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UNESCO reaffirms commitment at high-level UN event to address antisemitism

On 17 November, UNESCO participated in an online high-level event on ‘The role of the United Nations in Combating Antisemitism’, organized by the World Jewish Congress and the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations on the sidelines of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly.


Global surveys show an increased proliferation of antisemitism in many parts of the world. This alarming trend has been further accelerated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising disinformation worldwide. Conspiracy theories and deliberate denial and distortion of the history of the Holocaust are among the most prevalent forms of contemporary antisemitism. 


Against this context, the event brought together representatives of the United Nations, UN agencies and the European Commission as well as Permanent Missions to the United Nations to discuss and coordinate strategies to address antisemitism within and beyond the United Nations system.


In her opening remarks, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay underlined the need for a common and coordinated approach. ‘Antisemitism does not only harm Jewish people, it also undermines human rights in general,’ she said. ‘This is why the war against antisemitism should not be waged by Jewish institutions alone. The entire international community must take action.’


‘UNESCO, with its mandate on education, is at the forefront of efforts to combat antisemitism,’ Ms. Azoulay added. ‘We know that fighting prejudice, respecting difference, appreciating diversity are values that can be learned.’


Over the past years, UNESCO has taken concrete action to strengthen education systems against this worrying surge of hatred, prejudice and violence. At the online event, UNESCO Programme Specialist Karel Fracapane presented UNESCO’s human rights-based approach to addressing antisemitism in and through education, which is embedded in the Organization’s programme on Global Citizenship Education and linked to activities on the prevention of violent extremism


Recent activities include guidelines for policymakers and international capacity-building workshops, to which UNESCO will add curricula for teacher trainers, to be published with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights next week.  Together with its partners at the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme and the World Jewish Congress, UNESCO will launch a new series of activities to strengthen educational responses to Holocaust denial and distortion.


Ms Azoulay joined Amb. Michaela Küchler, President of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Maram Stern, Executive Director of the World Jewish Congress, Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the UN at Geneva, Miguel Moratinos, High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, and Amb. Gilad Erdan, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, to reiterate UNESCO’s continued commitment to address and prevent antisemitism in and through education.


UNESCO’s activities cater to global audiences and support Member States in the development of national strategies and programmes. This need for national responses was recognized by  Permanent Missions at the event: Representatives of the Permanent Missions of Albania, Argentina, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Republic of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Uruguay pledged to strengthen their efforts to address and prevent antisemitism.