Dear Hedva, Madam Director-General, President of the General Conference, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends, Despite wet and rainy weather in Paris, today is a very special and we know that the sun is shining in the Middle East. The Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been returned to his motherland for the release of Palestinian prisoners on their way home. This one more step to the peaceful settlement in the region coincides very symbolically to me with our today nomination ceremony of a UNESCO Artist of Peace. I recall with great pleasure my first encounter with Hedva Ser. We met for the first time when, two years ago, I took up my duties as Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO. It was during the discussion of the project to establish an International Centre for Women Artists in Amman. This brilliant and timely idea occurred almost simultaneously to some of the future members of the Centre's Governing Board. In the course of joint implementation of this project, together with my friend David Killion and other participants I met and became good friends with Hedva. What always strikes one in this astonishing woman is a special sense of beauty, a unique artistic gaze, the ability to work with large and small art forms, a wide range of creative techniques and breadth of interests. Her sculptures, paintings, decorative fabrics and jewellery are displayed worldwide. Having absorbed the finest and most characteristic elements of different cultures, Hedva dedicates her art to the cause of peace. It is not by chance that one of her best known works, “Tree of Peace”, has been exhibited in different countries and continents. It is a very concise symbol. As Albert Einstein once said, “religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree”. Ms Ser is someone who embodies the fundamental ideas of UNESCO – the aspiration to peace, good and tolerance. This relates to her personal qualities and her perception of today’s world. She is always topical. From the time of her first exhibitions in the early 1970s and up to the present she has resisted being a captive to image and form. Her works are in line with current international trends and are sought after at major artistic exhibition sites and academic platforms. Her creative contribution has been particularly remarkable in the context of intercultural dialogue in the Middle East. Hedva has a keen sense of fairness, a strong desire to help, to be of use. The daughter of parents who survived the Holocaust, she is particularly sensitive to all manifestations of injustice. Besides her artistic gifts she has the ability to inspire others. It was about people like her that my great compatriot Anton Chekhov wrote, “Life is just an instant. It cannot be lived first as a draft and then re-written as a fair copy”. Dear Hedva, As Chairperson of the Executive Board I particularly wish to salute wholeheartedly your aspiration to live up to the values proclaimed in the UNESCO Constitution. In proposing to the Director-General jointly with the Permanent Delegation of the United States to UNESCO to designate you as a UNESCO Artist for Peace “in recognition of your contribution to the defence of tolerance and the meeting of cultures through your art and your dedication to the ideals of the Organization”, David and I were of one mind. The involvement of such individuals in UNESCO’s sphere of action strengthens the Organization and gives it йlan. I am confident that you will bear our ideals with dignity and that your “Tree of Peace” will become a symbol of the new humanism in our complex world. I wish you every success on your new mission in the service of the international community to spread universal values and knowledge through the diversity of cultures. My very best wishes to you on this difficult path!