The AU Commission, OHCHR and the UNESCO commemorates the “International Day for Tolerance”
Addis Ababa, 16th November 2011 – The Department of the Political Affairs of the AU Commission, in collaboration with UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commemorated the “International Day for Tolerance” on 16 November 2011 at the AU Headquarters.
Addressing the participants, Dr. Mamadou Dia, Acting Director for Political Affairs, at the African Union Commission, pointed out that today, the 16th of November 2011,the African Union joins the rest of the world in commemorating the “International Day for Tolerance” under the theme “Realizing Tolerance: A key to recognize the right and beliefs of others”. The world leaders underscored the respect for diversity and recognized that all cultures and civilizations, without exception contribute to the enrichment of mankind. Commemorating the “International Day for Tolerance” is an opportunity to emphasis the responsibilities of member states to develop and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all, he underscored.
Dr. Dia also emphasised, that “it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we sustain efforts to promote dialogue, build societal cohesion, trust and peaceful coexistence among our societies to celebrate our diverse cultures, ethnicities, religion and languages instead of using them as bases for conflicts”.
Musa Gasama, Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right and liaison to the African Union said that tolerance is especially necessary to guard against the politics of popularization, at a time when stereotypes, ignorance and hatred threaten to tear the delicate fabric of increasingly diverse societies. Tolerance does not mean indifference or a grading acceptance of others. It is a way of life based on mutual understanding and respect for others, and on the belief that global diversity is to be embraced, not feared, he added.
He also said, it should not be noted that Africa did not wait for the 1995 UNESCO declaration of principles and follow-up plan of action Unites Nations year for tolerance to start working towards the culture of tolerance in Africa. As stated in the United Nations charter “we, the people of united nations in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and for these ends to practice tolerance and live toget5her in peace with one another as good Neighbours“.
The message read on behalf of Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, underscored that tolerance is “an ancient idea” but also “an idea that is always new and in need of continual reinvention”. Mrs Bokova criticized the weak concepts of “passive tolerance” or “peaceful coexistence” and asked “simple citizens or public leaders” to “help to demonstrate that tolerance is the way to make the most of human diversity as a source of vitality, creation and social cohesion” and that an active tolerance goes hand with hand with a quality education.
Furthermore, she reminded all participants of the current celebration of the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and invited them to use this opportunity to “hammer home the vital message” of tolerance being “a school of dialogue” and the key for peace.
The Commemoration of the “International Day for Tolerance” aimed at creating a time for people to learn about respecting and recognizing the rights and beliefs of others. It was also a time of reflection and debate on the negative effects of intolerance, among others activities, such as cultural dances, readings of poems, drama and an awarding ceremony.
Participants on the commemoration ceremony included: officials from AU Member States; AU Commission and Organs; Representatives of International Organisations and delegation of schoolchildren.
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