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Forest Whitaker and Irina Bokova at Concordia Summit on power of connecting for peace

On 18 September 2017, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in the 2017 Concordia Annual Summit, held in New York, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.


Every year, the Concordia Summit convenes the world’s most prominent business, government, and non-profit leaders to enable effective partnerships for impact.  Thought leaders and innovators gather at this global affairs forum to examine the world’s most pressing challenges and identify avenues for collaboration. 

On this occasion, the Director-General took part in a conversation with Forest Whitaker, UNESCO Special Envoy, in which they advocated for the frontline role that education plays in peace building and reconciliation, as well as the need for strengthened partnerships to unlock progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The session was moderated by CNBC Chief International Correspondent and “Power Lunch” Co-Anchor, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.

Describing his foundation’s work in South Sudan and Uganda and his partnership with UNESCO, Forest Whitaker said that “we create an environment where education and learning are key elements - we train youth to be leaders in their community, to be social entrepreneurs, we give a sense of identity and place, and do literacy work through community learning centres.”

Ms Bokova asserted that education is the number one demand of parents displaced by conflict and crisis. “We are seeing innovative approaches but we are still not there - fifty percent of Syrian refugees are not in school - education is critical for peace, for fighting distorted visions of faith and history.” 

She further emphasized that “partnership is the new leadership,” noting that national ownership of the SDGs is key, together with citizen responsibility to craft new paths to development and peace.

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