» Director-General inaugurates the new UNESCO House in India
31.08.2017 - ODG

Director-General inaugurates the new UNESCO House in India

On 30 August 2017, UNESCO and India celebrated a new chapter in their 70-year partnership with the inauguration of premises designed by one of the country’s most renowned artists and architects of the post-independence era, in the presence of the Director-General Irina Bokova, H.E. Shri Prakash Javedakar, Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Dr Karan Singh, Member of Rajya Sabha and Member of UNESCO Executive Board, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mr Kailash Satyarthi.

“This is a special moment for UNESCO, and I wish to express deep gratitude to the Government of India for providing this wonderful space at the heart of this outstanding city,” said the Director-General, also thanking Mr Satish Gujral, present at the ceremony, for designing the building, which blends contemporary and traditional features with passion and talent. 

“Today, we do not just inaugurate a building, we celebrate the values shared by India and UNESCO, we celebrate our belief in the power of education, the sciences, culture, communication and information, as foundations for sustainable development and a more just and peaceful world,” said Ms Bokova. “I believe the message carried forward by India and UNESCO has never been so important – that peace must be build in the minds of women and men through education and skills, respect for human rights, building on humanity’s great cultural heritage and diversity.” 

“This building cements the releations between India and UNESCO,” said H.E. Shri Prakash Javedakar, Union Minister of Human Resource Development. “I believe in multilateral exchanges and working together, in learning from each other. This is the role of UNESCO and this is how we grow,” he said. 

Affirming that “education is the only real empowerment,” he said that, after decades of massive expansion, India’s priority is to improve education quality and encourge research and innovation, expressing hope that the new UNESCO House would be a magnet for proactive cooperation on this front. 

Dr Karan Singh stated that “the founding of UNESCO in 1945 was an act of faith, recalling that Prime Minister Jawaharal Nehru had spoken of the Organization as the ‘conscience of humanity’. “This building reflects the significance that India, a founding member of the Organization, places on education, culture and science. It will be a tremendous asset for us all.” 

Thanking UNESCO for its efforts over the past decade to build bridges with civil society and mobilize a wide range of partners around education, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyharthi called for a bolder stance and a more coordinated approach to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.  “The measure of any progress is how we are reaching out the last child in our society, and my dream is that the poorest of the poorest children looking for freedom and education, of youth desperate to live in peace, may come to your door and be welcomed with respect, and take back confidence and hope.” 

In an earlier meeting with the Director-General, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javedakar outlined new initiatives to promote open source learning, train teachers, improve learning outcomes, increase literacy and foster cooperation through academic networks. He also referred to the ambition to create 20 world class universities. 

Calling for deeper cooperation, he expressed readiness to share these experiences and to learn from others, identifying teacher motivation as a foremost challenge. He noted that India spends 5% of GDP on education for a system serving 290 million students and 10 million teachers and professors. The Director-General concurred that every country is grappling with reforms to make education more relevant, effective and inclusive, highlighting UNESCO’s role to accompany governments in the implementation of SDG4, and to encourage values-based curricula through global citizenship education. 

UNESCO’s contribution to India was also highlighted by the Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Dr Mahesh Sharma, who drew attention to celebrations around the nomination of the historic city of Ahmedabad as a World Heritage Site; Varanasi and Jaipur as Creative Cities and Yoga as intangible heritage of humanity. 

“Our richest strength is our culture, and we need to showcase it to the world and our county, to preserve, protect and promote it,” said the Minister.  

He referred to an effort underway to map the cultural assets of thousands of villages across the country in order to showcase cultural heritage and traditions through a portal. He noted that cultural tourism contributes 6.8% to GDP, a figure on the rise. The Director-General commended the Minister’s approach to preservation and promotion. She  underscored that cultural industries contribute to social cohesion, sustainability and growth. She also expressed appreciation to the Minister for supporting heritage conservation in neighbouring countries. 

On the same day, the Director-General addressed the closing session of the Regional Consultation of UNESCO National Commissions in South Asia. The meeting aimed at enhancing cooperation with the UNESCO National Commissions in the cluster Member States, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. 

“National Commissions are powerful advocates, raising the UNESCO flag, reaching out to new audiences. They are key actors, helping to take forward UNESCO’s values and priorities in ways that are meaningful to each society,” declared the Director-General.  

“Your vision, leadership and cooperation are essential to shape meaningful action for meaningful results -- especially across this region, which is undergoing such tremendous positive change,” said Irina Bokova highlighting the essential role played by National Commissions  to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement.

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