THE UN ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS EDUCATION PROGRAM: Building Knowledge, Enhancing Understanding
What do we know about each other? How do we learn the right things about each other? Answers to these questions are partly to be found in education. Promoting knowledge and understanding about other cultures through education enables us to lessen stereotypes and enhance respect for each other. Knowledge about other cultures (or just the “facts”) is a first step, but the context – history, geography, religions, beliefs, languages and other distinctive features of cultural groups – must also be understood. In today’s wired world, it is also necessary that learners are able to critically distinguish between credible and biased sources of information.
Education must also be seen very broadly as encompassing both formal and informal education, and covering all age groups. Learning is not confined to the classroom, and the teacher is not the sole sage. Recognizing these facts, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations works with several partners to deliver practical projects that enable people to know about one another and understand each other. Working with partners enables us to leverage the local reach of partners and the global visibility of the UNAOC for mutual benefit.
The UN Alliance Education Program rests on four major areas of activity:
1 Media and Information Literacy, an online community and repository of resources empowering people to critically think about, and creatively produce, the range of media messages using images, language and sound.
2 Education about Religions and Beliefs, an online portal and community devoted to learning about diverse religions and beliefs as also ethics, tolerance and civic education. This area also includes interfaith activities and understanding of the positive role of religion in society.
3 Academic Exchanges — Advocacy, Promotion, and Opportunities. The Alliance works with other key partners to advocate, promote and provide information on opportunities for academic exchanges.
4 The Fellowship Project The AoCIF program brings together emerging North American, European, Middle Eastern, and North African leaders to provide them with an opportunity to visit each other’s countries, collaborate on a range of international and domestic policy challenges, and form a community of leaders who share the goals of peaceful intercultural action.
In each of its different areas, the UN Alliance Education Program has concluded partnerships and collaborative agreements with a number of key organizations, academic institutions, civil society, and foundations. The Media Literacy Program’s partners range from UNESCO to London University, University of Sau Paulo, University of Maryland, World Summit on Media and the Public Agenda, Sweden. The Education about Religions and Beliefs portal has partners ranging from organizations such as the Council of Europe, institutions such as the University of Warwick in the UK and University of Cape Town, NGOs such as Project Interfaith in the US, and foundations such as the Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony in India and the Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace (UK and France). In the promotion of academic and youth exchanges, partners include UNESCO, AFS International, Institute of International Education, Abraham’s Path, and Soliya. The Fellowships project has been conducted with the partnership of the ISESCO, League of Arab States, German Marshall Fund of the United States, and the British Council.