UNESCO showcases breadth of activities at 60th anniversary
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrated its 60th anniversary last night in Paris in the company of former directors, political leaders and luminaries such as anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, all stressing the vast range and importance of the agency’s work.
UNESCO today, must “remain on alert on all fronts: from the defence of human rights to the safeguarding of humanity’s common heritage; from the provision of quality education for all to the promotion of sustainable development that respects life and the biosphere; from delicate questions concerning bioethics to the denunciation of discrimination against women,” said Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura in his welcome address to the more than 1,000 guests who attended a ceremony at headquarters.
In addition to Mr. Lévi-Strauss, the President of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko, French Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, and former UNESCO Director-Generals Federico Mayor and Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow also participated in the ceremony.
President Yushchenko emphasized the importance of carrying on a universal humanitarian dialogue, taking into consideration social, cultural and moral traditions. UNESCO “must have in its arsenal effective instruments of influence for preventing the kindling of inter-ethnic and religious intolerance” as well as other transgressions.
Mr. Lévi-Strauss spoke of “the profound reasons for which an ethnologist could feel in connivance with UNESCO’s missions, despite the apparently diverse domains.” He also spoke of the evolution in the concepts of civilization, the human condition, cultural diversity, biodiversity and race.
The event was followed by the inauguration of an international colloquium, “60 years of UNESCO’s history,” bringing together scores of historians, anthropologists and philosophers.
UNESCO finds its origins in the need to re-establish educational and cultural institutions in countries devastated by the Second World War. A UN Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization was convened in London from 1 to 16 November 1945.
Led by France and the United Kingdom, the delegates decided to create an organization that would embody a genuine culture of peace, according to the organization.
The Constitution of UNESCO, signed on 16 November 1945, came into force on 4 November 1946 after ratification by 20 countries.