22.12.2011 - ODG

Seizing the Day: UNESCO in 2012

© UNESCO/Nelson Muchagata - Girls picking up trash in a community in Brazil

“2011 has been a year of challenges for UNESCO and for the entire world,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova in an end-of-year message. The Arab Spring has demonstrated the transformative power of striving for dignity and democracy. UNESCO quickly mobilized for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and will step up efforts in 2012 to support educational reforms, promote culture and support media organizations as the foundation for new societies. Around the world young men and women are rising up and calling for peace, freedom of expression and social justice . “All transformations of this kind take time and require a lot of effort. There is no guarantee of success. The international community must be more involved and UNESCO stands ready to play its part,” underlined the Director-General.

UNESCO launched important initiatives in 2011, such as the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education where implementation is now the key. A total of 210 youth delegates from 127 Member States travelled to Paris bringing their voice of change to the Youth Forum held at UNESCO.  The first 31 projects funded by the International Fund for Cultural Diversity are showing their results. So are projects for the development of science and technology in Africa as well as those to promote gender equality, especially in the field of media.  Over 35,000 students worldwide participated in a giant science experiment on water as part of the International Year of Chemistry, led by UNESCO.  This year marked an important step in the pursuit of our activities, with the 10th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, and the 40th anniversary of the Man and the Biosphere programme. The Tsunami Warning System in the Indian Ocean was launched and is now operational. Natural disasters like the March tsunami off the coast of Fukushima, Japan, underscore the importance of investing in disaster risk preparedness and training local populations.

The world population has exceeded 7 billion. The UNESCO family welcomed new members in 2011: the Republic of South Sudan and Palestine. “We can hear people calling, louder than ever, for new solutions for peace and development. More and more are turning towards education, cultural diversity, sciences, sharing knowledge, and we need to build a better UNESCO for them,” highlighted the Director-General. 

“The world is changing fast, and UNESCO is actively taking part in this change. 2012 will be an opportunity for us to step up our efforts to meet the expectations expressed this year,” affirmed Ms Bokova. “We have several major opportunities to seize in 2012. UNESCO celebrates the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the World Heritage Convention, an occasion to highlight the role of heritage and culture as catalysts for sustainable development and to emphasize the role of local communities in this endeavour. “World Heritage is a building block for peace and a motor for development. It is a source of identity and knowledge to be shared,” said Ms Bokova.

2012 will also be the year of Rio+20 – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. UNESCO aims to highlight the transformative power of education, the sciences, culture and media in sustainable development.  “We must build inclusive and equitable ‘green societies,’ not just ‘green economies’”, underlined the Director-General. The Organization has prepared a major contribution on the role of Oceans for sustainable development, with several strong proposals for the sustainability of oceans and coastal areas.

The withholding of the U.S. contribution to UNESCO’s budget, following the decision of Member States to admit Palestine to UNESCO, has placed the Organization in a serious financial situation. “This situation is a call for a renewed commitment; it’s a golden opportunity to speed up our efforts to reform the Organization. UNESCO has all it takes to make a difference,” concluded Ms Bokova.

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