16 November 2011
This is a period in which the old world is slowly but irreversibly changing and the contours of a new one are just beginning to take shape. Traditional institutions are being challenged. Budgets are being squeezed. Families are being stressed. All of this flux and churning creates enormous anxiety.
At times of change, we must stay true to the ideals and principles that are at the heart of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among those core values is tolerance. Our practice of tolerance must mean more than peaceful coexistence, crucial as that is. It must be an active understanding fostered through dialogue and positive engagement with others.
This is especially critical in combating the discrimination that causes so much divisiveness, destruction and death. We all have a responsibility to protect those vulnerable to discrimination, whether based on race, religion, nationality, language, gender, sexual orientation or other factors. Practicing tolerance can serve as the antidote to prejudice and hatred.
UNESCO plays a special role in fostering active tolerance by promoting quality education for all girls and boys; advancing a free and pluralistic media, including on the Internet; and protecting cultural heritage and nurturing respect for cultural diversity.
As we face the complex and global challenges of our times, the United Nations will continue to work for mutual understanding among peoples and countries, a bedrock need in an interconnected world. As we mark this international day, let us remember that active tolerance begins with each of us, every day.