Educating for Tolerance

On November 16, the UN observes the International Day for Tolerance which aims to promote global understanding and respect. This day of observance was created in 1996 by General Assembly Resolution 51/95, stating the importance of tolerance as the basis of civil and global peace. As our world grows, cultures and ideas spread, and while there is an encouraging mixing of cultures, intolerance still remains all too prevalent. Intolerance can surface in the form of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, religious intolerance, incitement, etc.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is the leading UN agency in advocating for tolerance and cultural understanding. Their web page Promoting Tolerance explains some of the methods to fight intolerance: law; education; access to information; individual awareness; and local solutions. On Holocaust Day 2008, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the importance of education in the fight against intolerance saying “We must instill in [children] a respect for diversity before intolerance has a chance to take root, and a sense of vigilance in case it threatens to do so”.

UN resources that address tolerance include:

  • The 1994 publication, Tolerance: the threshold of peace. This booklet serves as a guide for educators everywhere to teach tolerance and respect and also to identify intolerance. It offers activities and discussion questions geared towards children in any nation and of different grade levels (both primary and secondary school).
  • - This website briefly explains the circumstances surrounding the creation of the International Day for Tolerance. It also offers links to other UN resources pertaining to tolerance, including UNESCO’s Promoting Tolerance.
  • For UNESCO’s cultural diversity page please click here. The year 2010 has been designated the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures; for more information about this international year, click here.


Noraida Colón, intern
October 2009