An innovation for UNESCO’s principal governing body, the Forum sought to encourage interaction and dialogue among participating Ministers, and promote greater involvement in policy-setting for the Organization.
The Forum’s two sessions were devoted to the themes “Investing out of the crisis and attaining international goals through action in education, the sciences, culture and communication” (in the morning) and “Shaping UNESCO for the next decade as an effective multilateral actor, including in pursuit of international goals and UN reform” (in the afternoon).
The sessions featured Mr Shri Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resource Development of India; Mr George T. Chaponda, Minister of Education, Science and Technology of Malawi; Ms Tatjana Koke, Minister for Higher Education and Science of Latvia; Ms María Simón, Minister of Education and Culture of Uruguay and Ms Sharon Dijksma, State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands as keynote speakers.
In his opening remarks, the Director-General observed that his experience at the head of UNESCO over the past 10 years that had convinced him “that there is a direct link between investing in knowledge and accelerating development.” “The crisis must not become a development crisis rolling back years of investment in social sectors and soft infrastructures such as education, science, culture and communication”, argued Mr Matsuura. “We believe that this is a time not only to preserve the gains made, but actually to increase investment in core areas”.
Recalling the 1980s recession, when a reduction in investment hit the social sector, the Director-General argued that “spending on education is one of the best investments a country can make. Research shows that each extra year of schooling increases GDP per capita by 4 to 6 percent.”
“Committing to resolving the crisis must also mean renewing our collective engagement in the multilateral system, for there can be no sustainable and effective response without international cooperation,” stated the Director-General. “With five years left to target date for achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals and Dakar EFA Goals, we need to look at our approaches for doing so”. Describing the Forum as a “double opportunity”, both to advocate for the need to increase investments in and through education, science, culture and communication, as well as for participating Ministers to share their views on how can UNESCO best carry out its mission in the coming years.
Echoing the Director-General’s call for continued investment in education and culture, President Gül argued that the governments should resist the temptation to cut first in social sectors, emphasizing that “never in history has it been more pressing to invest in education” as well as science and technological development, and culture.
During the preceding bilateral meeting, the President underscored the importance of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and inter-cultural dialogue. Mr Matsuura paid tribute to the active role Turkey played in areas of UNESCO’s competence, notably by hosting a number of important international conferences. The Director-General mentioned in particular the third session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage in November 2008, the 5th World Water Forum in March 2009 and the Second Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in April 2009.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 189-2009 - Publication Date: 09-10-2009