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Eight trends that will impact children in 2023

The war in Ukraine, has resulted in high food and energy prices, global hunger, and inflation – just one example of the way that crises, affecting millions around the world, including children, affect each other.

The report, “Prospects for Children in 2023: A Global Outlook”, also looks at a range of other significant areas, from the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the fragmentation of the internet, and the climate emergency. Here are eight insights contained within the study.

1) The pandemic casts a long shadow, but health breakthroughs offer hope

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for strong global health security and many countries remain at risk. Unfortunately, it is children who are so often the most vulnerable – if not to the virus itself, then to its many impacts.

At the same time, the pandemic has spurred remarkable progress in vaccine development and reforms in global health systems and, in 2023, it is essential the world continues to strengthen health architecture around the world.

A child received a vaccine from a Department of Health worker in Ghwairan neighbouhood, Hasakeh city, northeast Syria, on 26 Oct 2022.
© UNICEF/Delil Souleiman

A child receives a vaccine in Hasakeh City, Syria (file)

2) Efforts at taming inflation have unintended impact on child poverty

Soaring inflation has been the economic story of the year and, unsurprisingly, its impacts can weigh heavily on families and children. Attempts to tame price rises can also have harsh consequences, like slowing economic growth and reducing job opportunities – particularly for young people.

Government action to expand and protect social benefits, cushion the most vulnerable from the impacts of economic austerity. 

3) Food and nutrition insecurity is set to continue 

Food insecurity has been rising as a result of extreme weather events, bottlenecks in key supply chains, and conflicts like the war in Ukraine.

As prices go up, families across the world find it tougher to feed their children – and that’s likely to continue in 2023.

Making the world’s food systems more resilient, is one way to mitigate this issue.

On a misty morning, the Manabovo river is completely dry, the inhabitants are gathering on its bed to dig holes in the hope to find water.
© UNICEF/Safidy Andrianantenain

A girl crosses a bridge over a dried up river (file)

4) Energy crises cause immediate harm, but a focus on sustainability means a greener future

For billions of people, rising energy prices are sharply increasing the cost of living, and the outlook for 2023 is uncertain.

That outlook has spurred an even greater focus on transitioning to clean and sustainable energy sources, with the potential to create new jobs for young people.

However, many of them don’t feel prepared for these new careers, so preparing young job seekers with training opportunities, needs to be a critical part of any green energy agenda.

5) Focus on climate finance, debt relief for developing countries

Developing countries face multiple challenges as they attempt to recover from the pandemic, address the climate crisis, and deal with economic stress, but financial support for these countries is not increasing to meet their escalating needs.

Without reforms to unlock additional development finance, resources will be spread increasingly thin and urgent needs will be left unmet – and that’s bad news for children.

A little boy on a children's bicycle on the territory of temporary shelters in Lviv, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov

Temporary shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Lviv (file)

6) Democracy under threat, social movements push back

Democracy has been increasingly imperilled in recent years, and it will continue to be challenged in 2023. Political instability can lead to positive social change, but it can also leave the door open for authoritarian leaders.

In 2023, it is likely that young people will play an even more prominent role in social movements, whether in climate action, mental health, education, or gender equality. Their advocacy will be powerful and will contribute to momentum for change.

7) Increased antagonism complicates efforts to help children

In an atmosphere of increasing factionalism, multilateralism becomes more difficult: the number of children in need is currently at its highest level since World War Two, and an antagonistic world is unlikely to lead to positive outcomes for children.

Improved international cooperation is needed for multilateral organizations to be able to address challenges facing children; there are still opportunities to set tensions aside, find common ground and prioritize the well-being of children.

8) The internet becomes less open, and more fragmented

Technological, commercial and political factors, are fragmenting the web into isolated islands of connectivity and governance.

Children are particularly affected since they rely heavily on the internet for their education and social interactions. In 2023, we are likely to see efforts to promote a free, inclusive, and secure web, and all opportunities to create a digital future that benefits children must be seized.

Read the full report here.

‘A great victory’: Odesa mayor reacts to UNESCO Heritage List inclusion

Mr. Trukhanov spoke to UN News shortly after the decision was announced, on Wednesday, and explained the laborious process that led to the inclusion.

Odessa Mayor Gennady Trukhanov.

Odesa Mayor, Gennady Trukhanov

Gennady Trukhanov We applied for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List back in 2009 and were accepted into the provisional list. But the procedure dragged on and, with the onset of the war, there was a real threat that our architectural monuments would be destroyed.

So, in the first month of the invasion by Russian troops, I turned to our Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs, in order to apply for the accelerated inclusion of our historical centre and port in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

We are very grateful to UNESCO for its support. We held a lot of meetings online, and UNESCO provided us with consultants who helped us to complete our dossier correctly. Almost every day we were in close contact with them and, without their support and legal advice, it would have been very difficult to do all this work.

We have a very difficult job ahead of us: a UNESCO commission will come to us within the next couple of months, and we need to create a body to monitor the preservation of our cultural heritage.

Streets of Odessa during the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Odessa Mayor’s Office

Streets of Odessa during the Russian invasion of Ukraine

UN News: Since the first days of the invasion, Odesa has been regularly attacked. What have the city authorities done to protect the historical part of the city?

Gennady Trukhanov: We covered all our monuments with sandbags, but it is difficult to ensure complete security. For example, a blast from a rocket that was shot down damaged an architectural monument, the Vorontsov Palace on Prymorskyi Boulevard, part of the roof was destroyed, and the windows were smashed out.

Of course, there’s nothing we can do in the case of a direct hit, but we can protect our monuments from a blast wave, from fragments. The Opera House was surrounded by bags for a long time, but later we partially unblocked it in order to show that today Ukraine still lives, and that we support our cultural values.

Our colleagues in Italy, who have extensive experience of cooperation with UNESCO, suggested that we transfer especially valuable paintings from our museums to them for temporary storage, since we constantly experience power outages, heat supply, and paintings need a certain temperature regime. We are considering taking advantage of this offer.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres with the Mayor of Odessa Gennady Trukhanov
Odessa’s Mayor Office

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres with the Mayor of Odessa Gennady Trukhanov

UN News: Despite the war, does cultural life continue in Odesa today?

Gennady Trukhanov: Yes, cultural life in Odesa continues.

Premieres and performances are being held at the Opera House in compliance with all security measures; this means that attendance numbers are limited to the capacity of the bomb shelter.

We think that engaging in cultural activities is therapy for the population, so that they don’t get too depressed. The war has been going on for almost a year, and it can be difficult to maintain morale.

The first commercial vessel carrying grain under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
© UNOCHA/Levent Kulu

The first commercial vessel carrying grain under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

UN News: The port of Odesa is one of the three participating in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. How has life in the city changed since the program started?

Gennady Trukhanov: I was born and raised in Odesa and, when the port stopped working, ships did not sail, and the port was silent. it was very sad to see.

But since the beginning of the implementation of the Initiative, which became possible thanks to international assistance and the personal efforts of the UN Secretary General, it was possible to start the work of the port and restore the transportation of humanitarian cargo.

For port workers, and all the companies whose activities are connected with the port, it was of great importance, as well as for all of us, and for the whole world. It’s like a return to the life we ​​had before.

We would like the Initiative to be extended, although we understand that all this is not easy. We support these efforts, we are grateful for them. and we hope that they will be crowned with success.

Odesa added to UNESCO's World Heritage List amid threats of destruction

This decision recognizes the outstanding universal value of the site and the duty of all humanity to protect it.

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‘Reinforced protection’

“Odesa, a free city, a world city, a legendary port that has left its mark on cinema, literature and the arts, is thus placed under the reinforced protection of the international community,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

“While the war continues, this inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always surmounted global upheavals, is preserved from further destruction.” 

The decision commits the 194 States Parties of the Convention – which includes Russia – not to undertake any deliberate step that may directly or indirectly damage the World Heritage site and to assist in its protection.

The Historic Centre of Odesa has also been inscribed on the more than 50-strong List of World Heritage in Danger, which gives it access to reinforced technical and financial international assistance.

Ukraine may request this, to ensure the protection of the property and, if necessary, assist in reconstruction, if attacked.

Accelerated procedure 

In view of the threats to the city from Russia armed forces and irregulars, the World Heritage Committee used an emergency procedure provided for by the World Heritage Convention. 

As early as the summer of 2022, UNESCO linked international experts with Ukrainian experts to prepare the nomination, with the support of Italy and Greece.

Ukraine’s President Zelensky made the submission official in October 2022, and the nomination was evaluated over the following weeks.

Historic Odesa's city centre, with anti-tank and other defensive measures now in place amidst the Russian invasion.
© IMF/Brendan Hoffman

Historic Odesa’s city centre, with anti-tank and other defensive measures now in place amidst the Russian invasion.

Emergency measures

In parallel with the inscription process, UNESCO implemented emergency measures on the ground to help protect the site.

Notably, the Organization ensured repairs were carried out following damage inflicted by Russian attacks, on the Odesa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odesa Museum of Modern Art.

So far, the historic western Ukrainian city has not come under the kind of sustained bombardment that laid waste to the once-thriving port city of Mariupol, hundreds of kilometres to the east.

Digital safekeeping

UNESCO also provided equipment for the digitization of nearly 1,000 works of art and of the formal collection of the Odesa State Archives. Equipment was also delivered to protect the buildings as well as open-air works of art on display.

These measures are part of UNESCO’s overall action plan for Ukraine, which has already mobilized more than $18 million to preserve education, science, culture and information, as the battle for control of the country rages on.


Just inscribed on the @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List & World Heritage in Danger List: Historic Center of the Port City of Odesa – #Ukraine🇺🇦 https://t.co/2e9NUbed0E

UN chief calls for worldwide commitment to transforming education

He called for countries to deliver education systems “that can support equal societies, dynamic economies and the limitless dreams of every learner in the world.”

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Data from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows that some 244 million boys and girls are still out of school this year.

Additionally, 70 per cent of 10-year-olds in low and middle-income countries are unable to read and understand a simple text.

Potential in peril

The theme for the International Day this year is “to invest in people, prioritize education”.

Special focus is being given to girls and women in Afghanistan who have been prohibited from attending secondary school and university in the wake of the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

The Secretary-General said education is a fundamental human right and the bedrock of societies, economies, and every person’s potential.

However, he warned that this potential will “wither on the vine” without adequate investment.

“It has always been shocking to me that education has been given such a low priority in many government policies and in international cooperation instruments,” he commented.

Reimagining the classroom

Mr. Guterres recalled that at the Transforming Education Summit, held last September, countries gathered together to “reimagine education systems so every learner accesses the knowledge and skills required to succeed.”

More than 130 nations made commitments to ensure that universal quality education becomes a central pillar of public policies and investments.

The Summit outcomes included a Call to Action on Educational Investment, as well as the establishment of the International Financing Facility for Education.  

Several global initiatives were launched there, including to mobilize support for education in crises settings, girls’ education, transforming teaching, and ‘green’ education systems.

End discriminatory laws

“Now is the time for all countries to translate their Summit commitments into concrete actions that create supportive and inclusive learning environments for all students,” said Mr. Guterres.

“Now is also the time to end all discriminatory laws and practices that hinder access to education,” he added.

“I call on the de facto authorities in Afghanistan in particular to reverse the outrageous and self-defeating ban on access to secondary and higher education for girls.” 

Young girls attend class at a UNICEF-supported school in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (file)
© UNICEF/Mark Naftalin

Young girls attend class at a UNICEF-supported school in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (file)

‘Serious attack on human dignity’

UNESCO has dedicated the International Day of Education to all the girls and women in Afghanistan who have been denied the right to learn, study and teach.

“The Organization condemns this serious attack on human dignity and on the fundamental right to education,” Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement. 

Currently, 80 per cent, or 2.5 million school-aged Afghan girls and young women are out of school.  This includes 1.2 million who have been banned from secondary schools and universities following the decision of the de facto authorities.

Ms. Azoulay reported that her agency continues to work in Afghanistan, in close liaison with local communities, to ensure that schooling can continue, whether by means of literacy courses or via radio.

“UNESCO also remains the primary source for the monitoring of education data in Afghanistan, particularly data related to higher education.  We will continue to mobilize the international community in order to uphold Afghan girls’ and women’s right to education,” she added.

‘A basic human right’

Other UN agencies and senior officials have signalled their support for the universal right to education.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, took to Twitter to urge governments to ensure everyone has an opportunity to learn.

“There’s no excuse for holding #education hostage,” he wrote.  “It’s a basic #humanright – NOT a privilege – and a powerful investment for ending poverty, promoting justice, driving sustainable development & building (world) peace.”

‘Let women and girls learn’

The UN humanitarian affairs agency, OCHA, recalled that nearly 200 million crisis-affected children and adolescents are either out of school or not learning.

OCHA tweeted that “especially in times of crisis, education must be prioritized so that no one is left behind!” 

In a separate tweet, the agency underscored that “women and girls in Afghanistan belong in schools” with the simple message “Let women and girls learn.”

OCHA chief Martin Griffiths is currently in Afghanistan, together with senior UN and NGO leaders, to examine the aftermath of the Taliban’s ban on Afghan women working with local and international humanitarian organizations, announced last month.

The decision has forced the suspension of some aid operations and sparked fears that the dire humanitarian situation in the country will only worsen. This year, 28.3 million people, two-thirds of the population, will require urgent assistance.

Courage and resilience

The visit follows a UN mission last week headed by the Organization’s highest-ranking woman official, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, focused on the impact of the humanitarian ban in an effort to promote and protect women’s and girls’ rights.

Ms. Mohammed was accompanied by Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, and Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for UN political, peacebuilding and peace operations.

“We have witnessed extraordinary resilience. Afghan women left us no doubt of their courage and refusal to be erased from public life. They will continue to advocate and fight for their rights, and we are duty bound to support them in doing so,” said Ms. Bahous.

Now is the time to end all discriminatory laws and practices that hinder access to education.

I call on the Taliban to reverse the outrageous and self-defeating ban on access to secondary and higher education for girls & women in Afghanistan. #EducationDay

Ukraine war disrupts education for more than five million children: UNICEF

The impact of the conflict only compounds the two years of education lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than eight years of war for children in the east of the country. 

UNICEF issued the appeal on the International Day of Education, which is marked annually on 24 January. 

No ‘pause button’ 

Schools provide a crucial sense of structure and safety to children, said Afshan Khan, the agency’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.  Missing out on learning could have lifelong consequences, he warned. 

“There is no pause button. It is not an option to simply postpone children’s education and come back to it once other priorities have been addressed, without risking the future of an entire generation,” said Mr. Khan. 

Attacks affect education 

Thousands of schools, pre-schools and other education facilities in Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed due to the use of explosive weapons in the war, including in populated areas. 

At the same time, many parents and caregivers are reluctant to send children to school, fearing for their safety. 

UNICEF is working with the Government to help get children back to learning – whether in classrooms, when deemed safe, and through online or community-based alternatives. 

While nearly two million children were accessing online learning opportunities, and 1.3 million children enrolled in a combination of in-person and online learning, recent attacks against electricity and other energy infrastructure have caused widespread blackouts that also have affected education. 

As a result, almost every child in Ukraine has been left without sustained access to electricity, meaning that even attending virtual classes is an ongoing challenge. 

Concern for child refugees 

The situation for children who have fled the country is also concerning. An estimated two out of three Ukrainian refugee children are not currently enrolled in host country education systems, UNICEF reported. 

Some of the factors driving this include stretched education capacities, while many refugee families have opted for online learning, instead of attending local schools, as they had hoped to be able to return home quickly. 

“UNICEF will continue working with the Government of Ukraine and the host countries’ Governments to deliver solutions to help children in conflict areas and those who have been displaced from their homes to continue their education,” said Mr. Khan. 

Support in Ukraine and beyond 

UNICEF is calling for an end to attacks on education facilities and other civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, and for increased support to ensure children have access to offline learning materials and supplies. This will enable students to continue their education, and remain connected to their peers and teachers. 

Support for Ukraine’s recovery plan, and efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate schools and preschools, is also needed. 

In refugee-hosting countries, UNICEF is calling for prioritization of the integration of Ukrainian refugee children into national education systems, especially for early childhood and primary education.  

“It is important that relevant authorities identify and overcome regulatory and administrative barriers that hinder children’s access to formal education across all levels and provide clear and accessible information to refugee families,” the UN agency said.  

UNICEF added that where access to the education system cannot be immediately ensured, host countries must provide “multiple pathways to learning”, especially for secondary school age children. 

Peace and development 

The International Day of Education was established in 2018 and celebrates the role of education in advancing peace and development. 

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the lead agency for the Day, has dedicated this year’s edition to the women and girls of Afghanistan, who have been deprived of their fundamental right to education in the wake of the Taliban takeover in August 2021. 

Afghan girls are prohibited from going to secondary school, while a decree announced last month bans young women from attending university. 

Afghan girls and women made focus of International Education Day: UNESCO

The agency announced on Thursday that it was dedicating the International Day of Education on 24 January, to the country’s women and girls. 

“No country in the world should bar women and girls from receiving an education. Education is a universal human right that must be respected,” said Director-General Audrey Azoulay.  

“The international community has the responsibility to ensure that the rights of Afghan girls and women are restored without delay. The war against women must stop,” she added. 

Fears of a ‘lost generation’ 

Last month, the de facto Taliban authorities in Afghanistan banned young women from universities.  

This followed an earlier directive prohibiting girls from attending secondary school, issued mere months after the fundamentalist group, who ruled in the late 1990s up to 2001, regained power in August 2021, sweeping back into the capital, Kabul. 

As a result, Afghanistan is the only country in the world where women and girls’ access to education has been suspended. 

“The country risks a lost generation as educated women are essential for its development,” UNESCO said earlier this week. 

“Afghanistan – or any other country – cannot advance if half of its population is not allowed to pursue an education and participate in public life.” 

Young girls attend class at a UNICEF-supported school in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (file)
© UNICEF/Mark Naftalin

Young girls attend class at a UNICEF-supported school in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (file)

Gains and losses 

Between 2001 and 2018, Afghanistan recorded a tenfold increase in enrollment across all education levels, from roughly one million to 10 million students, according to UNESCO. 

The number of girls in primary school increased from almost zero to 2.5 million.  By August 2021, they accounted for four out of 10 primary school students. 

Women’s presence in higher education also increased almost 20 fold: from 5,000 students in 2001 to over 100,000 two decades later.  

Today, 80 per cent of school-aged Afghan girls and women, 2.5 million, are out of school.  The order suspending university education for women, announced in December, affects more than 100,000 attending government and private institutions. 

A fundamental right 

UNESCO is calling for immediate and non-negotiable access to education and a return to school for all girls and young women in Afghanistan. 

“Everyone has the right to education. Everybody. But in Afghanistan, girls and women have been deprived of this fundamental right,” said the agency. 

During the past two decades, UNESCO has supported the Afghan education system, including through running a literacy programme that reached over 600,000 young people and adults, 60 per cent of them women.  

Since the Taliban takeover, it has shifted activities to ensure continuity of education through community-based literacy and skills development classes for over 25,000 young people and adults in 20 provinces. 

An advocacy campaign reached over 20 million Afghans to increase public awareness of the right to education for youth and adults, especially young girls and women.

UNESCO is also working on an initiative to ensure reliable education data so that partners can direct funding to meet the most critical outstanding needs. 

Poorest learners benefit the least from public education: UNICEF

Children from the poorest households benefit the least from national public education funding, according to the study, which examines data from 102 countries. 

Currently, the poorest 20 per cent of learners benefit from only 16 per cent of public funding for education, while the richest benefit from 28 per cent. 

In low-income countries, the breakdown is 11 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively. 

Failing the world’s children 

“We are failing children. Too many education systems around the world are investing the least in those children who need it the most,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.  

“Investing in the education of the poorest children is the most cost-effective way to ensure the future for children, communities and countries. True progress can only come when we invest in every child, everywhere,” she added. 

The report – Transforming Education with Equitable Financing – looks at government spending from pre-primary through tertiary education. 

Small investment, big return 

Just a one percentage point increase in the allocation of public education resources to the poorest quintile of learners could potentially lift 35 million primary school-aged children out of what UNICEF called “learning poverty”. 

Across the world, public education spending is more likely to reach learners from wealthier households, which applies in both low- and middle-income countries.  

A twelve-year-old boy sits in the empty classroom of a school which was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
© UNICEF/Zahara Abdul

A twelve-year-old boy sits in the empty classroom of a school which was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gaps in spending 

The gap is most pronounced among low-income countries, UNICEF said.  Data showed that children from the richest households benefit from over six times the amount of public education funding compared to the poorest learners. 

In middle-income countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, the richest learners received around four times more public education spending than the poorest. 

Meanwhile, the spending gap is smaller in high-income countries, or up to 1.6 more between the two groups, with countries like France and Uruguay falling at the higher end of the gap. 

Not grasping the basics 

Children living in poverty are less likely to have access to school and drop out sooner, according to the report. They also are less represented in higher levels of education, which receive much higher public education spending per capita.  

These children are also more likely to live in remote and rural areas that are generally underserved.  

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, education systems across the world were largely failing children, UNICEF said, with hundreds of millions of students attending school but not grasping basic reading and mathematics skills.  

Two-thirds of all 10-year-olds globally are unable to read and understand a simple story, the UN agency added, citing recent estimates. 

Fairer financing 

The report called for urgent action to ensure education resources reach every learner.

It outlined four key recommendations, namely unlocking pro-equity public financing to education; prioritizing public funding to foundational learning; monitoring and ensuring equitable education aid allocation in development and humanitarian contexts and investing in innovative ways to deliver education. 

The Jewish cemetery of Fez, a symbol of cultural harmony

Before he died, Johanna Devico Ohana’s father asked her to promise him one thing: “if I ever die when I’m in France”, he insisted, “bring me to Fez”.

He also asked her to take care of the Jewish cemetery, a role that was his responsibility before he passed away. His daughter agreed to both requests, and her father is laid to rest in the cemetery she now maintains.

‘We lived in harmony’

“My father was a lover of Morocco and a lover of Fez”, says Ms. Ohana, who was born and raised in the city. “We lived in harmony. There was no tension. We all knew we were Jews, Muslims, or Catholics, and we never had any problems on that side”.

Located in northern Morocco, on the Wadi Fez, the city was founded in the ninth century, and was the ancient capital of Morocco for hundreds of years. In the year 809, King Idris II encouraged Jews to move to Fez, so the city could benefit from their skills.

Today, Fez is known for its religion, art, sciences, craftwork, and trade activities. The Fez Medina, often described as Morocco’s cultural and spiritual centre, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It also retains a mix of cultures and identity, and a Jewish neighbourhood, named ‘Mellah’. The word literally means ‘salt’ or ‘saline area’, in reference to either a saline water source in the area or to the former presence of a salt warehouse, but ‘Mellah’ is now used as the name for Jewish quarters in other Moroccan cities, including Rabat and Marrakech.  

The Jewish cemetery, nestled in the Mellah, is distinguished by its semi-cylindrical tombs, which capture the history of Morocco’s flourishing Jewry.

A ‘convergence of confluents’

The age-old intermingling of peoples made Fez an appropriate location for the ninth Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), which took place in November 2022.

Opening the event, Andre Azoulay, the senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco – and father of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay – who is himself Jewish, declared that Morocco “is built around a model of openness, harmony and synergy that has seen the convergence of Arab-Islamic, Amazigh and Saharan-Hassanian confluents, and that has, at the same time, been enriched by African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean tributaries”.

When asked about how she felt when she learnt that Fez was chosen to host the UNAOC ninth Forum, Ms. Ohana said she felt proud that Fez was chosen: “for Morocco, it reflects exactly the reality of our image, our culture”.

Fez, Morocco.
UN News

UNESCO ‘deeply saddened’ over death of football legend, Pelé

The UN education and culture organisation which champions the power of sport across the world, UNESCO, tweeted that it was “deeply saddened” at his passing, and extended condolences to the Brazilian people, and the wider “football family”.

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As a 17-year-old, Pelé won his first football or soccer World Cup, in 1958, going on to lift the top trophy in the game a further two times, in 1962 and 1970. He scored a world record 1,281 goals, playing in 1,363 games during his professional career, which began when he was just 15.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, in 1940, the football giant, nicknamed, “the Black Pearl”, and “the King”, retired from the game in 1977.

In 1999, the Santos player and Brazil’s most venerated star, was voted player of the century in a poll of previous Ballon d’Or winners – the players who win the annual global football award for being the outstanding performers that year.

Scoring for the United Nations

He devoted considerable time in retirement to supporting the UN and its work, both as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, and as a UNESCO Champion for Sport, from 1994.

He was also appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the crucial UN Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992, one of the first major global development and environment summits devoted to a more sustainable future for all.

You can hear Pelé conducting a press conference ahead of the Earth Summit, from the UN audiovisual archives, here.

At the time, the Secretary-General of the Summit, Maurice Strong, described him as not only the greatest footballer in the world, but “a universal man”, rooted in Brazil.

“His commitment to people, to the planet, really distinguish him a true citizen of our earth”, he told reporters.

UNESCO said in its tweet, that he had “worked relentlessly to promote sport as a tool for peace. He will be greatly missed.”

In a tweet, the head of UN refugee agency, UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, wrote that “we are all with the people of Brazil” tonight, “celebrating a man who made millions of kids dream across continents, and generations.”

UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Goodwill Ambassador Pele (holding children) of Brazil, is greeted by children as he makes his way to Plenary Hall in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (June 1992)
UN Photo/Joe B. Sills

UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Goodwill Ambassador Pele (holding children) of Brazil, is greeted by children as he makes his way to Plenary Hall in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (June 1992)


We are deeply saddened by the passing of Pelé. We extend our condoleances to the Brazilian people and the football family.

@Pele was @UNESCO Champion for Sport since 1994 and worked relentlessly to promote sport as a tool for peace. He will be greatly missed.

Até sempre, o Rei. https://t.co/SkQeIYe6jg

UN launches 10-year survival plan for endangered indigenous languages

On Friday, the UN launched the International Decade of Indigenous Languages to help them survive, and protect them from extinction. 

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The Organization has long advocated for indigenous peoples, who are the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. 

A benefit for all 

Preserving their languages is not only important for them, but for all humanity, said the President of the UN General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi. 

“With each indigenous language that goes extinct, so too goes the thought: the culture, tradition and knowledge it bears. That matters because we are in dire need of a radical transformation in the way we relate to our environment,” he said. 

Indigenous people make up less than six per cent of the global population but speak more than 4,000 of the world’s roughly 6,700 languages, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). 

Alarm bells ringing  

However, conservative estimates indicate that more than half of all languages will become extinct by the end of this century. 

Mr. Kőrösi recently returned from the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal and left convinced that “if we are to successfully protect nature, we must listen to indigenous peoples, and we must do so in their own languages.” 

Indigenous peoples are guardians to almost 80 per cent of the world’s remaining biodiversity, he said, citing data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

“Yet every two weeks, an indigenous language dies,” he remarked.  “This should ring our alarms.” 

The General Assembly President urged countries to work with indigenous communities to safeguard their rights, such as access to education and resources in their native languages, and to ensure that they and their knowledge are not exploited. 

“And perhaps most importantly, meaningfully consult indigenous peoples, engaging with them in every stage of decision-making processes,” he advised. 


More than words 

During the launch, indigenous persons and UN Ambassadors – sometimes one and the same – made the case for protection and preservation. 

Language is more than just words, said Mexican Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente, speaking on behalf of the 22-member Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples. 

“It is at the essence of the identity of its speakers and the collective soul of its peoples. Languages embody the history, culture and traditions of people, and they are dying at an alarming rate,” he warned. 

Ambassador Leonor Zalabata Torres of Colombia addresses UN General Assembly members at the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Ambassador Leonor Zalabata Torres of Colombia addresses UN General Assembly members at the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.

Cultural identity and wisdom 

Leonor Zalabata Torres, an Arhuaco woman and Colombia’s UN Ambassador, drew applause for her address, delivered partly in Ika, one of 65 indigenous languages spoken in her homeland. 

“Language is the expression of wisdom and cultural identity, and the instrument that gives meaning to our daily reality that we inherited from our ancestors,” she said, switching to Spanish.  

“Unfortunately, linguistic diversity is at risk, and this has been caused by the dramatic reduction of the use and the accelerated replacement of indigenous languages by the languages of the majority societies.” 

Ms. Zalabata Torres reported that the Colombian government has underlined its commitment to implementing the 10-year plan on indigenous languages, which is centred around pillars that include strengthening, recognition, documentation and revitalization. 

Language and self-determination 

For Arctic indigenous communities, language is critical to political, economic, social, cultural and spiritual rights, said representative Aluki Kotierk. 

“In fact, every time an indigenous person utters a word in an indigenous language, it is an act of self-determination,” she added. 

However, Ms. Kotierk said native tongues and dialects “are in various levels of vitality”. 

She envisions a time where Arctic indigenous peoples “can stand taller in their own homelands with dignity, knowing that they can function in all aspects of their lives, in their own language, receiving essential public services in the areas of health, justice, and education.” 

Ms. Mariam Wallet Med Aboubakrine, Indigenous peoples' representative of the Socio-Cultural Region of Africa, addresses the UN General Assembly at the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Ms. Mariam Wallet Med Aboubakrine, Indigenous peoples’ representative of the Socio-Cultural Region of Africa, addresses the UN General Assembly at the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.

Towards linguistic justice 

Mariam Wallet Med Aboubakrine, a doctor from Mali, advocates for indigenous peoples in Africa, particularly the Tuareg. 

She urged countries “to deliver linguistic cultural justice to indigenous peoples”, which will only contribute to reconciliation and lasting peace. 

She expressed hope that the International Decade will culminate with the adoption of a UN Convention “so that every indigenous woman can cradle and comfort her baby in her language; every indigenous child can play in their language; every young person and adult can express themselves and work in security in their language, including in digital spaces, and to ensure that every elder can transmit their experience in their language.” 

Indigenous Peoples are guardians to almost 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

If we are to successfully protect nature, we must listen to indigenous peoples, and we must do so in their own languages.


Full remarks: https://t.co/G7czpSSbRe https://t.co/bFS5DVaIt5

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