26 October 2011

Address by H. E. Ms Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova, Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO


Your Excellency Mr Yayi Boni, President of the Republic of Benin Your Excellency Mr Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Cфte d’Ivoire Your Excellency Mr Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic of Gabon Your Excellency Mr Pal Schmitt, President of the Republic of Hungary Your Excellency Mr Johnson Toribiog, President of the Republic of Palau Your Excellency Mr Boris Tadic, President of the Republic of Serbia Your Excellency Mr. Ali Othman Mohamed Taha, First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan Your Excellency Mr Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada Your Excellency Mr Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya Your Excellency Mr Sukhbaataryn Batbold, Prime Minister of Mongolia Madame President of the General Conference of UNESCO, Madame Director-General of UNESCO Excellencies, Dear friends and colleagues, Let me start by insisting on the timeliness of this conference, the Leaders Forum. As all the other branches of the United Nations family, UNESCO was created with peace in mind, and with a view to building peace in the minds of people, as you all know. In this endeavour, UNESCO’s identity, its special feature, lies in the ardent promotion of international cooperation through actions in the fields of Education, the Sciences, Culture and Communication and Information. Underlying these different avenues is a common thread, the conviction that dialogue should be encouraged everywhere and at all levels. In seeking peace and cooperation, we foster dialogue between cultures, between societies as well as between governments – starting with the Member States, of which you are the leaders and which are the shareholders of the Organization. The Leaders Forum is an opportunity for you, who represent the Member States at the highest levels, to dialogue directly and to take advantage of UNESCO’s functions as a catalyst of intellectual cooperation and an instrument of your will to rethink the present and prepare the future in a spirit of “intellectual and moral solidarity”. As I mentioned earlier, this meeting is timely. It is held at a turning point in the life of our organization because for the past two years the Organization has been very active in reforming itself. This effort has mobilized the energy of the Organization as a whole throughout the biennium, so that we can better perform and better respond to our changing environment, so that we can better meet the needs and expectations of the Member States. I had the honour to chair the Executive Board in one of those exciting periods when an institution questions itself, reviews its proceedings and paves the way forward. I am confident that in attending the Leaders Forum, you will find that you are contributing to the work of a UNESCO that is rejuvenated and more capable of fulfilling the ideals of its Constitution, which remains relevant more than six decades after its creation. To all of you leaders present today, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers or Secretaries of State, I want to remind that, in renewing itself, UNESCO is for you to use as a platform to exchange views and explore the new ideas and perspectives that will infuse the actions of decision-makers tomorrow. UNESCO was created to help Member States address problems that they cannot apprehend, let alone solve, individually. This is especially true today, in an era when we come to realize that we live in a world of multiple challenges and stress where peaceful relations among peoples and nations are threatened by complex and multiple crises. This impinges on the hopes for global peace, prosperity and sustainable development. Of course, we are not starting from scratch – many of the current challenges are being targeted by strong and powerful international agendas – the Millennium Development Goals, Agenda 21 or the Education For All goals. But what is needed today is a comprehensive understanding of the world situation – and new approaches to address peace and development holistically. “How can UNESCO contribute to building a culture of peace and to sustainable development?” This is the holistic question you are going to debate – it is a strategic one on many grounds. We just need to look around us to realize how dearly we need a culture of peace and non-violence. Only too recently, dramatic and violent acts by fanatics have made dozens of innocent civilian victims in the Arab region, in Africa and Europe. In too many places, violence remains a daily plague, especially in relation to gang and drug violence, as is experiences by various communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Violence is also tangible in the social exclusion of marginalized groups – which too often results in violence against women, who remain the largest disenfranchised group of humanity as a whole. All over the world, societies are in turmoil. Youth, who are the future of nations, have decided to confront the inertia of their societies. We think of the Arab uprisings, which are still having tremendous impacts in this region. But let’s not forget that the phenomenon of youth taking on the streets is worldwide. On every continent, young women and men are demonstrating their commitment to social change. What we must heed, is that all of them are heralding such universal principles as democratic participation, fairness, social as well as economic empowerment, access to quality education, and shared prosperity. These youth quakes could probably not have been anticipated as such – what could have been anticipated though is that vivid social eruptions would respond to the impacts of the global financial and economic crisis in the countries which have been struck hard – notably in so many exposed industrialized countries. And, as for the developing and least advanced countries, the crisis does not date back to yesterday. The endemic crisis of poverty is still affecting the bottom billion. These people, children and adults, women and men, live in hunger; they cannot access the social, health and educational services that could empower them. They are barred from attaining true human development. All those are signs that we are all on the same boat. All those are sign that we need to rethink development along more rational lines, aiming at social and economic sustainability but also at environmental sustainability. The planet is going through a crisis that must be met with a resolute commitment to sustainable development. Climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity losses, and pollution – these global environmental crises are mainly human-made. In other words, humanity can and must do something. Humanity must act in the right direction. We need a green economy and green societies underpinned by a vision for peaceful sustainable development that makes the most of the transformative power of education, the sciences, culture and communication and information. Challenges must be addressed by us, country by country, but above all collectively. The Leaders Forum is an opportunity to contribute to that responsibility. As Heads of State or Government, Ministers and senior decision-makers, you are going to debate on how best to achieve a culture of peace and sustainable development through the instruments of soft power represented in the fields of competence of UNESCO. As your exchanges can and may shape new models and impact pressing international issues, the results and recommendations of your discussions will be transmitted to the General Conference to inspire the strategies of the Organization in the coming years. This will have been your first – but not, I believe, the last – contribution to a culture of peace and sustainable development. Thank you very much.