Today, at the very beginning of a new millennium, the world faces what Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken called, “a threat that does not stop at borders and does not distinguish among its victims.
In every corner of the globe, in every country represented here today in ways big and small, violent extremists have left their mark—murdering, terrorizing, and preaching an ideology of nihilism and fear that seeks to defy humanity.”
These remarks came at a high-level event on Preventing Violent Extremism through Education, organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, and the Permanent Mission of the United States during the 38th General Conference at UNESCO Headquarters.
Deputy Secretary Blinken added: “Our weapon of choice in this fight is a weapon surpassing any that extremists possess, one that delivers a blow that no agent of hate or intolerance can withstand: it is the bright light of education.”
In the words of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, “Violent extremists offer destruction and hatred. We must respond with culture and knowledge. Violent extremists promote fear and division. We must respond with skills for critical thinking, with opportunities for civic engagement, with competences for dialogue across cultures."
UNESCO has a program available on request to ministries that request it called Global Citizenship Education. It helps create a learning environment that promotes a free exchange of ideas. The hope is to raise a generation of responsible global citizens by instilling in students a respect for human rights, social justice, diversity, gender equality and environmental sustainability.
Building on this program, the United States will take the next step and help develop a digital education resource to prevent and undermine the allure of violent extremism.
“By arming young minds with a world perspective rooted in respect, social justice, diversity, and critical thinking, we can counter radicalization as it arises and even prevent its growth in the first place,” said Deputy Secretary Blinken.
“By investing in their future, we secure ours. The alternative is too tragic to even contemplate. Without a quality education, these children are in danger of being exploited, forced to work, pressured into early marriage, conscripted as child soldiers, or become prey to the siren song of violent extremism.”