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WES 2022: Irina Bokova on global citizenship, heritage, and education

As part of the 21st annual Warwick Economics Summit, Irina Bokova delivered a riveting keynote address to our virtual audience on 5th February, 2022.

Below, you will find our official Summit Press Release for the event, which summarises the speech's highlights, and is accompanied by a collection of the very best quotes from Irina Bokova at WES 2022.



Irina Bokova delivered a compelling, insightful address "about the United Nations [and] about multilateralism, with a focus on culture, education and the concept of global citizenship" to the student-run Warwick Economics Summit on 6th February. The former Director General of UNESCO began by recounting her experiences heading the UN agency, "during a time which was critical for the adoption of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development".

Here, Bokova drew the attention of hundreds of virtual attendees to the unprecedented inclusivity, ambition, and truly interdependent and global nature of the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, Agenda 2030 represented the first time "that a major UN document made strong emphasis on why education is important". As a result, Ms. Bokova championed its landmark focus not only on primary education, but also early childhood development care and education; technical and vocational education; and tertiary and university education. Thereafter warning of the devastating impacts of Covid-19 on educational outcomes - particularly in light of the widening digital divide between children from higher and lower income families - Ms. Bokova delivered a searing proposal that "access to the internet [should be] recognised as a human right, because nowadays, without access to the internet, no problem (...) can be solved".

Similarly, Ms. Bokova underscored the salience of culture, and the protection of cultural heritage, arguing that "culture is both an enabler, but also a driver, of the economic, social and environmental dimension of sustainable development". In this regard, Ms. Bokova warned that we should not lust after lost profit, as the tourism sector recovers from the pandemic. Instead, "we really have to be more careful now," to ensure that sustainable tourism and the long-term protection of vulnerable landmarks are prioritised. On a similar environmental point, Ms. Bokova urged the growing need to protect natural World Heritage sites, as they "are indeed storing 5.7 billion tonnes of carbon".

Ultimately, Ms. Bokova levied compelling arguments about bridging digital divides; reskilling people for a changing, new world of work; and caring for both physical and intangible heritage, to ensure the security of cultural identities and social cohesion, as well as the protection of the planet. Throughout her diverse address, Ms. Bokova emphasised also that "leadership matters immensely," and that "at all levels, community leaders, religious leaders and others have (...) a huge responsibility," not only to legislate, but also to instil hoe and cooperate with the private sector to shore a better future.



  • "What is important to mention (...) is the interconnectedness and indivisibility of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We should not look at them in silos [because] we know that the achievements of any of them can also promote the achievement of others."

  • "Unfortunately, half of the humanity in this world - almost 3.5 billion people - do not have access to the internet, and the digital divide which exists is impeding on inclusiveness, and on solving all the other sustainable development goals.”

  • "Those who have access, in the first place, to quality internet and mobile technologies; those who have the skills to use it, (...) are moving forward very fast. And those who do not, [well,] that’s why the digital divide is widening. I think there should be a very particular effort to bridge this digital divide by the private sector, by the governments, by all the incredible innovation that we’re seeing nowadays.”

  • "I’m advocating that access to the internet is recognised as a human right. Because, nowadays, without access to the internet, no problem - of health, or education, or whatever, or gender equality, you name it, protection - can be solved.”

  • "There are three principle targets that we have to aspire to in order to solve the problem of the new economy that is emerging. It’s reskilling, reskilling, reskilling. And I think this is where the role of governments - but also of the private sector, of partnerships, of educational institutions - should be: to look, really, what are the skills needed nowadays for this new economy?”

  • "Once again, a word of caution: sustainable tourism. We should not run again after an imminent profit and imminent economic gain. We really have to be more careful now, so that we do it right.”

  • "When people lose their (...) sense of identity, this may lead them to uncertainty, or fear of the ‘other’. I think when people know (...) that their own culture is respected - heritage, tangible, intangible and others - they feel much more secure, and they are much more open also to share it with others.”


Press release written by Ingrid Bahnemann


You will find the video recording of Irina Bokova's full talk, delivered at WES 2022, here:



If you, or any organisation which you represent (media, educational, or otherwise) would like a bespoke press release regarding Irina Bokova's WES 2022 talk - or any of our other 2022 talks - please get in touch with our Press and Communications team at

We are also able to provide full event transcripts, or bespoke collections of quotes from Irina Bokova's (or any other WES 2022) talk upon request.

Any press release or promotional material issued relating to Irina Bokova's talk at WES 2022 must explicitly mention Warwick Economics Summit by name. Where this requirement has been upheld, third parties are free to produce and distribute their own press releases at will.


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