Irina Bokova

Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

Knowledge is a catalyst for development. This stands at the heart of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – it is a core driver of all UNESCO’s work to lay the foundations for inclusive knowledge societies. For UNESCO, knowledge societies enable women and men to transform information into knowledge and understanding, empowering them to contribute fully to the social and economic development of their societies. The power of knowledge was reaffirmed at the recent WSIS+10 Review of the United Nations General Assembly, which set forth the vision ‘to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge.’ This calls for bridging all divides, including the digital divide, especially for girls and women. Today, only a minority of people has access to the online world, with all the information and wealth generated there. Two-thirds of people residing in developing countries remain offline today, representing some four billion people. More than ever, every woman and man must have capabilities and opportunities to acquire information and transform it into knowledge. This requires action across the board.

This is why inclusive and pluralistic knowledge societies require an enabling environment that builds on four pillars: quality education for all, freedom of expression, universal access to information and knowledge, and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity. UNESCO is committed to promoting the concept of knowledge societies in the plural (with an ‘s’), because there is no single model that would fit all societies. In this, we pursue a clear vision of a world, where societies are culturally and linguistically diverse, where existing languages are present on the Internet, with universal access and capabilities to use information and knowledge, where e-learning supports equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning, and where sciences inform development, taking into account local, national and regional contexts. This is a vision of societies that are inclusive, building on the knowledge generated by all communities, promoting innovation and creativity, and enabling all women and men to practice their own culture and enjoy that of others, while safeguarding humanity’s cultural and natural heritage, fighting poverty, and promoting peace and sustainable development. This is UNESCO’s vision, and it guides the Organisation in all its work to support Governments in taking forward the new 2030 Agenda.