Nikola Benin, PhD
Taking a longstanding collaboration to a new level, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova signed a partnership agreement with the Lebanon-based Makhzoumi Foundation on 19 July 2017 that will encompass projects on civic engagement, cultural sustainability, climate change education and the prevention of violent extremism.
Affirming that “partnership is the new leadership” required to face the complexity of present-day challenges, Irina Bokova praised the Makhzoumi Foundation, founded 20 years ago in the aftermath of Lebanon’s civil war, for its work to overcome divides, provide youth with opportunities and promote tolerance. The Foundation is active throughout Lebanon in the areas of education and professional training, health care, sustainable development and humanitarian aid. Today, she said, new circumstances in the context of the humanitarian crisis and the rise of violent extremism make these initiatives all the more important. “You are working in a very diversified manner in a region under enormous pressure,” she said, noting that “the scope of the Foundation’s interventions is the best response to violent extremism, one of the greatest dangers we face today, one that knows no borders.” She recalled that Ms Makzhoumi had received an award in New York in 2016 for the Foundation’s humanitarian initiatives, in the context of the global campaign against violent extremism.
Ms May Makhzoumi, President of the Foundation, emphasized the importance of Sustainable Development Goal 17 on partnerships, agreeing that “without this, we cannot move forward.” She expressed appreciation for UNESCO’s global role in tackling wide-ranging issues, in particular to protect cultural heritage under attack. A member of the jury of the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development, she drew special attention to initiatives in Lebanon to integrate environmental education and knowledge about alternative energies into curricula, carried out in collaboration with the UNESCO Regional Bureau in Beirut.
The Makhzoumi Foundation has been working with UNESCO’s Regional Bureau on projects relating to Education for Sustainable Development, the preservation of cultural heritage, volunteering and training for refugees and hosting communities. Earlier this month, UNESCO and the Foundation collaborated on a regional training workshop for youth volunteerism in the Arab Region, focusing on civic protection and cultural heritage to build social cohesion, historical awareness and a sense of shared belonging.
UNESCO and the Foundation will now take forward the partnership agreement through the development of specific projects.