QUITO – Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi will be inaugurating the UNESCO Chair on Peace Education and Culture at the Private Technical University of Loja, Ecuador, on Monday which she believes is an important axis for the development of science, economy and democracy.
In an interview with Efe, Tehran-born Ebadi, 67, a critic of the current Iranian government, stressed the importance of the program, saying that education is the basis for any kind of political and economic development of a country.
According to the university, the UNESCO chair will be a “space of international cooperation and collaboration” that “seeks to promote capacity building in the field of culture and education for peace.”
“A society in which the majority of the people don’t have access to adequate education will never be able to advance,” said Ebadi, remarking that the human rights chapter allows orienting the work of the educators towards the creation of a culture of peace.
“I believe that the culture of human rights has to be a fundamental part of the education given to young people,” because “it orients or corrects the way people think,” she added.
For the 2003 Nobel peace laureate, human rights must be a “way of life” and “not only pretty phrases written on a piece of paper.”
“These are the type of things that we must teach children, to foster a spirit of tolerance and encourage interaction” among them, according to Ebadi, who cited freedom of expression as another pillar of the construction of peace.
She also said that freedom of expression must be a right in countries, especially for minorities as she had observed that it was the majorities who really enjoyed that right.
She said that in Iran, for example, although the majority of the population is Muslim there is also a minority of people from the Baha’i faith who “don’t have any rights nor access, even to university.”
According to Ebadi, society should redefine several concepts such as democracy, peace or freedom, to understand them from a new reality.
Peace, she said, is not only “the absence of war” but “the set of conditions that a person can preserve, maintaining his/her dignity, in order to live with freedom and well being.”
“That person who has to live on the street out of poverty has been the victim of an abuse of his/her rights” in the same way that “he/she ends up in prison for having said something” that offends the powerful.
In addition, peace must be based on a proper functioning of justice, added Ebadi, who lamented the situation of violence existing in countries such as Mexico.
“If the system of the culture of peace worked well, what happened in Mexico would never have happened,” said Ebadi, who also spoke about the situation between Palestine and Israel.
“It has already been years since pacts declaring both Palestine and Israel as independent states were signed but until now still Palestine doesn’t have that status,” adding that in this case “the resolutions adopted by the United Nations must be applied.”
Ebadi also said she supported fundamental changes in the United Nations to prevent countries from not complying to the resolutions of the organization.
The current structure of the United Nations where only five countries in the Security Council have the right to veto must change, said Ebadi, as “it is not democratic.”
In addition, the governments of many countries in the United Nations do not represent the people of their countries such as Syria, she pointed out.
“Where is the role of the people? Civil society must play an active role in making the decisions” of the organization, she concluded.