Today is the International Day for Tolerance

The United NationsFollowing the United Nations Year for Tolerance in 1995, the International Day for Tolerance was first observed on 16 November 1996.

Activities on the Day seek to promote recognition of the need for tolerance and understanding of the practise of tolerance. Building tolerance and trust in diverse communities is not done overnight, but takes time and commitment. Building tolerance requires access to education. Intolerance is often rooted in ignorance and fear: fear of the unknown, of the “other”, other cultures, religions and nations. Intolerance is also closely linked to an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride: notions taught and learned at an early age. Therefore in coming years, we need to place greater emphasis on educating children about tolerance, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

But we should not forget that education does not end in school, that adults – firstly as individuals capable of committing acts of intolerance but more importantly in their capacity as parents, law-makers and law-enforcement officials – also need to be considered a priority target of our educational efforts.

An International Day for Tolerance can serve as an annual occasion for tolerance education as well as for wider social and political reflection and debate on local and global problems of intolerance. It is a moment to take stock of the progress made during the year and to propose fresh policies to close remaining gaps.

While the problem of intolerance is global, in the sense that it is on the increase in many parts of the world, the manifestations of intolerance usually take on local or national forms. Thus, in order to be effective, global norms against intolerance need to be combined with local, national and not least individual measures.

For more information visit the International Day for Tolerance website.

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2 responses to “Today is the International Day for Tolerance

  1. Tolerance may be a first step, but I don’t think it’s a worthy goal. I can tolerate something or someone without really understanding, appreciating or respecting it.

    I’d like to see us move away from the idea of tolerance (which may simply mean putting up with something irritating) towards acceptance and respect. Understanding is good too, but may not always be realistic. I can still accept or respect someone or something, even if I don’t really understand him, her or it very well.

  2. I agree and wonder if tolerate was the strongest word that some UN committee could find agreement on. You are spot on that understanding and respect are also essential – we can’t expect to have all three, at all times. I’d say understanding is the foundation (in the sense that we should always try to understand why people do things even if we find them deplorable or ridiculous – Daniel Dennett makes a great case for this in relation to religion), then tolerance as a minimal standard (although there are some things such as torture that we should never tolerate) and finally, hopefully respect.

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