Respect for freedom of expression and respect for religious beliefs : the Director-General of UNESCO applauds the decision of the Executive BoardOn 13 April, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, expressed his “strong satisfaction” after the Executive Board of the Organization adopted a decision relating to the issue of respect for freedom of expression and respect for religious beliefs and religious symbols. While referring to international instruments that uphold freedom of expression, of thought, of belief and of religion, the Member States of UNESCO have reaffirmed their attachment both to respect for religious beliefs and religious symbols and to freedom of expression.
Mr Matsuura declared that he was particularly pleased because “for the first time in many weeks, a consensus has been achieved within an intergovernmental forum on an issue that has seriously troubled efforts of dialogue and rapprochement among cultures and civilizations.”
“I am satisfied”, he declared, “that my calls for the reaffirmation by the international community of respect for these two fundamental principles, freedom of expression and respect for religious beliefs and religious symbols - which are as essential as they are complementary – have been heard. This decision of the Executive Board of UNESCO, which reaffirms strongly the exercise of freedom of expression in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, and which calls for mutual respect of cultural diversity, religious beliefs and religious symbols, is fully in line with the rights and obligations contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.”
For Mr Matsuura, this decision “demonstrated once again the irreplaceable role of UNESCO as a place of dialogue, tolerance and openness.” “I am particularly proud that our Organization, by choosing a balanced and respectful approach, has contributed to pulling together the threads of a dialogue that is threatened by a clash of ignorances, in this way demonstrating once again that dialogue, founded on mutual respect and understanding, and on knowledge and respect, constitutes the best way to overcome ignorance and promote peace, tolerance and the dialogue among civilizations, cultures, peoples and religions.”
The text of the decision adopted by the Executive Board of UNESCO can be accessed on the website of the Organization.