Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a report to its 38th General Conference, which kicked off at the threshold of the new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the agency’s chief looked back on past achievements while appealing for enhanced cooperation from member States to address UNESCO’s priorities and tackle the current challenges.
“Seven decades after its creation, the core idea of UNESCO resounds more powerfully than ever: we can build stronger and more resilient societies through education, the sciences, cultures and the free flow of ideas,” Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said in her report to the agency’s General Conference, adding that “these are our ultimate renewable energy sources.”
Spotlighting the achievements made by the agency over the past two years, she noted, among others, efforts towards ending illicit trafficking on cultural relics, enforcing economic sanctions on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its affiliates, rebuilding World Heritage sites in Mali, as well as advancing education for the most vulnerable and strengthening youth resilience towards extreme radicalisation.
These actions were taken during a time of turbulence, said Ms. Bokova, stressing the importance of the new 2030 Agenda, which was also agreed by UN Member States during this critical period.
She appreciated member States’ efforts to place UNESCO’s priorities on the new 2030 Agenda, covering from global education, culture, sciences, water and ocean sustainability, to freedom of speech and good governance.
However, “UNESCO must translate these promises into change on the ground,” said Ms. Bokova, underscoring that “UNESCO is fit for purpose.”
Continuing, the UNESCO chief urged further support from the member States for organizational reform, especially in transparency, structure, partnerships and leadership.
As many initiatives are taking place to protect shared heritage, joint textbooks and cross-border biosphere reserves, Ms. Bokova said “it is not enough to connect, we must share,” urging commitment from governments for the new humanism.
“The role of UNESCO is to propose initiatives that bind people together... to strengthen intellectual and moral solidarity among peoples, to strengthen the conviction of humanity as a single family, united in its diversity,” highlighted Ms. Bokova, reiterating UNESCO’s values for the past 70 years.
“This is the founding audacity of UNESCO, and we need this same audacity today,” she said, appealing all member States to renew support for these values.
Echoing Ms. Bokova’s strong call to the members, Stanley Mutumba Simataa, newly-elected President of General Conference’s 38th Session and Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology of Namibia, said "the historic narrative of a humane world order characterised by lasting peace, has never been as relevant and profound than it is today when the world and humankind continue to experience unending conflicts and natural disasters.”
The 38th Session of the UNESCO’s biennial General Conference started on 3 November in Paris, France, and it will last until 18 November.