» New Agreement Sets Course for Strengthened Cooperation with China
13.05.2017 - ODG

New Agreement Sets Course for Strengthened Cooperation with China

Signing Memorandum of Understanding with Vice Premier Liu Yandong

On the eve of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, Director-General Irina Bokova and Vice Premier Liu Yandong set the ground for deepening UNESCO’s partnership with China by signing a Memorandum of Understanding covering the next three years, followed by several events, including the relaunch of the UNESCO Courier’s Chinese edition in the presence of high-level national authorities, on 13 May 2017.

“This agreement builds on solid ground and the expanded relations we have developed over the past years with the Government, universities and private sector. It sets a broad framework to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to strengthen intercultural dialogue, understanding and peace,” said the Director-General.

Meeting at the National Museum of China, Vice Premier Liu Yandong said that “the Belt and Road Forum holds great potential for increasing cooperation between China and UNESCO. People-to-people exchanges and connectivity resonates with UNESCO’s mandate to promote mutual learning and dialogue between civilizations and cultures,” she said, noting China’s emphasis on increasing educational exchanges with other countries. “By bringing people closer together we can learn from each other and understand each other better,” she said, making reference to the recent International Youth Forum that brought together participants from 65 countries. “This is the best way to build bridges,” said the Director-General. “People to people contacts go beyond hard power. China understands the importance of education, intercultural dialogue, culture and the sciences to transform societies.”

Vice Premier Liu expressed appreciation for the breadth of engagement with UNESCO that has flourished since President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Organization in 2014. This spans a series of international conferences, support to girls and women’s education, teacher training in Africa and the Creative Cities network.  Turning to the domestic front, she outlined measures that China is taking to lift 40 million people out of poverty by 2020, stating that investment in education and health care holds the key to reducing inequalities and reaching this goal.

During a further meeting at the Summer Palace, the Minister of Education Mr Chen Baosheng affirmed that “education is how we will eliminate poverty at the root and prevent its transmission across generations.” Indicating that China allocates 17% of its national budget to education, he said that policies focus on narrowing gaps between urban and rural areas, investing resources in the more impoverished central and western provinces, in early childhood care and education, as well as on children with disabilities and those of migrant workers. As part of the priority to promote international collaboration in education, the Government will grant 30,000 scholarships under the Belt and Road Initiative. To advance education globally, the Vice Minister of Education and Chairman of the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO, Mr Tian Xue Jun, also indicated interest in enhancing triangular cooperation between China, UNESCO and Africa.  The Director-General welcomed the suggestion and commended the Minister for the range of policies in place to alleviate poverty and foster social cohesion, an approach that stands at the core of UNESCO’s global advocacy for increased investment in education and skills.

At the launch ceremony for the Chinese edition of the UNESCO Courier, Mr Huang Kunming, Executive Vice-Minister of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party, described the publication as a “common spiritual garden that had always contributed to establishing dialogue, conveying a culture of peace and combating discrimination and prejudice.” He expressed confidence that the publication will contribute also to the Belt and Road’s ambition to expand people-to-people exchanges and enhance harmony along the Silk Roads. The Vice Minister of Education, Mr Tian Xue Jun, affirmed “China’s commitment to promote harmony and diversity, respect for other cultures and values, and to build peace through the dissemination of knowledge and culture.” The Director-General expressed her appreciation to the Government of China for its support to the UNESCO Courier, affirming that the “revival of this emblematic publication will raise the banner high for the values we share and the goals we pursue in common while also encouraging new players to partner on a global scale.”

Ms Bokova also signed an agreement establishing the International Centre for Theoretical Physics-Asia Pacific with the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mr Bai Chunli affirming that “no issue on the SDG agenda can be solved without science.” The Center will provide opportunities for advanced training, research and education in the basic sciences.

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