The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

Topic 1: Innovation and Technology for Indigenous People

Information and communications technology (ICT) is transformative economically, socially, and politically. ICT is also recognized as a key dimension of globalization and as such its role is fraught with challenges and opportunities. While the “digital divide” is a reality and the “poorest of the poor” remain “unconnected,” research shows that that they – like others – value communication highly for its social, economic, and various other benefits. Indigenous people, as both stakeholders and rights holders, and are at an increasing focus of the ongoing discussions surrounding the positive and negative aspects of ICT as well as the possibilities of information and communications‐based transformations. However, many people of such indigenous communities feel that their cultures may be threatened due to ICT.

In response to the increased focus on indigenous peoples and ICT, several United Nations initiatives have declared this a priority area, and have addressed challenges and created opportunities with varied results. Some of these initiatives, however, particularly information and communications technology for development programs, have been criticized for, “Imposing Western processes or structures upon indigenous recipients,” constituting a form of “Computer‐mediated colonialism.

Topic 2: Protecting and Implementing Education for Children in Regions of Conflict

Millions of children around the world are being denied a “safe place to learn”, due to ongoing conflicts according to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF. Conflicts in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Ukraine, Syria and Kashmir have led to the destruction of the physical infrastructure of many schools and the breakdown in the provision of education.

Before the conflict in Syria, nearly every child was enrolled in primary school but by 2013 about 1.8 million children and adolescents were out of school. It took just two years of civil war to erase all education progress made since the start of the century.  Today, some 50% of the 1.4 billion people living in countries impacted by crises and fragility are under the age of 20.

Governments and their people prioritize necessities like food, shelter and water during times of war over education. A suspension of education in conflict zones is responsible for the loss of entire generations of productive members of society, forced to be soldiers instead of scientists and child-brides instead of teachers. 

It becomes important for the global community to act and formulate ways to preserve the educational rights of children. As Nelson Mandela rightly stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation”.

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