These annual meetings, developed at the initiative of Mr Matsuura, are organized as a means for Goodwill Ambassadors to discuss the work they have been doing on behalf of the Organization, to share best practices and to discuss with the Secretariat the priority programmes for future advocacy. 19 Goodwill Ambassadors, participated in the two day meeting,* including French ethno-historian and geo-morphologist Professor Jean Malaurie and Indonesian actress and film producer Christine Hakim, both of whom have been designated Goodwill Ambassadors in the past year.
In his opening address, the Director-General identified three key issues for the meeting: Education for All, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, and Sustainable Development, with a particular focus on water, earth and ecological sciences and climate change in this International Year of Planet Earth.
Regarding Education for All, the Director-General told the Goodwill Ambassadors “that in spite good progress in some areas, such as primary enrolment, 72 million children are still not in school. Many more leave school without acquiring essential skills and knowledge. Globally, over 774 million adults – one in five – cannot read or write. This should not be seen as a discouragement, but as a call to action”
Continuing, Mr Matsuura said that “as global coordinator for EFA, UNESCO is working tirelessly to reinforce political commitment to basic education, both as a fundamental human right and a development imperative. In particular, we are calling on donors to honour the promise they made at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, that no country seriously committed to EFA would be thwarted in its efforts by a lack of resources.”
The Director-General commended all the Goodwill Ambassadors working to raise awareness of UNESCO’s work on education, citing in particular the campaign for global literacy and the UNESCO Regional Conference held on 14 to 16 May 2008 in Baku, Azerbaijan under the patronage of the First Lady of Azerbaijan and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs Aliyeva and attended by Princess Firyal and Vigdis Finnbogadóttir. (see Flash Info 057-2008) He also paid special tribute to the work of Pierre Bergé and Lady Cristine Owen Jones in support of the Global Initiative on Education for HIV and AIDS (EDUCAIDS) and to that of Cheikh Modibo Diarra for his work to promote distance learning and education as a tool for development in Africa.
Mr Matsuura exhorted the Goodwill Ambassadors to continue to support UNESCO’s efforts “to maintain the global momentum at this crucial juncture. Let us identify ways in which we can join forces to help the millions who still do not enjoy the right to education. We must not fail them.”
Noting that their annual meeting coincided with the World Day for Cultural Diversity Dialogue and that UNESCO is the lead UN agency for the International Year of Languages 2008, the Director-General said that UNESCO had put in place an intersectoral strategy on languages and multilingualism as part of its new six year medium term strategy (2008-2013). Thanking Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, Wole Soyinka, Marianna Vardinoyannis, Ikuo Hirayama and Ara Ambramian for their support in this area, Mr Matsuura called upon all Goodwill Ambassadors to raise awareness about cultural and linguistic diversity, because without strong policies to foster linguistic diversity in all aspects of life – in schools, administration, law and in the media – the international community risked denying hundreds of thousands of people around the world of the basic right to engage in public life and debate.
Mr Matsuura also said that the Sixth Regional Summit of Heads of State of South East Europe to be held in Athens on 12 and 13 June 2008 would be an occasion for participants to “reaffirm their commitment to ever greater regional integration through intercultural dialogue.”
Regarding sustainable development and the International Year of Planet Earth, the Director-General said that “now more than ever, we must adopt an integrated approach to the challenges posed by climate change on water resources, ecosystems, food supply, coastal area, health and human migration…”, and observed that further research into account the human aspects of these changes would be essential in order to manage the earth’s resources in a sustainable manner. Mr Matsuura thanked Goodwill Ambassadors, Jean Michel Jarre, Patrick Baudry and Professor Jean Malaurie among others for their active engagement in these themes.
For their part, the Goodwill Ambassadors discussed the work that each had undertaken in support of UNESCO in the preceding year and had intense and fruitful discussions with the Director-General, Deputy Director-General, and the Assistant Directors-General for Education, Culture, and Science about areas for collaboration in the coming year, At the end of their meeting, the Goodwill Ambassadors urged the international community to work with UNESCO step up its efforts to build a peaceful, just and knowledge driven world. (See UNESCO Press Release 2008-34)
The cultural programme of the meeting included an exhibition of paintings, “Chemins d’Orient” by Japanese artist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Professor Ikuo Hirayama, and an exhibition and concert, “Goodwill Angels of Azerbaijan”, organized by the First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva.
* In alphabetical order:
Mehriban Aliyeva; Patrick Baudry; Pierre Bergé; Cheick Modibo Diarra; Miguel Angel Estrella; Vigdís Finnbogadóttir; Princess Firyal of Jordan; Ivry Gitlis, Christine Hakim; Jean Michel Jarre; Jean Malaurie; Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco; Ute-Henriette Ohoven; Lady Cristina Owen-Jones; Kim Phuc Phan Thi; Susana Rinaldi; Madanjeet Singh; Zurab Tsereteli and Marianna Vardinoyannis.