On 8 September 2009, the Director-general of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, designated Mrs Esther Coopersmith from the United States of America as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for intercultural dialogue. The ceremony took place at UNESCO in presence of the new United States Ambassador, David Killion, his wife and various distinguished guests.
In his address, the Director-General started by acknowledging the major role Esther Coopersmith had played in the return of the United States to UNESCO in 2003: "Looking back over the past decade of my mandate, one of the proudest moments was the return of the United States to UNESCO, after 19 years of absence. American engagement is imperative for a strong multilateralism and for a strong UNESCO, and I had made it a priority from my first day in office to bring the US back to the Organization. Many persons contributed to this achievement. Today, I would like to pay special tribute to Esther Coopersmith, whose energy and devotion to UNESCO’s ideals was a driving force in both the US return and subsequent strong re-engagement. Over the past decade, she has been an outspoken advocate for UNESCO within the US, helping to make our work better known among the American public and forge new ties and friendships."
Recalling the international career of Mrs Coopersmith, as US representative to the UN, as advisor to the State Department for the UN Status of Women and in 1999 to 2000 as US observer to UNESCO, Mr Matsuura praised her "immense talent for bringing people together and inspiring them to work together for the greater good." He underscored that in 1984, she became the first woman since Eleanor Roosevelt to receive the United Nations Peace Prize, "a testimony to her tireless efforts to foster dialogue and understanding among different cultures and faiths, especially in the Middle East."
The Director-General also highlighted the important work Mrs Coopersmith had done in the area of conflict prevention "one of the greatest challenges of modern times." Mr Matsuura went on to note that UNESCO worked to prevent such conflict by creating new opportunities to encourage dialogue, building partnerships and bring people together in the areas where we have expertise. In this regard, he said that Mrs Coopersmith’s designation came at a significant moment, when the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2010 the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and invited UNESCO to play a lead role in preparing the celebrations of this Year. He concluded by stating: "I am delighted that Esther will be working with the Organization in this endeavour. I am confident that her vast experience will help us to advance the values of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding so critical to building a socially cohesive, peaceful and sustainable future."
In her acceptance speech, Mrs Coopersmith renewed her commitment to the ideals of UNESCO and reaffirmed her will to continue to work to promote and improve intercultural dialogue. She also paid tribute to Mr Matsuura, particularly to his tireless action in favour of literacy, education for girls, and his work to improve the presence of UNESCO in the field.