UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization



Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Day for Tolerance, 16 November 2011

Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Day for Tolerance, 16 November 2011

Tolerance is an ancient idea, at the same time as being an idea that is always new and in need of continual reinvention. Much more importantly, tolerance is a behaviour, a way of being that evolves with the history of our societies.

In a world that is more connected than ever, intolerance is not an option, and “passive tolerance” or mere peaceful coexistence is not enough. The mixing of different identities and the rapprochement of diverse cultures, between States but also within societies, calls for us to devise models of citizenship and social participation where individuals manage to live together truly, rather than just “side by side”.

Simple citizens or public leaders at every level can help to demonstrate that tolerance is the way to make the most of human diversity as a source of vitality, creation and social cohesion.

Tolerance is a school for dialogue. It is a condition for identifying, by comparing experiences and opinions, the shared core values of our belonging to humanity regardless of our different origins, faiths or cultures. Tolerance is, by definition, openness to others. It is the opposite of indifference and can never promote withdrawal into one’s own culture or community. No one can invoke diversity or use “tolerance” as a basis to attack universally recognized human rights. This year, the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights invites us to hammer home this vital message.

The building of an ethic of real tolerance today calls for each of us to improve our skills and our ability to embrace global diversity, by sharing knowledge, mastering languages, discovering cultures and learning the lessons of history. The key to this active tolerance is quality education, which enables us to take part in informed debate, listen to others and integrate diverse points of view. And today, I appeal to all States and civil society stakeholders to take action to achieve this goal.

It is a vital challenge for peace. It also drives social innovation, a source of renewal for societies and ideas. No single country can meet our shared challenges. No culture has a monopoly over universality. If, together, we want to find new solutions to sustainable development issues and emerge from crises successfully, we need everyone to participate. A culture of tolerance is vital for the future of Nations and grows stronger through the daily behaviour of each and every one of us.

International Day of Tolerance (UNESCO Paris)

  • 10-11-2011