Building a world of human rights and dignity: What’s ahead for UNESCO in 2014

© UNESCO/E. Abramson
Outdoor classes in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

In a year of social, economic and political challenges, UNESCO is working to fulfil its peace-building mandate by addressing the root causes of conflict. While undertaking a far-reaching reform destined to increase the Organization’s ability to serve its 195 Member States, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova defined the vision that underpins the Organization’s activities when she was elected for a second mandate last November:

“The vision of a world of human rights and dignity; the vision of humanity as a single community; the vision of a stronger multilateral order, a stronger United Nations.”

This premise will inform UNESCO’s work in addressing today’s greatest challenges, such as unevenly distributed development, environmental degradation, and conflict.

The Director General has set three major directions for UNESCO’s work :

1. - Strengthening UNESCO’s action towards the most vulnerable and fragile countries affected by social transformation, conflict or natural disaster. UNESCO will help build resilience and lay the foundations of peace in emergency situations, through education, science, culture and communication

©UNESCO/ P.A. Lablaude
UNESCO continues to safeguard cultural heritage, especially when it is under attack. In the image, Egypt's Malawi museum

The second Pledging Conference for Syria,  taking place in Kuwait on Wednesday 15 January, is a first opportunity to step up the role of education in emergency response situations.

Culture is also increasingly understood to play a major part in the development of communities, and in the empowerment of individuals. In recent years, extremists have attacked cultural landmarks in different parts of the world, as was recently the case in Mali and Egypt.

UNESCO will continue providing expertise and every possible assistance to ensure that communities are able to preserve the heritage that cements their identity and serves as the foundation on which they can work together for a better future.

This work concerns both tangible and intangible heritage, restoration, preservation, teaching and capacity building. It includes efforts underway to involve communities in the management of their cultural landmarks.

UNESCO will follow up on the implementation of the UN global action plan for the safety of journalists. It will also mobilize the role of science for disaster risk reduction and contribute to sustainable development in view of the Ocean Summit in San Francisco in February and UN Climate summit in September 2014.

© UN Photo/Milton Grant
Gender equality - Jamaica

2. - Focusing on Gender equality as one of the most important “game changer” for peace and development.

Girl’s education is a top priority.Through its global partnership for women and girls education, UNESCO seeks to help women and girls achieve a “Better Life, Better Future”, by focusing on secondary education and adult literacy. UNESCO will advocate for this important issue at the launch of the 2014 GMR report, dedicated to the theme of quality teaching, in Addis Abeba in January.

A gender focus is to be included in all priority activities, whether the pursuit of work to provide education to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, reconstruction in South Sudan, and Mali, or the push for education for sustainable development, which will be the subject of a World Conference to be held in Aichi-Nagoya (Japan) from 10 through 12 November.

Later this year, UNESCO will publish a Report on Gender Equality and Culture, the Organization’s first comprehensive assessment of equal opportunities for women and men to access, participate in and contribute to cultural life.

Gender equality is a fundamental concern in all of UNESCO’s activities, ranging from its commitment to reinforce quality education in the United Nations’ Post-2015 Development Agenda and in the UN Secretary- General’s Global Education First Initiative, whose Technical Secretariat is based at UNESCO.

3. - Fostering global citizenship as the new frontier of intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding. Every one of us must be able to appreciate our interdependence, our common humanity and the wealth of its diverse expressions; so that we may live together more harmoniously both as equal individuals in communities with equal rights and duties. This is the main thrust of the International decade for the rapprochement of Culture 2013-2022) 

As the world is seeking new development accelerators to reach the MDG goal in 2015 and shape a new development agenda to follow, 2014 must a decisive year to mobilize the full power of human intelligence and creativity to find new ways and new drivers for human development. This is where the mandate of UNESCO is so relevant.

Throughout 2014 UNESCO will continue working to promote sharing; sharing the finite resources of our physical world and the infinite resources of human culture and ingenuity.

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