UNESCO chief says schools must fight extremism

September 24, 2018

The head of the UN education agency says schools are ground zero in the fight against anti-Semitism and extremist violence and she will push world leaders meeting in New York this week to invest more in teaching tolerance.

“No one is born a violent extremist,” Azoulay said in an interview with The Associated Press in Paris ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, which opens on Monday. “Education is the best rampart against discrimination and racism.”

Azoulay’s own organisation the first U.N. body to admit Palestine as a member has long been riven by sectarian anger, divisions she has worked to mend since taking the helm last year of the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

At the UN, she will co-host a meeting on fighting anti-Semitism and other discrimination through teaching about different religions and cultures. “It will exhort the member states to mobilise to promote education as a lever of prevention of racism and discrimination, and by extension, violent extremism,” she said.

UNESCO has drawn up made-to-measure guides for educators in different countries, notably addressing anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim attitudes. However, the U.N. body can’t force governments to use them, and it is especially difficult in poor countries to ensure uniform teaching messages.

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