Director-General celebrates World AIDS Day and addresses international forum on Education for Sustainable Development during official visit to Japan

Director-General celebrates World AIDS Day and addresses international forum on Education for Sustainable Development during official visit to Japan
  • © Yasushi Maruyama

From 30 November to 3 December 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid an official visit to Japan.

On 1 December, World AIDS Day, the Director-General joined the President of Nihon L’Oréal at an event organized in recognition of the UNESCO-L’Oréal partnership, “Hairdressers against AIDS”, during which he presented letters of congratulation to representatives of two Japanese salons that have been leading HIV prevention efforts under the joint initiative.

In his intervention, Mr Matsuura noted that the UN system’s response to the epidemic was organized around two main pillars, treatment and prevention. He explained that UNESCO’s action was focused primarily on the second pillar, notably through its leadership of the UNAIDS Global Initiative on Education and HIV and AIDS (EDUCAIDS). Mr Matsuura paid warm tribute to the work of Lady Cristina Owen-Jones, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for HIV and AIDS Prevention Education, for her support to this effort, saying that it was thanks to her initiative that UNESCO and L’Oréal forged the innovative partnership for prevention education, “Hairdressers against AIDS”. Launched in 2005, the joint programme is now operational in 22 countries, working through L’Oréal’s network of partner salons and training academies to raise awareness and understanding of HIV and AIDS and contribute to prevention efforts. “The one-to-one interaction between hairdressers and their clients, and the strong bond of trust that often characterizes this relationship, offers a unique opportunity to convey accurate information about HIV prevention. Such efforts play a vital role in enabling all parts of society to engage in national responses to the epidemic”, the Director-General stated in his address.

On 2 December, Mr Matsuura attended the opening reception of an International Forum on Education for Sustainable Development Dialogue, where he welcomed participants alongside the senior vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, Mr Toshio Yamauchi. The Education for Sustainable Development Forum was organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO and the Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU). Hosted by the United Nations University, the Forum brought together over 300 participants representing different stakeholder groups to examine key issues related to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). It is one of a series of ESD-related events to be held in 2008 with a view to assessing global progress under the UNESCO-led United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) in the run up to the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, which UNESCO will organize in Bonn, Germany, in late March-early April 2009.

“It is now clear that the development paths of recent centuries have encouraged unsustainable patterns of living, creating social, economic and environmental problems that we must now address. The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development provides us with a unique opportunity to learn our way out of this global dilemma”, Mr Matsuura said in his speech to the Forum’s opening session on 3 December, which UNESCO Director for UN Priorities, Mr Mark Richmond, delivered on the Director-General’s behalf, alongside the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr Ryu Shionoya.

“ESD is a keystone for building more just and sustainable societies. ESD, however, is not an easy endeavour to implement. After all, it requires nothing less than changing the way we think, learn, behave and look at the world. Furthermore, there is no single, universal model of ESD. As a result, ESD tends to raise as many questions as answers about what education should be about and for in this 21st century. In promoting ESD, therefore, it is vital that we respect pluralism and diversity. It is by listening to others and by recognizing why their needs and situations are different from ours that we can come to a fuller understanding of our globalized world”, the Director-General explained.

In this context Mr Matsuura urged the Forum to adopt a systematic and comprehensive approach to ESD, including policy development, teacher education, capacity-building, curriculum renewal and monitoring and evaluation. He highlighted the importance of raising the “visibility” of ESD. “The significance of ESD must be felt and understood by people everywhere”, the Director-General underscored. He also argued the importance of partnerships and networking as the only way to make DESD a success, and drew attention to teacher-training and research as areas for special focus.

“I am confident that this Tokyo Forum will give a real boost to the Decade, in particular here in Asia and the Pacific, and stimulate discussion on the importance of education to our globalized world. What is crucial is that every country and region – ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ - will comprehensively move into action and put into operation practical ways to advance towards achieving the goals of ESD. I hope that this Forum will be an important opportunity for every stakeholder to review their activities, to stimulate South-South and South-North dialogue, and to commit to actions that will lead to real change”, Mr Matsuura said in conclusion.

While in Japan, Mr Matsuura also met, among others: Prime Minister Taro Aso; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Nakasone; the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism, Mr Kaneko; the Minister of State for Social Affairs and Gender Equality, Ms Obuchi; and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Taro Nakayama. The Director-General also signed a memorandum of understanding with the President of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Mr Tachikawa, under which JAXA will lend its support to the UNESCO-European Space Agency ‘Open Initiative on the use of space technologies for the benefit of World Heritage sites’ (see Flash Info N°174-2008).

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 173-2008
  • 10-12-2008
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