At UNESCO, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon highlights Organization’s role in fostering education-based development
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki moon, today visited UNESCO where he held talks with Director-General Irina Bokova and addressed the Organization’s Executive Board.
The Secretary-General presented the Organization with a natural science textbook printed by UNESCO in 1956 and distributed to school children, Ban Ki moon among them, in post-war Korea. Welcoming Mr Ban, the Director-General praised the lasting cooperation between the Republic of Korea and UNESCO and thanked the Secretary-General for promoting education on the international agenda through his Education First initiative. “That the child who held such a book in 1956 became the Secretary-General of the United Nations, is proof,” she said, “of the importance of our work.”
Speaking of his own experience at the receiving end of UN and of UNESCO support, Mr Ban said: “Through this book I was able to see the world in Korea which was completely devastated by the war […] To the people of Korea at the time, the UN was a beacon of hope. It is still a beacon of hope to many people. I hope this book will inspire you to bring education to people everywhere. I believe we have all the resources to do so, if we have the political will,” he concluded.
After a meeting with Ms Bokova and her team, Mr Ban addressed the Executive Board of UNESCO which is currently holding its 190th session (until 18 October). He was welcomed by the Chair of the Board, Alissandra Cummins and the President of the General Conference, Katalin Bogyay.
In her welcome address in the Board, the Director-General stressed the Organization’s commitment to lasting peace and sustainable development. “UNESCO occupies a special place in the United Nations System, as an agency whose mission is to protect human dignity in these politically, economically and environmentally troubled times,” Ms Bokova said. “In an uncertain world, we must fall back on the foundations of our shared humanity if we are to achieve peace and sustainable development.”
Ms Cummins, for her part, asked the Secretary-General to take a message back to New York: “The message that UNESCO is vital for holistic and sustainable development; the message that UNESCO should never be regarded as a typical development agency - it is not a development agency - it is a specialized agency championing the long-term realization of progressive societies; the message that UNESCO is the intellectual, ethical and moral steward of humanity; the message that investing in UNESCO is an investment in lasting peace for future generations; the message that UNESCO matters.”
Mr Ban reiterated his commitment to the basic human right of education in his address to the 58 members of the Executive Board, and said that “We cannot afford to leave generations of children and young people behind, without marketable skills, without knowledge for the information economy.” The Secretary-General also voiced strong support for UNESCO’s role in advancing the sustainable development agenda and called on the Organization to bring together experts from all disciplines and regions to advise the U.N. “UNESCO must continue to be the UN system’s clear scientific voice, helping to ground our decisions in facts and knowledge, not ideology.”
Voicing support for UNESCO’s activities concerning heritage preservation and freedom of expression, the Secretary-General called for the protection of human dignity, encouraging a culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations. “Against extremism, the moderate majority must speak up, call for intercultural dialogue and show that which is universal about every one of them.”