On the International Day for Tolerance: Tolerance is the Safeguard for Human Survival

Today, 16th of November, coincides with the day adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1996 as the International Tolerance’s Day, calling upon all its members to celebrate this occasion annually. The Declaration of Principles, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly, affirms that only tolerance can guarantee the survival of humanity so far as diversity and difference are facts of human life as well as inescapable cosmic reality. The Declaration of Principles carefully defined tolerance through dispelling the widely-held misconception, emphasizing that tolerance doesn’t mean indifference nor does it mean saying anything without reservation; it rather means respect for diversity which characterizes our universe; accepting it; and living with it. In essence it is “recognizing the human rights of others”. Ms Irina Bokova, the General Director of UNESCO, followed the same direction in her address today on this occasion, as she focused on explaining the right meaning of tolerance when she said: “Tolerance doesn’t mean indifference towards others, nor does it underlie acceptance of all beliefs and behaviors without reservation; it doesn’t mean shrinking commitment towards one’s beliefs nor decay of one’s determination; tolerance doesn’t mean snobbishness, nor does it carry any hint that a tolerant person is superior to another person”. It appears that the focus on the “concept” of tolerance is an integral part of the endeavor to disseminate its culture, as though some societies kept a distance from the meaning of tolerance as weakness or lenience, or it might appear to some of us that intolerance, which is the antithesis of tolerance, is the reverse of all these meanings together. Thus it was not superfluous to talk about the concept of tolerance as a virtue which reflects humanity heart full of love, rapport, and peace.

The possible confusion of tolerance’s meaning with other negative concepts necessitates working through education to propagate the essence and vitality of tolerance. Thus the role of UNESCO is pivotal in this regards, as pointed out by the Director-General in her speech celebrating the UN General Secretary’s initiative “Education First”; it also reaffirms the important role of governments in adopting the meanings cited in the international declaration on tolerance principles through education systems, which necessitates revision of curricula currently taught to the young generations which instill intolerance, close-mindedness, and hatred.

It should be clear to all that tolerance is prerequisite for the survival and progress of humanity. It is much more needed now, than anytime else, especially as the world expansive, more diverse, and more affluent every day, or rather every hour. In the same way as there are real challenges in the face of the supremacy of the meanings of tolerance, as reflected in increasing economic and social pressures, there are, on the other hand, great opportunities to its favour, the most important of which is the communication revolution which turned the difference between “local” and “global” into a mere “click”, as stated in the Secretary General’s address today.

WE, at the GIHR, hope that this day will serve as an opportunity for all peoples, nations, governments, civil society, and local and national domestic institutions to include meanings of tolerance in their activities, program, and plans for the sake of a better world where opportunities for peace, cooperation, dialogue and acceptance of others expand, while the scope of conflict, fighting, seclusion, and intolerance shrink. Let’s all keep in mind that tolerance – which is a value running through all creeds, beliefs, religions, and cultures – does not only prevent wars and violence but it also spurs creativity, innovation, renovation, and discovery.

Geneva Institute
for Human Rights

GIHR is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation based in Geneva.

Email: info@gihr.org

Tel: 0041 22 788 50 15

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