United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Toledo_insid.jpg President of Peru calls for extending intercultural dialogue and fight against poverty

“Discrimination, ignorance, poverty and exclusion can undermine the very foundations of democracy,” declared the President of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, at UNESCO Headquarters today. “Intercultural dialogue and education for peace,” he added, “are the appropriate instruments for combating these scourges.”

“We share UNESCO’s ethical concern to further develop intercultural dialogue and strengthen education for peace, tolerance and respect for human rights, democratic principles and mutual respect for the cultural diversity of our countries,” said President Toledo in his address to UNESCO’s 190 Member States, meeting in Paris at the 32nd Session of the Organization’s General Conference, presided by Michael Abiola Omolewa of Nigeria.

The Peruvian President also said he was in favour of debt-for-education swaps. “Developing countries are strangled financially and must shoulder their responsibilities,” said President Toledo. “But the moment has come to explore the possibility of trading external debt for education for the world’s poor,” he added, echoing a proposition notably supported by Brazil and Argentina. To advance the idea, Mr Toledo “humbly but firmly” appealed to developed countries for their cooperation.

“If we accomplish two steps - reducing military expenditure and exploring the possibility that part of our external debt could be traded against educational activities - we will be ready to start the struggle to liberate the poor. The poor are not free, if they don’t have the freedom to decide,” said the President. “Globalization will not be sustainable if it doesn’t include the poor, education, culture and technology,” he added.

President Toledo also spoke of the transition his country is experiencing, “engaged in the process of a return to democracy and pacification, building on the defeat of terrorism and the quest for truth and reconciliation without impunity. […] In this context,” he added, “I recently received the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which provides a painful reflection on 20 years of violence and terror, thousands of deaths and lost millions”

Reaffirming his faith in democracy, Alejandro Toledo presented his best wishes to his “brother and sisters in the Government of Bolivia, who are today living through difficult times.” The President added: “We all need to work hand in hand to defend the will of the people.”

The President also requested mutual respect for the cultural diversity of different peoples and said he hoped to be remembered in his country as the “education president.” “I am bound to succeed,” he concluded. “As the first President of Andean origin elected democratically in my country in 500 years, I do not have the right to fail.”

Photo © UNESCO/Michel Ravassard

Source Press Release No 2003 - 78
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Audiovisual Contact: Claudio Bruno, tel. : +33 (0)1 45 68 00 77
- Email c.bruno@unesco.org
Publication Date 14 Oct 2003
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