Launch of the UNESCO GCED Group of Friends to combat hatred and discrimination exacerbated by COVID-19 Pandemic
On 26 May 2020, the Group of Friends for Solidarity and Inclusion with Global Citizenship Education (GCED) was launched and held its first meeting virtually with the participation of about 110 representatives of UNESCO Member States and relevant organizations. The group was launched in line with the global community’s effort to find collective solutions to fight against hatred, discrimination, and stigmatization exacerbated by COVID-19 Pandemic, and to enhance global cooperation through GCED. Led by the Republic of Korea as the chair of the group, the meeting was participated by 11 UNESCO Member States including Armenia, Austria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Philippines, Serbia, and Senegal.
Celebrating the launch of the Group of Friends, Director-General of UNESCO Mme Audrey Azoulay highlighted the importance of GCED, which promotes critical thinking, understanding each other, and empathy - the essential competencies to combat the messages of hate that divides our society.
In the congratulatory message, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea Ms Kang Kyung-wha said how GCED plays a significant role as a psychological vaccine to defend ourselves from hatred and prejudice. Furthermore, she appreciated the contribution of APCEIU in disseminating and promoting GCED regionally and internationally.
Mr Kim Dong Gi, Ambassador and the Permanent Delegate of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO, chaired the meeting and underlined that the Group of Friends upholds UNESCO’s ideas and values against misunderstanding and prejudice. GCED was presented as a useful tool to materialize the aim of the Group of Friends. He also pledged to cooperate with UNESCO and other educational institutions as an action-oriented group.
In the light of UNESCO’s leading role of supporting SDG 4.7, Assistant Director-General for Education of UNESCO Ms Stefania Giannini highlighted the importance of APCEIU’s culture of disseminating GCED. Moreover, she reiterated that GCED is one of the ways for us to foster empathy and responsibility to face the newly emerging challenges.
As part of the expert presentation session, Mr Lim Hyun Mook, Director of APCEIU, shared these thoughts with the topic of ‘COVID-19 Pandemic and GCED’. He underlined important lessons from COVID-19 for GCED and suggested future plans on how the Group of Friends could promote GCED. He stressed the urgent call to Member States for action and the willingness of APCEIU to support the process. Ms Vibeke Jensen, Director of the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development at UNESCO Headquarters, shared that while it is a reality that the immediate educational needs of countries and their urgent response are essential, GCED plays a vital role in long-term recovery. Mr Rilli Lappalainen, Founder and Chair of the Bridge 47 Network that focuses on working for GCED, emphasized the importance of investing to support global citizenship that will bring forth social transformation.
While all the Member States mentioned the core value of GCED in the line of enhancing global solidarity, Ambassador of Serbia has mentioned how the APCEIU’s Capacity-Building initiatives supported its effort to educate Serbian education officials on GCED, which is now a necessity amidst the global pandemic.
In a joint statement, the GCED Group of Friends has pledged to work as an open platform to combat hatred and discrimination through strengthening international cooperation with GCED. The outcomes of the launch meeting were decided to be shared during the next Executive Board Meetings of UNESCO to gather further support among Member States and to implement relevant action at different levels.
(Photo Credit: ROK MOFA, APCEIU)