20.10.2009 -

Presidents of Zanzibar and Djibouti address UNESCO’s General Conference

President Amani Abeid Karume of Zanzibar (United Republic of Tanzania)and Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti, today spoke of the challenges facing the world and UNESCO as they addressed the 35th session of the Organization’s General Conference.

After describing his country’s progress in meeting the Millennium Development goal of providing quality basic education for all by 2015, President Karume said: “Our outlook was towards making education people-oriented and it worked out well.”

He described how people were involved in laying the foundations of their communities’ school buildings, while the government provided teachers and mobilized the private sector to develop education. Meanwhile, access to safe water, public health etc, was improved, said the President, emphasizing the link between education development and other sectors.

“The 35th session of the General Conference of UNESCO is taking place at a time when the world is facing major crises,” said President Karume. “They include the crisis of global climate change, energy crisis, food crisis, and, most recently, the financial and economic crisis. They impact more on poor nations and the most vulnerable groups in society […] It seems to me, more than ever before, UNESCO has a critical role to play in sensitizing governments and the international community to look towards the social sector and invest more in education.”

Speaking of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption the president denounced the devastating effect of global warming on food and energy production, on fisheries, water availability and tourism, in “poor nations, most of which are in Africa. These countries are less industrialized and have contributed little to the current greenhouse gas emissions and yet they have to bear the heavy burden of climate change,” the President argued.

Finally, the President of Zanzibar declared: “In most parts of the world life is unsafe due to man-induced hazards, wars and HIV/AIDS. Turmoil is rampant and poses a major threat to the productive segment of the population, particularly in Africa. Gender disparity and inadequate provision of education of good quality are prevalent, so are violations of human rights. UNESCO has a crucial role to link peace and sustainable development, to promote dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, to respect one another and respect cultural diversity.”

President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti stressed the important role of UNESCO in promoting international understanding and intercultural dialogue and said that “despite its limited resources the work accomplished by UNESCO is immense.” He went on to give particular praise to “one of the greatest intellectual undertakings of our Organization, The General History of Africa, a monumental work destined to restore a misrepresented and little-known past.”

Speaking of the challenges facing humanity the President declared: “Never in the history of the world has humanity had to face so many threats: famine, infectious diseases that decimate the most active populations of entire continents, the danger of economic bankruptcy, declining natural resources, return of intolerance and violence, anarchy affecting entire regions, unchecked migrations, excesses of extremism that nurture terrorism, nuclear danger.”

“In these troubled times,” President Guelleh added, “the preponderance of the economy at the expense of what is human has finally shown its limits. Indeed, never in the history of humanity have such serious threats been posed to our natural resources, putting pay to the illusion of a generous and bountiful planet. Never has the return of intolerance and violence reached such an alarming scale. This is why UNESCO’s constitutional mandate is more pertinent than ever. It is called upon to play a crucial role and participate more actively in the debate on global governance as its fields of competence are at the heart of globalization.”

The presidents held separate bilateral talks with the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, during their visit to the Organization.


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