Social Issues November 16, 2012
It's The UNESCO International Day For Tolerance: And The Human Race Could Really Use Some


November 16 is the International Day for Tolerance, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). And judging by the conflicts raging around the world, encouraging tolerance is more important than ever.

On their site, the UN stresses that "tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference."

They use the word to mean "respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and our way of being human."

But it's not just an abstract idea: UNESCO member states affirmed, in their Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance, that individuals, groups and States have a moral duty and a legal requirement to practice tolerance.


Here's the 2012 Day for Tolerance message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"Building tolerance and understanding is fundamental for the twenty-first century. In an increasingly globalized world - in which societies are growing more diverse - tolerance is central to living together.

Yet tolerance is being tested. In the face of economic and social pressures, some seek to exploit fears and highlight differences to stoke hatred of minorities, immigrants and the disadvantaged. To counter the rise of ignorance, extremism and hate-based political appeals, the moderate majority must speak up for shared values and against all forms of discrimination.

Our goal must be more than peaceful coexistence. True tolerance requires the free flow of ideas, quality education for all, respect for human rights, and the sharing of cultures for mutual understanding. As we advance these values, let us draw strength and guidance from the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.

Tolerance is both a condition of peace and an engine for creativity and innovation. In our evermore interconnected world, promoting tolerance is the way to build the harmony we need to address pressing challenges and secure a better future."

In case you're wondering why tolerance is so important, let's take a brief look at a few of the conflicts raging across the planet.

Obviously, tolerance alone won't solve these conflicts. But it would be a good start.

Israel and the Palestinians

tolerance-israel.jpgThe ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians has flared up again in recent days.

Gaza militants have fired rockets into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a major escalation that could draw the possibility of an Israeli ground invasion closer, according to CBC News.

Israel has responded with air strikes so far, but the military has called up 16,000 reserve troops ahead of a possible Gaza invasion.

In three days of fighting, at least 27 Palestinians, including 14 militants and six children, as well as three Israelis have been killed.

Syrian Civil War

tolerance-syria.jpgMore than 30,000 people have been killed in the battle between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebel fighters trying to oust it.

Amnesty International says human rights violations have been commited by both the Syrian armed and security forces, and opposition forces. Amnesty says "by far the main cause of civilian deaths during the armed conflict has been the Syrian armed forces' relentless use of indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling in heavily populated civilian areas."

But Amnesty also calls on the opposition to "rein in armed groups amid spiraling abuses" by setting up "effective oversight mechanisms to monitor the conduct of armed opposition groups, with a view to preventing further war crimes and other abuses."

Mexican Drug War

tolerance-mexico.jpgThe drug war that began in 2006 when Felipe Calderon became president of Mexico has claimed more than 55,000 lives to date, including 3,000 police officers and soldiers.

The Mexican government has repeatedly said the overwhelming number of victims in the conflict were gangsters killed by other gangsters.

But the Wall Street Journal points out that only four per cent of crimes are solved in Mexico, making it hard to know who's who among the killed.

Iraq Insurgency

tolerance-iraq.jpgSince the last U.S. troops left the country in December, 2011, Iraqi insurgent groups have been fighting against the central government, leading to thousands of deaths in the country.

The violence continued this week. On Wednesday, a series of bombings across the country killed 14 people and wounded dozens more. Police and health officials called the attacks "the latest challenge to government efforts to promote a sense of stability," according to the Associated Press.

Although there is less violence in Iraq overall, insurgent attacks are still frequent.


tolerance-afghanistan.jpgAs the U.S. prepares to pull out at the end of 2014, Afghanistan is still a violent place more than ten years after coalition forces rolled in.

So far this year, 377 U.S. and other foreign troops have been killed. In the first six months of this year, the United Nations reported more than 3,000 civilian deaths and injuries.

The UN says Taliban and other militants are responsible for about 80 per cent of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, many of which are the result of roadside bombs.

In the past ten days, three roadside bombs in Afghanistan have killed 33 people.


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