UNESCO director-general presents violent extremism prevention lecture



Staff Writer

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UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presents solutions to violent extremism during her speech on April 6 in the Guerrieri Academic Commons. Photo by Val Petsche

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presents solutions to violent extremism during her speech on April 6 in Guerrieri Academic Commons.

Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova spoke at Salisbury University on April 6.

Over 400 students and faculty attended the presentation, which was entitled “Preventing Violent Extremism in the 21st century.”

This event was organized by Professor Brian Polkinghorn, SU executive director of the Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution, and Professor Mark Brennen, the UNESCO chair for Rural Community, Leadership and Youth Development at the Pennsylvania State University.

Bokova discussed solutions for building and sustaining peace, as well as ways of preventing violent extremism by cultivating a generation of global citizens.

She ultimately sought to provide the tools to overcome the challenges of a conflict-ridden society.

The speech was a part of the “One Person Can Make a Difference” lecture series hosted by the Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution.

Bokova communicated the dire need for a generation of global citizens that can challenge violent extremists through skills to react to hate speech.

In order to learn such skills, there must be an emphasis on improving literacy, civic engagement and tolerance.

Following an assertion that violent extremists are not born into such positions, but are made, Bokova provided appropriate responses to consider.

“Violent extremists promote fear and division—we must respond with skills, with opportunities for civic engagement, for intercultural dialogue,” Bokova said.

Bokova was also awarded the President’s Medal by Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach, President of Salisbury University.

The director-general was commended by Dr. Dudely-Esbach for her “lifelong dedication and service to the global community of [UNESCO], and for her major contribution to ensuring that girls have equal access to education.”

Bokova is the first woman to lead UNESCO, serving the organization since November 15, 2009. She has been recognized with state distinctions from across the world for her efforts to advance quality education, gender equality and sustainable development for all.

Cody Wehlan, SU graduate assistant for conflict resolution, stood among the audience to ask what people can do in their communities, as well as on the global scale, to create a welcoming atmosphere for people of all cultures and religions.

Wehlan formerly addressed the growing issue of a marginalized youth vulnerable to the influence of organizations with deceptive political agendas such as ISIS and Boko Haram.

“Well, I think the internet gives an enormous opportunity for these platforms. It very much goes along the lines of diversity and mutual understanding or respect,” Bokova said.

One such question asked what gives the director-general hope, which prompted the discussion on the tremendous progress education has made as a major component in today’s global political agenda.

“On one side I see a lot of hope for the future, but we have to think deeply in order to tackle some of these situations because hard power is not enough,” Bokova said.

The insight continued as Bokova accredited the work of those who are actively involved while also encouraging others to do the same.

“I think there are millions of people who understand what is there. Most importantly, they are committed, they are engaged, they are not bystanders just watching what is happening,” Bokova said.

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