Australia will be on the map for the right reasons on issues to do with human rights, refugees and the challenges facing migrant and minority groups and settlement following the appointment of Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Director, Professor Fethi Mansouri to a key UNESCO role.

Professor Mansouri who already holds the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Diversity and Social Justice will now also lead the UNESCO global research network – the UniTwin Network on Interreligious Dialogue for Intercultural Understanding.

Professor Mansouri’s appointment follows the launch of Deakin’s new research institute the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation last year and the completion of 20 years service with the University.

“If you have a passion for a particular research agenda such as that relating to human rights, refugees and minority groups, you find you can sustain the energy,” he said.

Professor Mansouri said the role was critical to helping UNESCO make headway on its decade long goal to build Rapprochement of Cultures by 2022 in a volatile global climate.

“We are seeing a rise in extremism in many forms, militant violent, as well as  exclusionary new forms of racism,“ Professor Mansouri said.

“We are seeing an increased emphasis on cultural assimilation and a rejection of diversity and politically we are seeing the rise of supposedly extremist but increasingly mainstream parties.

“In France, the National Front now has over 30 per cent of the national vote and we have seen similar growth of these parties in Greece, Denmark, Italy and across Europe.

“Complicating this is the rise of radical fringe groups such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabab and other similar entities.

“So the UNESCO goal is going to be a tough gig.

“It’ll be busy but it’s great such a prestigious position is based in Australia.”

Professor Mansouri said the network brought the expertise of more than 30 global UNESCO research chairs to bear on UNESCO’s big goal.

“The question for us in this challenging environment is how can we give that goal life and make it a reality,” he said.

“The UNESCO Chairs are a conduit by which this will happen as it is their activities and expertise which will inform and influence global policy direction.”

Professor Mansouri said top of the agenda for the network was UNESCO’s global survey on Intercultural Understanding and an evaluation of what is and isn’t working at regional levels.

Professor Mansouri said another agenda item for the network would be to look at government initiatives in the area of intercultural understanding.

“The planned global survey on intercultural dialogue will be data-driven but we also want to give it some contextual content and look at how country-specific initiatives actually play out in people’s lived experiences,” he said.

Professor Mansouri said that one of his immediate priorities is to coordinate an edited high-impact publication where the UNESCO Chairs would contribute specific chapters exploring notions of intercultural dialogue, and what it means in theory, policy and practice.

The appointment is a far cry from 20 years ago when Professor Mansouri joined Deakin in the middle of a major restructure.

Professor Mansouri was awarded his first of many Australian Research Council grants, in 2001 looking at the impact of Temporary Protection Visas on Asylum seekers, oversaw the establishment of the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation in 2004, was appointed to a research chair in 2008 and in 2013 was awarded the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Diversity and Social Justice.

“I think over the years Deakin has become much more nimble and progressive and this has been reflected in its emphasis on community partnerships,” he said

“Our research has real meaning to communities and is relevant to real problems, it has impact in Australia and as this new appointment shows, continues to have impact globally.”

Contact: Sandra Kingston

Phone: 03 9244 5274