UNESCO - a new vision for the 21st century
Published: Thursday | August 20, 2009
IN OUR complex, interconnected world, with its great common opportunities and challenges, we need global institutions that bridge political and economic divides and unite people around shared values. I, therefore, believe that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, can make a crucial contribution to the promotion of fair global governance, sustainable development, cultural diversity and democratic participation.
UNESCO was founded on the conviction that education, science, respect for cultural diversity and communication are essential for "constructing the defences of peace in the minds of women and men". Today, this vision is more relevant than ever. I, therefore, believe that UNESCO can make a crucial contribution to the promotion of fair global governance, sustainable development, cultural diversity and democratic participation in order to tackle the global challenges that affect all of us.
Today, this vision is more relevant than ever: To avoid a potential clash of ignorance, to tackle global challenges that affect all of us, from the eradication of poverty and lack of educational access to climate change and economic development, and to boost cultural and scientific exchanges which are essential to share the benefits of globalisation.
Reinforce the bridge-builder
My country, Austria, has presented my candidacy for the post of director general of UNESCO. If elected, I intend to reinforce this role as a bridge-builder across cultures, faiths and civilizations. Cultural cooperation does not create uniformity but, conversely, strengthens cultural self-awareness and the future viability of societies. Our global diversity is not a threat but an asset. Fostering of mutual respect and understanding is not just an end in itself but key to effective conflict prevention. I would, therefore, enhance UNESCO's role as a powerhouse of international cultural dialogue and as a guardian of the diversity of cultural expression. Equally, UNESCO must reinforce its core activities in the area of protecting and promoting cultural and natural heritage.
Promoting education for all is another of my priorities. Education is the surest path out of poverty and a precondition for self-determination in life. I would, therefore, increase literacy programmes, work hard for universal access to education - especially for girls and young women - and establish more partnerships with the private sector on new technologies.
This is not only critical to lay the basis for economic development and good governance, but also to narrow the partly persisting knowledge gap and digital divide between the North and South. UNESCO already provides added value in pursuing the Millennium Development Goals, a key contribution that must be reinforced.
Furthermore, UNESCO has a special role in empowering women to play their full part in 21st century societies. The world cannot afford to leave the potential of half its citizens untapped. Building on my international network of female leaders, I would continue to strengthen the protection of women in conflict-societies and in particular enhance scholarship schemes and financing facilities to enable them to build safe and just societies.
The centre of our work
Finally, human rights in the broadest sense must remain at the centre of UNESCO's work. Without elementary freedom from fear and from want there can be no peace or prosperity. Building on my strong commitment to humanitarian action, I would place a particular emphasis on human rights education and the fight against new forms of discrimination, eg in the social and medical field.
In all these areas, UNESCO can play an even more important role. It is, therefore, my ambition to raise the organisation's political profile, tap its true potential and give it the visibility it deserves. In the 21st century, international institutions have a clear mission to accomplish: to strengthen the global culture of peace through cooperation. This vision lies at the heart of my candidature.
Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner currently serves as European Union Commissioner for External Relations. She is a candidate for the post of UNESCO Director-General.