Also present were Mr George Anastassopoulos, President of UNESCO’s General Conference, Mr Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï, Chairman of the Executive Board, Ms Bhaswati Mukherjee, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of India to UNESCO and representatives of the Auroville Foundation.
“Over the last four decades, UNESCO has enjoyed a special relationship with this unique international township in south India”, said the Director-General. “During its foundation ceremony in February 1968, young people representing 124 UNESCO Member States deposited soil from their respective countries on the site of the future township to illustrate the fundamental concept of “unity in diversity”. Since that historic day, UNESCO has regularly reiterated its support for Auroville, a place that embodies many of the principles underlying the Organization’s worldwide action to promote cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and lifelong learning as the basis for peaceful, sustainable societies.”
Mr Matsuura recalled that “forty years ago, the founders of Auroville set a most noble objective: to create a place where people from different cultural, educational and political backgrounds can meet and work together towards their common goal of sustainable living. Thus, Auroville stands out as an unparalleled human experiment in transforming these ideals into reality,” the Director-General continued, adding that “in so doing, Aurovillians have worked closely with the inhabitants of the surrounding villages to help improve their living conditions. The outlying rural region, considered by the local government as among India’s most underdeveloped areas, has benefited greatly from Auroville’s presence. Some 5,000 people from local communities have found employment in the township, and a number of health and educational facilities have been created to serve them,” he said.
Mr Matsuura went on to state that “Auroville’s ability to survive and evolve over four decades bears witness to the strength of the founding principles and the resolve and perseverance of its citizens. In today’s globalized world fraught with regional conflicts and economic instability, it is especially reassuring to witness such enduring models of solidarity and humanism.” The Director-General concluded by expressing his hope that the lessons learned in Auroville will inspire similar experiments in sustainable living in other parts of the world. “I look forward to continued collaboration between UNESCO and Aurovillians.”
The Round Table was followed by a special performance of contemporary Indian and World Music by Auroville’s Nadaka Group, whose theme was introduced by Ambassador Mukherjee.