20.04.2015 - UNESCOPRESS

At UNESCO, Michaëlle Jean pleads in favour of reinforced multilateralism

© UNESCO/Cyril Bailleul -Left to right : Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, H.E. Mrs Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of La Francophonie, H. E. Mr Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board

“UNESCO and La Francophonie stand first of all for the sharing of principles and values that serve the democratic ideals of dignity, equality and respect for human beings,” declared the Secretary-General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF), Michaëlle Jean, during her address on 20 April to UNESCO’s Executive Board.

Michaëlle Jean, Secretary General of the Francophonie, spoke to UNESCO's Executive Board at the invitation of its Chairperson, Mohamed Sameh Amr, as part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Organization.  The Chairperson of the Executive Board recalled in particular the links between Michaëlle Jean and UNESCO.

He said: “Madame, you are and will always be a member of the UNESCO family. I am fully aware of your close ties to our Organization, which you served with great success as Special Envoy for Haiti for more than four years.”

The Executive Board also had the privilege of welcoming her in 2009 at its 182nd session. Finally, the Chairperson of the Executive Board invited Ms. Jean to speak about areas in which La Francophonie and UNESCO could strengthen cooperation as "builders of the future".

As he welcomed the Secretary-General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, Hao Ping, President of the General Conference of UNESCO, said that both organizations were committed to promoting the values of peace, cultural diversity and human rights. Mr Hao also spoke of the support La Francophonie brought to the proclamation of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, during the 31st session of the General Conference.

“Given our shared values, it is important that our two organizations work together to help the African people get out of poverty through education, science and culture”, the President of the General Conference stressed.

Recalling the “intellectual solidarity” and the “spirit of mutual assistance” that underpinned the creation of UNESCO, Michaëlle Jean talked of her work as UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti (2010-2014), in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the country. “I was really able to experience UNESCO’s ability to mobilize and coordinate support alongside the government of Haiti and civil society,” she said.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova for her part spoke of the strong links between UNESCO and La Francophonie and paid tribute to Michaëlle Jean’s action: “In these troubled times, as we face violence, intolerance, the erosion of universal values and growing social divides, we need a strong voice.” Michaëlle Jean certainly represents “one of the clearest and most audible voices there is,” Ms Bokova said.

The Secretary-General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie furthermore spoke in favour of reinforced multilateralism in a world where States are no longer able to tackle global challenges: “It is only within the framework of international organizations that this multilateralism can thrive, whether at the global, or regional level or—as is the case with La Francophonie—at the linguistic and cultural level.”

Ms Jean also recalled the efforts of UNESCO and the IOF to promote high standards for the sciences, education for all, particularly girls' education, and the preservation of cultural diversity. In this respect she voiced indignation at deliberate attacks on World Heritage and the destruction of ancient cultural properties.

“This is not a clash, or war of civilizations, but a combat between two concepts of society on the global scale: one based on destruction, regression, obscurantism and hatred; the other on construction, progress, the legacy of the Age of Enlightenment, the insights of all cultures, and the spirit of fraternity,” Ms Jean said.

“This project,” she continued,” is shared by billions of people all over the world, regardless of their cultural background, religion, or the civilization they belong to […]. This is the project we must […] commit to day after day, to bring about, at long last, the fulfilment of our dream for a world with more justice, freedom, prosperity and peace. This is the dream which inspired, a few decades ago, the founders of both UNESCO and La Francophonie.”

The President of the Group of French speaking UNESCO Member States, Khalil Karam, then thanked Michaëlle Jean, Mohamed Sameh Amr, Hao Ping and Irina Bokova for dedicating the morning session to cultural diversity and quoted Haitian poet Jean-Baptiste Chenet who in 1846 said that if God were to speak to humanity, he would speak French.

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