World needs "soft power" of education, culture, sciences: UNESCO chief

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Irina Bokova. Screen grab from UN Web TV.

'Hard power' can no longer stop conflicts nor the rise of violent extremism, and "ancient hatreds" such as antisemitism, racial discrimination and intolerance, the Director-General of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said on Friday.

Irina Bokova made the remarks during her speech at the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, host of the event, has a long history on the "Silk Road" ancient trade route, as a centre for exchange, scholarship and art.

Jocelyne Sambira reports from Baku.

Tolerance is not enough. Passive co-existence is insufficient. People need solidarity, understanding and respect for diversity.

That's what Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, said on the occasion of the opening ceremony of a UN conference on intercultural dialogue in Baku.

In her appeal for a new form of global solidarity and citizenship, Ms Bokova deplored the rise of conflicts, violent extremism and cultural cleansing around the world.

Education is under attack, she noted, adding that cultural diversity and freedom of expression are also under threat.

"We see societies closing against perceived 'Others', minorities persecuted. We see the rise of ancient hatreds, antisemitism, racial discrimination, intolerance. In this context, we have no choice — we must remain true to the compass setting of human rights and dignity, and we must respond. 'Hard power' is not enough. We need the 'soft power' of education, knowledge, culture, communication, the sciences, to strengthen the values we share and recognize the destiny we hold in common."

Irina Bokova shared how UNESCO was helping rebuild the mosques in Timbuktu in Mali, destroyed by Islamic extremists in 2012, in defense of humanity's shared heritage.

The UNESCO Director-General also praised President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan for his "longstanding leadership in promoting intercultural dialogue."

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 1’36″

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