Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has been committed to realizing the vision of worldwide quality education. A firm believer that all people have the right to education, and that it plays a fundamental role in human, social and economic development, it also works to ensure that information is distributed freely, with no risk to those who provide or seek it. Two recent UNESCO events serve to reinforce this mission.
First-year AUP student Tomislava Tomova organized a meeting at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, between students from AUP, Sciences Po, and the Sorbonne, and Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director-General. They first discussed the hurdles faced by young people in their struggle to gain quality education and leadership skills during times of humanitarian crisis and international insecurity. These students are trying to strengthen educational systems in their respective countries and believe that knowledge is crucial to effectively responding to global challenges. As the first woman to head UNESCO, Bokova proves the importance of empowering women, and the conversation moved to the advancement of women’s educational rights in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The conference ended with the question, “Everybody wants to be a leader in times of peace, but who wants to be a leader in times of crisis?” When asked how to lead well in difficult situations, Bokova explained, “You have to believe in your values. You have to be respectful and at the end of the day, you should never lose sight of your objective. You have to think about communities. Never lose the humanistic vision that you already have. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions, but if you have a strong belief in a particular value system and you think it is the right thing to do, you have to act.”
A week later, an international conference at UNESCO entitled “News Organizations Standing Up for the Safety of Media Professionals” presented practices that might help ensure the safety of journalists, 12,000 of whom have been murdered, in the line of duty, since the 1990s. Some argued that in order to achieve freedom of expression and bring instigators of violence to justice, universal humanitarian law must be implemented. The former foreign minister of Bulgaria, Solomon Passy, also presented an app that could help journalists and other professionals working in war zones and dangerous situations. Currently in development, it would provide GPS data, with visuals and sound, to the police and relatives of the person in danger. An article written by Tomislava about the app was featured in the Bulgarian newspaper 24 Chasa (https://www.24chasa.bg/Article/5283739) and a video about the conference, made by Tomislava and two other AUP students, Stephan Eigenmann and Korinah Sodahlon, can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtO9CyqR2KU.
During a television interview, Passy expressed his pride in the leadership shown by the many Bulgarian students around the world, including Tomislava Tomova, as UNESCO forges ties with them and other communities, in its move towards a world where no one is deprived of the right to learn.