The 37th Session of the General Conference marks the beginning of an in-depth discussion about UNESCO’s contribution to the post-2015 agenda
Dr. Hao Ping, the newly-elected President of the 37th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference, is the first-ever president from China in UNESCO’s history since China co-founded the Organization 68 years ago. Dr. Hao graduated from the reputable prestigious Department of History at Peking University, with a degree in history, and served as vice president of Peking University and more recently president of Beijing Foreign Studies University, before he assumesing the position as China’s Vice Minister of Education.
You’ve been very busy since you were elected president of the General Conference. In addition to chairing the conference and attending the important events, you have also met with the heads of the delegations from many countries Tell us about the experience.
Yes. Several heads of state or governments were invited to this session and they all made wonderful speeches. I felt honoured to have talked to the heads of delegations, ambassadors and representatives from a lot of countries. The conference has been progressing quite well so far. I would like to thank all the staff from the Secretariat and the secretariats of all commissions and committees for their excellent service for delegations from 195 member states.
Since changes are currently on the way in UNESCO, how do you view this session of the General Conference?
The world is undergoing changes; so is UNESCO. Only through changes will it be able to move forward and better face the various challenges in the 21st century. In such a context, the importance of the Conference’s work becomes self-evident. This session will review and adopt the medium-term Strategy that is extended for the first time to eight years (2014-2021) and the Expenditure Plan for the next two years under the Organization’s tightening financial conditions. It will also discuss and consult on some of the big international issues. The General Conference has recently elected Ms Irina Bokova for a second term as Director-General. She will continue to lead the Organization through difficulties, improve work efficiency and enhance UNESCO’s status. Moreover, I extend my congratulations to the new members of the Executive Board and relevant committees of the General Conference as well as intergovernmental councils of UNESCO’s programmes. As the ancient Chinese put it, “world affairs are supposed to be shared and accomplished by all.” The General Conference has provided delegates and experts from all member states with an important platform to discuss and decide the future development policies and common actions.
In recent years, China has been providing more support to UNESCO in various ways and your election as president is also part of its contribution to this international intellectual organization. What do you think of your new role?
China is always ready to support UNESCO’s work. Examples include: meetings of Chinese leaders with Director-General Ms Bokova, the recent big UNESCO events on technical and vocational education and training in Shanghai, culture and development in Hangzhou, creative cities and learning cities in Beijing, financial support for African teacher education (amounting to 8 million US dollars). China is the first developing country to achieve the poverty reduction goal in advance and has done its best to strengthen step-by-step its support to UNESCO, making great contributions to South-South Cooperation.
I was elected because of the world’s recognition of China’s achievements and contributions and the confidence that Member States have in me. UNESCO’s mission to build a prosperous and peaceful world fits closely with “the world equally shared by all” described by Confucius as the ideal human society. There has been a strong will in the international community to promote “cooperation for development”. As president, I will do my best to foster between Member States a relationship characterized by 6 peaceful words - tranquillity, amicability, calm, concord, cooperation and harmony - so that all rally behind UNESCO’s ideals. Meanwhile, I will make every effort to further advocate for the Organization’s mission, listen to colleagues’ voices and mobilize member states to work concertedly to raise UNESCO’s global status and impact and contribute to lasting world peace and sustainable development.
This session of the General Conference and the next two years during which you will chair the conference are seen as key opportunities to discuss the post-2015 agenda. What are your thoughts?
The 37th Session of the General Conference marks the beginning of an in-depth discussion about UNESCO’s contribution to the post-2015 agenda. Both the Leaders’ Forum and the committees’ policy debates covered the new development agenda and all countries have made important contributions. Some countries suggest that the new agenda should build on the existing development goals, with sustainable development, lasting peace and comprehensive cooperation as its orientations and poverty reduction as its core. Poverty and youth employments are now very urgent issues. Education, empowering people, is the key to shaking off poverty. At present, there are still 57 million children out of school and 250 million primary school age children unable to read and calculate after four years’ study. Great challenges are facing both access and quality of education. On the other hand, culture is a key to future sustainable development. With the efforts of Director-General and Member States, culture is now further recognized for its significant role in promoting development. I am happy to see many countries appeal for the integration of culture into international development agendas. Indeed, culture is a crucial aspect of human development. UNESCO’s other areas of competences are also closely relevant to the development agenda. “Priority Africa”, gender equality and youth development are of critical importance as well. As President of the Conference, I hope this session of the General Conference and the further discussions of the Organization in the next two years will be able to make some substantial contributions to shaping the new development agenda.
Multilinguism is a fundamental principle of the Organization and is the guarantee of cultural diversity. Therefore, there are 6 working languages for the Conference. In the coming two years, would you expect this principle to be further consolidated in the governing bodies’ meetings as well as external communication of the Organization?
I am completely in favour of this principle and willing to see it strengthened. Language is the carrier of the culture. Protecting language diversity would lay the foundation for protection of cultural diversity. In today’s digital information society, strengthening the communications of multiple languages will allow more people speaking different languages to get to know UNESCO so that the mission of “building peace in the minds of men and women” can be greatly facilitated.
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