The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations addresses the 181st session of UNESCO’s Executive Board

The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations addresses the 181st session of UNESCO’s Executive Board
  • © UNESCO/A. Wheeler

On 23 April 2009, the Former President of the Portuguese Republic and High Representative of the United Nations for the Alliance of Civilizations (AoC), Mr Jorge Sampaio, visited UNESCO Headquarters to address the 181st session of the Organization’s Executive Board.

In welcoming Mr Sampaio, the Chairman of the Executive Board, Mr Joseph Olabiyi Babalola Yaï, saluted his personal commitment to promoting intercultural dialogue and recognition of the positive power of culture in building mutual understanding and peace. The Chairman observed that although the world was connected as never before, there was no corresponding level of solidarity among peoples. This was a cause of great concern and in the course of its meeting the Executive Board would further examine a programme of reflection and action on how to reconcile the universality of human values with diversity, inspired by the works of Aimé Césaire, Rabindranath Tagore and Pablo Neruda which had been initiated at its 180th session. It would also examine an action plan for the preparation for the UN wide celebration of 2010 as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, for which UNESCO had been invited to play a leading role.

In his speech, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, recalled that UNESCO’s constitution charged it with “preserving…the fruitful diversity of cultures” and promoting “the free flow of ideas by word and image”, noting that since its creation in 2005, “to highlight the need for a real intercultural and international dialogue”, the AoC had become “an influential network capable of raising awareness among and mobilizing high level political leaders around the world.”

Continuing, the Director-General said UNESCO, with its worldwide network of field offices, was pleased to collaborate with the Alliance in implementing concrete actions at the regional and national levels. Indeed, “it was in this context that Mr Sampaio and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Madrid, in January 2008, during the First Annual Forum of the Alliance. This agreement identifies several areas for cooperation including developing educational, cultural and scientific contents; intensifying intercultural exchanges among youth; enhancing the role of the media in promoting dialogue and mutual understanding; and building multi-stakeholder partnerships”, he stated.

Underscoring his wish to strengthen the synergies between UNESCO and the AoC in defence of their common cause, Mr Matsuura concluded by saying that the preparations for the celebration of 2010 as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures provided an opportunity to do so.

Mr Sampaio explained that since taking up his appointment as High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations he had worked with the Director-General to build a cooperative partnership with UNESCO and paid tribute to Mr Matsuura “for his efforts and engagements” in this regard. As a political initiative, the Alliance did not intend to substitute for the specialized bodies of the UN but merely to serve as a platform of dialogue dealing with the good governance of cultural diversity by generating common actions toward this end. Mr Sampaio said that its Group of Friends had grown from 40 to over 100 members since its first Forum. The AoC was now encouraging the Group of Friends to develop National Plans and Regional Strategies for Intercultural Dialogue “as only National Plans for intercultural and international dialogue, prepared by member states, will allow us to introduce good governance practices and to develop, in time, true policies guaranteeing the right to diversity and a culture of peace and human rights for citizens.” This would not happen overnight but the expertise and support of UNESCO would be vital in arriving at that point.

Mr Sampaio’s address was followed by an exchange of views with the Members of UNESCO’s Executive Board.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 071-2009
  • 25-04-2009
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