12.08.2012 - ODG

Korea-UNESCO Youth Forum in Yeosu: Education Changes the Future

© UNESCO/Cynthia Guttman - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova looks on as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon receives a copy of a school textbook he once used inscribed with a "donated by UNESCO" stamp from the Secretary-General of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, Mr Chun Taeck-soo at the Korea-UNESCO Youth Forum on 12 August 2012 in Yeosu.

“Building a sustainable future is a generational imperative that must be seized,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told high school students gathered for the Korea-UNESCO Youth Forum organized on the last day of the Yeosu Expo on the Living Ocean and Coast in the Republic of Korea.

“It is auspicious that this Forum coincides with International Youth Day,” said Director-General Irina Bokova at the event organized by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO.  “Young people are 1.8 billion strong today. This represents 1.8 billion dreams and ideas. Real change starts with you. ”  

The Forum awarded seven university and high school students a prize for essays they had written on promoting sustainable development of the oceans. “Sustainability is an idea whose time has come, ” said Mr Ban.  “It requires smart policies, investment and the willingness to change old habits.”

Both Mr Ban and Mrs Bokova highlighted that the integrated nature of global challenges calls for collective answers.  They stressed the role of education for building a better world.

“We must no longer see the environment outside the economy, outside society, outside human security - these must be integrated, and education is the way to bring them together,” said Mrs Bokova.

“Sustainability calls upon us to show solidarity among generations. The decisions made today will affect the lives of many people, we have to be mindful of what you are doing today as young leaders because it will affect what is happening down the road,” said Mr Ban.

The Secretary-General praised UNESCO for its longtime advocacy for education, recalling that when he was a young boy, his textbooks were donated by UNESCO. “Study hard, have a big dream and realize it,” he told students. “You are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change.”

Noting that equipping today’s young people with the education and skills they need is one of the greatest global challenges, Mr Ban informed students that he would soon launch a global initiative to raise political awareness about education. “Education will change your future. When I am asked as Secretary-General the secret of my country’s economic development and political maturity in a short period, my answer is simple - it is education. ”

At the end of the Forum, the Secretary-General of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO Mr Taeck-soo Chun, presented Mr Ban with an original school textbook from the 1950s carrying the 'donated by UNESCO' stamp.  Visibly moved and enthused, Mr Ban leafed the book and held it up to today’s young students as a testimony of his childhood memories.

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