While active on a number of cross-cutting issues, UNAOC works mainly in four priority areas to which it brings a multidisciplinary and multi-perspective approach: Education, Media, Migration, and Youth. The main objectives of UNAOC’s programme activities are to facilitate the global conversation on the challenges and opportunities for living in a landscape of diversity in our age of global communication and exchanges; prevent intercultural tensions and crises; combat stereotypes, misperceptions, discrimination and xenophobia; and support innovative grassroots initiatives that contribute to intercultural dialogue and understanding, mutual respect and cooperation across divides.
Intercultural Innovation Award
The Intercultural Innovation Award (www.interculturalinnovation.org) is a global venture in partnership with the BMW Group that aims to identify and provide monetary and in-kind support to highly innovative grassroots initiatives working to alleviate identity-based tensions and conflicts around the world. These projects promote intercultural dialogue and understanding, thereby making vital contributions to prosperity and peace.
The award is given to 10 not-for-profit organizations active in the fields of migration and integration; intercultural awareness; education for intercultural citizenship; or be organizations addressing the needs of specific groups in promoting intercultural understanding (e.g. faith-based, youth, women, media, etc.) They must have a track record of managing intercultural projects and willingness to expand their range of action.
By the end of 2014, the award impacted 88 countries. This was almost a three-fold increase from the previous year. Additionally, the award has benefited more than 600,000 individuals around the world since its establishment in 2011. (View the brochure for the Intercultural Innovation Award)
Intercultural Leaders (www.interculturalleaders.org), developed in partnership with the BMW Group, is an exclusive skills & knowledge-sharing platform for civil society organizations and young leaders working to address cross-cultural tensions.
It is the “alumni network” for participants in UNAOC programs and projects.
Participants from various UNAOC programs and projects (Intercultural Innovation Award, Youth Solidarity Fund, Summer School, Entrepreneurs for Social Change, Fellowship Programme), professionals from partner organizations and a group of mentors form Intercultural Leaders.
Through an innovative online system, Intercultural Leaders harnesses the solidarity of its members to maximize the impact of their work and help them foster cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.
By strengthening civil society capacities, Intercultural Leaders also enhances UNAOC’S role as a convener, catalyst, and thought leader.
Media and Information Literacy
Media and Information Literacy (MIL) initiatives are aimed at helping global citizens understand how media messages impact and influence the shaping of opinions as well as the understanding individuals have of themselves, their communities and the world at large.
UNAOC’s MIL efforts include a multi-language web-based MIL clearinghouse (the first of this kind and scope), the creation — with UNESCO — of a global network of universities working on MIL, coordinating MIL workshops for educators, and creating publications.
Gaining Media and Information Literacy is a lifelong learning (formal and informal) educational experience.
By working with education experts, policy makers and mass media producers MIL provides a knowledge base necessary for individuals to be informed consumers of news. By doing so, UNAOC helps people avoid polarization and facilitates better understanding among individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
UNAOC is moving the MIL agenda forward globally by supporting already existing initiatives and providing easy access to resources and information to a growing international community of learners.
PLURAL+ is a youth video festival and competition for people 25-years old and younger organized in partnership with the International Organization for Migration and the support of more than thirty partners from around the world.
PLURAL+ competitors submit videos focusing on the themes of migration, diversity and social inclusion are submitted to a jury for consideration. The submissions can be a maximum of five minutes in length. More than a festival, PLURAL+ is platform for young people’s voices and opinions on these topics as they address key challenges related to migrant integration, inclusiveness, identity, diversity, human rights and social cohesiveness, both at local and global levels.
With the support of PLURAL+ partners, the winning videos are distributed across the world on multiple platforms, from TV broadcasts to screenings at festivals and the internet.
PLURAL+ recognizes youth as powerful agents of social change in a world often characterized by intolerance, and cultural and religious divisions.
The winning videos are announced in December at an awards ceremony at the Paley Center for Media in New York.
PEACEapp provides a series of global hands-on digital programing workshops for young refugees and migrants, working in collaboration with local youth, with the goal of creating simple gamified apps supporting robust forms of storytelling and digital narratives. During the weeklong workshops, young people from the host country work side by side with young migrants and refugees focusing on the creation of video games with narratives relevant to their own stories.
PEACEapp provides participants with digital literacy skills while also connecting disadvantaged youth to peers, building awareness about their background, their current situation, and their aspirations. The hands-on workshops are also in direct support of youth development by helping to transform young people’s potential, creativity, talents and social responsibility through acquisition of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes. These include teamwork, communication, computational thinking, technological skills, leadership, flexibility, inter-cultural and inter-religious experience, responsiveness, as well as creativity and innovation. In this way, the initiative contributes to the closing of the competence gap demanded in professional life.
Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF)
The Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF) provides seed funding to outstanding youth-led initiatives that promote long-term constructive relationships among people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to promote more peaceful societies. The fund, established in 2008, links small scale and local work to larger movements for social and global change.
In addition to awarding grants of up to USD 25,000 per project, UNAOC provides youth organizations selected under the Youth Solidarity Fund with in-depth training, technical assistance, peer assistance, and networking opportunities.
Each project has an impact on the local population as a whole, often involving religious or political leaders, policy-makers and media-makers. These projects use innovative methodologies to disseminate peace-related messages (e.g. using arts, cell phones, videos, radio, sports, etc.). Their unique approaches feed into national or local discussions regarding the role of youth in fostering cross-cultural understanding. YSF is funded by several members of the United nations Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends.
UNAOC’s Summer School brings together youth from around the world to address pressing global challenges within the context of cultural and religious diversity.
Over the course of one week, a group of 75-100 participants aged 18-35 live together and participate in workshops and roundtables focused on understanding and fostering global citizenship, reducing stereotypes, promoting intercultural harmony and building alliances through the use of concrete tools.
Since 2010, UNAOC has been implementing Summer Schools based on the conviction that youth are a driving force for positive social change.
Through this programme, nearly 500 youth from 119 countries have increased their understanding of other’s cultures and faiths and of the similarities that unite us despite our differences.
They gained applicable tools for growing and sustaining their impact as activists, journalists, change-makers and leaders in their communities.
Tracking Hatred: An International Dialogue on Hate Speech in the Media
UNAOC’s Hate Speech initiative is a platform for constructive dialogue on Hate Speech and the sharing of best practices. Particular emphasis is placed on engaging the global media space and journalists, particularly those who are well positioned to report, comment on, and investigate xenophobia, Hate Speech, violent extremism and prejudice.
With this initiative, UNAOC examines the different measures that have been taken globally to curb Hate Speech and their limitations, as well as the root causes of Hate Speech, and the impact of structural inequalities. In addition, UNAOC explores the reasons why Hate Speech remains a pervasive element that contributes to violent extremism, and the link between hate speech and the treatment of migrants.
UNAOC’s Hate Speech initiative consists of (1) a series of one-day conferences in different international locations, (2) a strategic media campaign to disseminate and share key messages, and (3) a complete report with concrete recommendations.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Fellowship Programme aims at fostering intercultural exchange and interfaith understanding by engaging with emerging leaders and young professionals from Europe, North America (EUNA), the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Framed around two-week exchange trips between EUNA and MENA countries, the Programme sends participants from each geographic group to their counterparts’ region.
The Fellowship provides first hand exposure to diversity with the opportunity to experience cultural immersion while interacting with a wide range of local actors and partners. In every country visited, participants are being provided with crucial comprehension tools to understand the plurality and the complexity of their surroundings.
The main objective of the Fellowship is to engage the Fellows in intercultural dialogue to broaden their understanding of culturally-sensitive topics. By exposing participants to new ideas and perspectives, and by immersing them into culturally diverse and unfamiliar environments, the Fellowship Programme aims at challenging perceptions and deconstructing stereotypes. Building on that, participants are then better qualified to develop cross-cultural partnerships and take action on bridging divides between peoples from different faiths and cultures.
Guided by the principle that youth are key actors in achieving peace and social inclusion, the Young Peacebuilders Programme supports young people as they gain skills that can enhance their positive role in issues of peace and security and in preventing violent conflict, while bringing visibility to the initiatives, actions, and projects initiated by young people towards peace building and promoting diversity and human rights. The programme also equips them with tools to address stereotypes, prejudice, and polarization in order to build more inclusive and peaceful societies in their local communities and on a global scale.
This peace education programme consists out of four parts. A face-to-face-workshop follows two months of intensive online preparation and is led by field experts and trainers, who help the young peacebuilders to analyze conflicts, practice peace-building tools to build bridges between cultures and religions, and design peace projects, which will be implemented in each participants’ community upon returning home. The final results are presented at a final symposium during which they share their experience, lessons learned, achievements and recommendations with a broader audience of practitioners, policy makers, media and the general public. The programme intends to implement in different regions of the world to offer competence development to young people and to grow and strengthen the global movement of young peacebuilders.
Civil Society organizations (CSOs) are at the center of popular movements that impact on each of the pillars that define the work of UNAOC. They provide the grassroots capacity to change attitudes, mold opinions and are essential to the process of making their communities and their countries better places to live. CSOs work at levels closest to the people. Their work multiplies the impact of the programming UNAOC seeks to implement and promote.
CSOs can illuminate issues, advocate positions, challenge authority and promote intergroup dialogue. They operate at the margins of official processes because they cherish their independence. But they also need support. UNAOC engages with CSOs through its different programs, sometimes by providing capacity-building workshops, sometimes by providing seed funding, always with a view to recognize, empower and mentor the most deserving among them.
The High Representative has highlighted his commitment to expanding and growing UNAOC relationships with CSOs since the beginning of his tenure in March 2013.
The media programme is grounded in the philosophy that media have a critical role to play in increasing public understanding of conflicts and issues that polarize communities.
Through a series of projects, the media programme aims to help journalists better cover cross-culturally controversial issues and simultaneously create accurate public perception within the society.
As such, UNAOC convened two seminars on “Covering Migration: Challenges Met and Unmet” in Paris followed by another one in Berne around the same issue. The two seminars brought together editors, journalists and migration experts from Europe and the MENA region to discuss challenges and best practices in the media coverage of migration. (http://www.unaoc.org/2013/01/covering-migration-challenges-met-and-unmet/).
Acting on those recommendations UNAOC, with Panos Europe, developed a media-friendly glossary on migration.
UNAOC also developed a series of media trainings with Google and the World Bank: “Digital Tools for Newsgathering & Reporting across Cultures” to learn how to communicate via social media and how to improve their gathering skills.
The migration programme is based on the notion that in a world of porous borders and rapidly evolving modes of transportation and communications, diverse populations are destined to interact through continued migration presenting new challenges for host countries. How this dynamic is portrayed in the media and discussed by political leaders will determine whether populations view increased diversity as a source of strength or as a threat.
With that in mind, the migration program traverses with UNAOC media and education programs. There are three significant projects:
Organizing media training and seminars for Journalists to discuss challenges, best practices and opportunities in media coverage of migration. Two seminars were convened in Paris and Berne and culminated in a set of recommendations on how journalists can improve the way they cover migration. (Paris Outcomes Document and Bern Outcomes Document)
The objective of developing a media-friendly glossary of terms on covering migration with Panos Institute is to: a) improve the quality and accuracy of migration reporting, b) raise awareness among journalists to the sensitiveness of the topic and c) encourage responsible media coverage of migration providing tools for accuracy, credibility and responsibility.
PLURAL+ (pluralplus.unaoc.org) is a youth video festival and competition for people 25-years old and younger organized in partnership with the International Organization for Migration and the support of more than thirty partners from around the world.
PLURAL+ competitors submit videos focusing on the themes of migration, diversity and social inclusion are submitted to a jury for consideration.
In view of how media greatly influences public views of migrants and migration-related issues, UNAOC together with Panos Europe Institute developed media-friendly glossary that provide journalists with media-friendly definitions of key migration concepts. (View the Media-Friendly Glossary on Migration.)