Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  M. / Mr Koïchiro Matsuura

“Thinking and Building peace“: challenges still facing us today

By Mr Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO
On 16 November 1945, the Constitution of UNESCO was signed to give expression to the international community’s hopes for building a world founded on solidarity and dignity, in the wake of the “great and terrible war” to which it had just put an end. And just as our forerunners denounced the root of that war, “the denial of the democratic principles of the dignity, equality and mutual respect of men,” so must we remain alert, for the future, to the threats looming over those principles and that dignity. We must be ever mindful of the lessons of History, reconfirmed by our own recent history: horror always comes upon us suddenly, in the form we least expect. There is but one way to answer such threats: promoting dialogue, mutual understanding, mutual respect, and education, as a way of fighting ignorance, which, as we know, lies at the root of all violence and every brand of extremism. UNESCO has been carrying out this mission for the past sixty years, and intends to continue pursuing it just as determinedly as our illustrious forerunners.

We decided to place UNESCO’s sixtieth anniversary under the slogan “Thinking and Building Peace.” These few words encapsulate the design and the goal of our efforts: combatting intolerance through dialogue; fighting illiteracy by ensuring people have access to a quality education throughout their lives; promoting cultural diversity by safeguarding both material and immaterial cultural heritages; protecting human dignity by establishing a universal code of ethics; and reducing the digital divide by expanding access to new information technologies. Such is the path we have chosen to trod, to bring lasting peace and sustainable development to all peoples, while fully respecting their cultural identity. It is not our place to say what must happen. It is, however, our job to actively encourage those debating these issues to work in harmony and to widen their entente to encompass all humankind.

Sixty years after its founding, UNESCO’s mandate remains as important and as timely as ever, bearing homage to the visionary spirit of the framers of our organization’s Constitution. UNESCO can be seen as a paradox. Founded on the principle of universality, it fulfills its mission by heightening recognition of mankind’s rich diversity. It serves the cause of Culture by promoting and safeguarding cultures. It serves the cause of Knowledge by disseminating these different cultures’ know-how. Every single activity that touches the very heart of our shared humanity

– be it education, science, culture or communication – falls within our mandate.

In its sixty-year existence, UNESCO has become a more open organization that is better equipped to meet the demands of the modern world. The validity of UNESCO’s key functions is now more widely recognized. But like the United Nations, UNESCO is an organization that must never stop learning and reforming, in order to meet the challenges of the new millennium. UNESCO’s 60th anniversary is a good opportunity to stop and reflect, for a few moments, on the fundamental motivations that justify and continue to guide our ongoing efforts.

In an increasingly complex and diversified world, we count on institutions such as ours to spur as well as steer our actions, for the good of all humankind. Our clear-headed recognition of the difficult nature of this task has not, however, deterred us from continuing to work for a more peaceful, more tolerant and more humane world. We must, therefore, reconsider UNESCO’s ethical mandate with a fresh eye. Taking a retrospective and critical look at our past is not a uselessly nostalgic exercise. To the contrary, it enables us to bolster our actions and reflections with the rich lessons of the past, so that we can build an even

better future.

I would like to evoke the Japanese concept of fueki-ryuko. Fueki signifies the fundamental unchanging permanence of things, while ryuko represents the changes of a given era. In other words: things which must change, do change; and things which must not change, will not change.

UNESCO’s mandate, as laid out in the Preamble and in Article I of the Constitution – to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture – falls on the side of fueki, and permanence. In an era characterized by a feeling of growing uncertainty and vulnerability, the preventive function – and thus the educational aims – which are the distinctive characteristic of UNESCO are more valid than ever.”

Ryuko is what changes, what must change in our way of defining our actions, so that we may adapt to the challenges and possibilities of the present. UNESCO is ready to take up these challenges, fully aware that a great deal of changes must yet be made. Aware that we will have to respond to new challenges that will inevitably arise, and that old challenges will resurface in brand-new shapes that we will not readily recognize! I am particularly proud to serve as Director-General of UNESCO at this precise point in the organization’s history – an integral part of what has come before and what will come ahead in the constantly evolving history of humankind.

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