‘Soft Power for Peace and Development’ – Remarks by Irina Bokova, DG, UNESCO

Back in late May, we posted a link to UNEP and UNEA’s talk of the ‘softest of soft power‘ as reported in a New Scientist article.

Continuing this theme at our blog rather than on the journal’s Facebook page, we post a link to Bokova’s remarks in Sri Lanka. Offered at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies, these are available in full at the link below – a timely reminder of some of the wider debates given the recent release of the GEM report?

A few snippets are reproduced below. Discussion welcome:

… The promises of the new agenda embody a new transformative vision for peace and the planet.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were developed in a process that involved all States, drawing on the key lesson of the Millennium Development Goals — that success requires national ownership, and that ownership means capacities.

Very often we hear the appeal for a ‘paradigm shift,’ and I agree.
It is a paradigm shift in its commitment to inclusion and ownership.
It is a paradigm shift in its global vision, bringing all countries together, developed and developing, middle income with Small Island Developing States.
Taking this forward calls for connected action across sectors, from education to water management to empowering girls and women, linking progress in human development with effective measures against climate change.

I wish to pledge here UNESCO’s support to Sri Lanka in all its efforts to consolidate gains, to catalyse new progress.
This starts with Sustainable Development Goal 4, “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” which UNESCO did so much to shape.
Our starting point is clear.

Education is a human right, essential to dignity and empowerment.
It is a multiplier for more inclusive and sustainable development.
In advancing gender equality, poverty eradication, sustainability — it is a force for peace.
Whether in Tokyo or Nairobi, Asuncion or New York, educating a child is the smartest investment a society can make in its future, in lasting peace.
The evidence is overwhelming.

UNESCO’s forthcoming Global Education Monitoring Report shows that, on average, every additional year of education boosts a person’s income by 10 percent and increases a country’s GDP by 18 percent.
Working with Member States and partners, UNESCO is leading forward the Education 2030 Framework for Action.

I look forward to deepening UNESCO’s partnership with Sri Lanka – especially, in advancing education for peace and human rights, education for global citizenship, education for sustainable development, to bolster reconciliation through new skills for dialogue and solidarity.

Empowering girls and women must be a special priority – Sri Lanka is participating in UNESCO’s project, supported by China/HNA, to enhance girl’s and women’s right to quality education through gender sensitive policy-making, teacher development and pedagogy.
This is not only a human rights issue – it is about building more just and inclusive societies.

Science education and education for sustainable development are core parts of our cooperation — building capacity also to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity.
A similar holistic approach guides our work to advance mangrove conservation, through awareness-raising, education and research, community livelihood activities, especially for women.
All this seeks to bolster the resilience of societies, to give them every chance to meet goals they set for themselves.
This must start with respect for human rights, as the compass direction for all action.

Sustainable Development Goal 16 sets the bar high — to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

The rule of law, good governance, democratic practices as you rightfully mentioned – these are essential for healthy society and sustainable development.

I wish to commend the Government for Sri Lanka for its commitment to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists – let me underline the importance of Sri Lanka’s recent Right to Information Act, which provides access to public information to all women and men.

UNESCO has worked with Sri Lanka, to support media ethics and self-regulation, to promote gender equality in and through the media, to build capacity to report on poverty, to promote the right to information.

I see these as ‘soft power’ drivers for resilience and peace.
This is the importance also of promoting cultural heritage and diversity — as enablers and drivers of sustainable development, as platforms for dialogue and reconciliation.


PS for remarks from one of the lead authors on soft power, try the following as a starter [ warning: opens a word download ] – Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics – Joseph S. Nye – Edited transcript, 04/13/04 Carnegie Council Books for Breakfast.


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