To Replace the Culture of War

An Article by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, published at “Vzgliad” on December 24, 2013

Today the ever more globalized and multicultural world needs values and norms of behavior that would unite humanity into united, diverse and interdependent community.

Ethnic, cultural, religious diversity is the source of innovation and creativity. That is why it is so crucial to oppose all the attempts to split the society into “us” and “them”, particularly in the time of economic difficulties.

The coming years (2013 - 2022) were declared by the UN an International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures. For its part, UNESCO advocates building a more inclusive (without rejecting any groups) society and supports the idea of "global citizenship" to be promoted by means of cooperation in the spheres of education, science, culture, communication and information.

In the conditions when every community experiences rapid transformation we need to show more respect and tolerance, we need a broader dialogue both between and within the societies.

At the same time it is important to understand one’s national identity that lies in the core of our individuality as well as to understand ways of interaction with others. Success of intercultural dialogue depends on the capacity to support native traditions and beliefs retaining at the same time respect to the positions of other people and cultures.

The task of UNESCO is to reinforce an understanding that all the nations belong to a single community. We are engaged in preservation of the contribution of different cultures to the world cultural heritage by showing their inherent contribution for the education of mutual respect and understanding, based on common values.

Russian culture and civilization has given shape to the image of Eurasia and extended its influence on the world in general. Russia is the home of 25 sites from UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites that have universal value and should be preserved for the future generations. Today your country renders support to the projects aimed at interaction between cultures and religions due to the fruitful cooperation between UNESCO and the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” under the chairmanship of Vladimir Yakunin. Last year I have signed with Mr. Yakunin Memorandum on mutual understanding to promote efficiency of cooperation for the promotion of intercultural dialogue emphasizing the useful experience that Russia can share with us.

Establishing intercultural and interreligious dialogue, UNESCO has always sought to improve understanding between people of different cultures, between believers and unbelievers, between ordinary citizens and leaders of religious and public communities. Our goal is to make mutual knowledge about other people’s spiritual traditions and fundamental values deeper. This in its turn increases the space for harmonious coexistence in modern multicultural societies.

Since for many people religious feelings are an important aspect of life and a source of spiritual values, they can play a significant role in the recognition of other cultures, religions and lifestyles. Deeper understanding of religion and traditions allows every person to understand and respect people of different beliefs and convictions.

Respect as an important aspect for all - is the foundation of lasting peace and sustainable development. In 1995, members of UNESCO adopted the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. Its first article reads:

"Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.”

Specially for “Vzgliad” newspaper

Translation by the Executive Committee of the WPF “Dialogue of Civilizations”