First meeting of the Working Group for the implementation of the Executive Board decision on respect for freedom of expression and respect for sacred beliefs and values and religious and cultural symbols.

At its 174th session, the Executive Board adopted 174 EX/Decision 46 on respect for freedom of expression and respect for sacred beliefs and values and religious and cultural symbols.

In order to rapidly implement this decision, the Director-General has created an intersectoral working group, co-chaired by the Assistant Director-General for Culture and the Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information. On 30 June, Mr Matsuura chaired the first meeting of this group, composed of representatives of the different sectors and services of the Secretariat, from both Headquarters and the field.

Opening the meeting, Mr Matsuura first of all recalled the Working Group’s mandate, which is: to submit proposals with a view to strengthening UNESCO’s programmes and actions, in its fields of competence, so that it can fulfil its commitment towards mutual understanding and respect for all peoples’ religious and cultural values, and freedom of expression; to consider appropriate ways and means of accelerating the implementation of the plan of action for the dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, taking into account the work that is being undertaken in that regard by other bodies, in particular within the United Nations system; and to undertake a compilation and comprehensive study of all existing relevant international instruments in that regard.

After underlining the importance of this question, which is ‘deeply inscribed at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate and reflects the Organization’s priorities’, the Director-General called for a broad consultation with all interested organizations – international, regional and sub-regional; governmental and non-governmental – so as to pool all expertise accumulated in this area. Mr Matsuura also highlighted the special role that UNESCO Chairs for Dialogue among Civilizations should play, alongside the traditional partners of UNESCO, which he hopes to engage closely in this process of reflection.

Mr Matsuura also hopes to work closely with other agencies within the UN system, building inter-agency cooperation on the basis of concrete activities in order to strengthen effectiveness. In this regard, the Director-General was pleased to note the cooperation recently established between UNESCO and the Alliance of Civilizations.

The Director-General furthermore requested that equal attention be paid to all regions of the planet, the questions of freedom and respect transcending the traditional divisions North/South, Orient/Occident.

Among the domains that could constitute the basis of UNESCO’s action, Mr Matsuura underlined: communication – given the powerful role of the media; dialogue among civilizations; culture, education, and also science. The Director-General insisted on the crucial importance of adopting a ‘resolutely’ intersectoral approach, as the sole guarantee of the success of this vital enterprise.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash info n°107-2006
  • 04-07-2006
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