with an escalation of intolerance around us, we must not wait for governments and institutions to act alone. We are all part of the solution.

Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human."

Declaration of Principles on Tolerance


A man with a beard and a turban sings into a microphone.

‘YouTubers’ putting a stop to intolerance

L-FRESH, an Australian-born, Sikh artist, born to Indian immigrants, strives to break down cultural barriers by drawing from his multinational background and creating hip-hop lyrics based on his day-to-day experience.


UNAOC celebrates its 15th Anniversary

The UN launched the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) to fill a policy gap in the governance of cultural diversity, which was threatened by violent extremism, polarization, and manifestations of intolerance, xenophobia, and racism.

Collage of screenshots of mouths.

PLURAL+ is a youth video festival that encourages and empowers global youth to explore the pressing social issues of migration, diversity, social inclusion, and the prevention of xenophobia and to share their creative vision with the world. Launched in 2009, PLURAL+ is a joint initiative of the UNAOC and the IOM, with a network of more than 50 partner organizations around the globe. #Pluralplus20

A composite of images of many people making happy gestures.

The current surge of flaring conflicts, acts of violence and intolerance demands urgent actions. Peoples and nations must join forces for the development of a universal global consciousness free from stereotypes and prejudices. The International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) is a commitment to consider new articulations between cultural diversity and universal values.

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.