"Towards concrete steps",
IHEYO at the UNESCO-youth forum in Paris 2005

From 30 September to 2 October more than 200 young people from all over the world gathered at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris for the 4th UNESCO Youth Forum. At the one hand there were 184 official delegates from the countries; on the other hand there were 45 NGO-representatives with observer status.

IHEYO was present as one of the observers and was able to make people not forget that there are also non-religious life stances. Some references was included in the end resolutions. A report.

The theme of this year’s Forum (note1)
, held in connection with the 33 rd session of the UNESCO General Conference, was: ‘Young people and the Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations - ideas for action in education, the sciences, culture and communication’. There were three thematic working groups:

  • ‘All different, all unique: celebrating cultural diversity through dialogue’;
  • ‘Safeguarding the future: practising dialogue for sustainable development’;
  • ‘Learning to live together: promoting dialogue for peace and reconciliation’. 

IHEYO’s presence

IHEYO’s representative Frederik Dezutter participated in the first working group and in the plenary sessions. This was the first time IHEYO was present at the UNESCO-forum.

Since this was just the 4th forum there were still some child-diseases. Formal procedures such as the election of the presidency and the reporters took too long (a full day) and the time available to discuss the final recommendations/resolutions profoundly was too short. But despite these shortcomings the youth representatives, coming from all over the world, succeeded in formulating concrete operational projects for UNESCO and the member states to work on. These concrete issues are in contrast with the sometimes noble but non-committal talks that international conferences tend to produce.

Although IHEYO had an observer status we were able to convince UNESCO member states to broaden the concept of religion to philosophical convictions. In that way we tried to open a door to include convictions (such as humanism) that cannot be primary seen as religions.

If you have any comments, contributions or recommendations do not hesitate to get involved at our IHEYO forum: http://www.iheyo.org/forum/

Resolutions adopted

No need to say that many young representatives from the states are concerned with education. This resulted in the following statements and recommendations related to education (note 2):

1. Concerning ‘All different, all unique’: celebrating diversity through dialogue

  • Education is the key to cultural diversity: most civilizations can only be protected if the people are actually able to read and write and therefore learn to protect their heritage. Therefore, it is very important for all young people to have real access to education and be given the same opportunities regardless of our ethnicity, origin, background, conviction and religion, nationality, gender or economic position.

  • The media and education complement one another and constitute the pulse of society. Efforts must be made by all countries to deploy a media and educational strategy to combat any kind of intolerance.
  • The Ministry of Education or the appropriate body in the Member States should include in the curriculum of every school the Model of the United Nations programme. Further, governments should ensure special workshops for educators, to train them to work in situations where any kind of discrimination exists or when there are cultural conflicts among the students. NGOs working in this area should be supported by UNESCO.

It will take time to create an environment of cultural harmony but we must work together to enhance the appreciation of cultural diversity.

2. Concerning Practising dialogue for sustainable development

The forum recognized that sustainable development is the biggest challenge of the 21st Century and acknowledge the gap between sustainability talk and practice.

  • Institutionalizing youth participation in the formulation and implementation of sustainable development awareness programmes.

  • Peer-to-peer education for sustainable development is the most likely to result in behavioural change. As such, we should encourage peer education within the formal education system.

  • Introducing education on sustainable development at an early age with a focus on educating young women and girls as well as out of school youth and other marginalized youth.

  • Facilitating inter-regional and inter-cultural discussions on sustainable development at international, regional and local levels throughout the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development.

  • Local, indigenous and informal, non-formal knowledge must be on an equal footing with formal education. The forum requested UNESCO’s assistance in:
    - Facilitating the development of educational curriculum to be undertaken to cover the value and importance of local, traditional and indigenous knowledge and take into account the formulation of sustainable development projects.
    - Facilitating a youth-generated magazine, sharing youth experiences of integrating local, traditional and indigenous knowledge into all forms of education.

  • Sustaining youth: support of youth-led initiatives for our sustainable future . The forum recommended:
    - The development of knowledge and skills through informal, non-formal, extra-curricular and voluntary activity. UNESCO should encourage its Member States to officially recognize such personal development within their education systems.

3. Concerning learning to live together: promoting dialogue for peace and reconciliation

  • The commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) should be re-affirmed by all the countries and this, together with human rights/civic education should be an integrated part of the school curriculum.

  • The creation of opportunities for exchange, allowing people from conflicting parties to get to know each other and define their commonalities, should be encouraged and a database of best practice in conflict resolution and conflict transformation should be created and made available to schools and NGOs and youth parliaments in order to exchange information and evaluate actions.

  • UNESCO should promote the dissemination of information on international conventions, declarations and United Nations decades at the level of schools, student organizations and at the community level.


Besides the many contacts we established, we remember that the UNESCO youth forum sent a  clear invitation to the NGO’s. As IHEYO we will embrace the invitation and try to contribute to realise the goals where we can. There is definitely a role to play within UNESCO-youth for a humanist NGO besides the religions represented.

Frederik Dezutter, treasurer of IHEYO and staff member at Unie Vrijzinnige Verenigingen

NOTE 1: For more information on the history of the Youth Forum and the reports of past Forums please see the publication “UNESCO’s commitment to youth: the Youth Forum” at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001345/134501e.pdf

NOTE 2: We only present the recommendations that are directly connected to education. The complete report was presented by the Forum President and Reporters to the General Assembly and has been translated into six languages and posted on the website the UNESCO Section for Youth at http://unesco.takingitglobal.org/documents/YouthForum_EN.pdf



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