the time this article was written Ahmed Sayyad was Assistant Director General of Foreign Relations and Co-operation
with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO).
rank among UNESCO’s major partners in the promotion of human development and
peacekeeping through the various programs the organization is known for
including fields such as education, science, culture and communication.
UNESCO’s programme for a
dialogue with parliamentarians was launched in1994 to ensure that the
Organization’s values and objectives are clearly reflected in all national
policy-making and legislation. Both as members of civil society and as its
elected representatives, parliamentarians are responsible for implementing
these national policies and legislation. They introduce the concerns of their
electorates into parliamentary debates and adopt lines of action in order to
address these issues in the most effective manner.
By facilitating dialogue
amongst legislators across all regions, UNESCO aims to reinforce this global
network representing civil society and to enhance its ability to resolve global
issues in national contexts. In so doing, UNESCO is trying to ensure that
globalization can work for all. The programme is open to legislators actively
involved in parliamentary institutions and associations at national, regional
and international levels. Consequently UNESCO’s co-operation is wide-ranging
and includes partnerships with national leagues of parliamentarians, regional
parliamentary bodies, and international organizations such as the
Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The following are some
examples of how the partnership has worked in various countries.
- UNESCO and the Mexican committee for
education and culture have signed a letter to improve communication and
the sharing of information.
- The recent establishment of the Forum of
African Parliamentarians for Education (FAPED) was spearheaded by the
parliaments of Senegal and Mauritius and its goal is to develop
partnerships through the Education for All Program.
- The UNESCO office in Bangkok plans to
establish ties between legislators and major regional organizations1 to
develop a cooperative approach to solving problems related to sustainable
- This type of cooperation also existed in
Israël, where a commission for future generations will soon be established
as part of the Knesset. This was possible thanks to the active
participation of the UNESCO national commission and of the Friends of
Also, other parliamentary
bodies will be mobilized as part of UNESCO's action for the World Summit on
Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, September 2002) and for the World
Information Summit in 2003 and 2005.
These examples are just a few
illustrations of the prolific action that has resulted from the Co-operation
Agreement signed between UNESCO and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in
1997. This served to define the terms of reference for dialogue so that
parliamentarians may be better informed about UNESCO`s domains of expertise.2
Globalization with a Human
The Millennium Declaration of
2000 that was signed by political leaders at the United Nations Millennium
Summit took stock of the major issues facing humankind during the 1990's and
highlighted the policies implemented worldwide to resolve all crises.
This Declaration has been an
important inspiration in the shaping of UNESCO's programme priorities such as
the right of all to education, the strengthening of international scientific
and intellectual co-operation, the promotion of cultural pluralism, and
broadening public access to information.
Specifically, all UNESCO
action is oriented towards two key objectives, namely to reduce poverty3
and to provide easier access to knowledge so that globalization no longer means
A Round Table was organized as
part of this summit to discuss the Dialogue of Civilizations. Mr.
Koïchiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO, remarked that intercultural
dialogue is essential to furthering peace between nations and peoples.
Thus, the United Nations
Millennium Summit ushered in a new era where everyone would learn to live
together in what is commonly known as “the global village”. This had
already been forecast in the Report of the International Commission on
Education in the 21st Century set up by UNESCO in 1996 under the chairmanship
of Jacques Delors, former President of the European Union. And it is
precisely for this type of action that UNESCO needs help from its partners.
The Medium Term Strategy
and the Role of Parliamentarians
parliamentarians and UNESCO is essential for the implementation of a medium
term strategy focusing on certain priorities, namely education and public
access to information, environmental protection, ethics in the fields of
science and technology, as well as cultural diversity. In order to
complete its projects, UNESCO will adopt a 3-phase approach.
The first step for the
organization is to establish universal principles and norms, based on shared
values, a sort of universal code of conduct for living harmoniously in a global
UNESCO is justly proud of its
many accomplishments in this regard – its conventions in areas such as the
preservation of cultural and global heritage, or the international recognition
of degrees and diplomas in higher education.
Other declarations made by
UNESCO members are also noteworthy such as those pertaining to cultural
diversity or the human genome. UNESCO Member States provided valuable
assistance to these programmes and to improving certain situations through their
willingness to debate subjects of widespread interest. Consequently,
parliamentarians are now effective in fighting alongside UNESCO.
The second UNESCO approach is
based on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes human
dignity, encourages tolerance, and seeks to ensure universal respect for
justice, for fundamental rights and freedoms, but also cultural diversity.
Parliamentarians have a vested interest
in promoting cultural diversity as a safeguard to equality among all citizens.
And it is precisely this last
point that is the focus of UNESCO’s second strategic programme because cultural
preservation is essential in this era of globalization. It is important
to note that several million people are living this reality in their cities,
local communities, or even in their workplace.
Today, all states must
recognize the ethnic and cultural richness that exists within their borders and
everyone must remember that cultural diversity is essential for people to
maintain their own culture and identity.
Each and every nation must
therefore be committed to building a civic community whose values can be shared
by all, without neglecting the differences in languages, art, traditions and
religious beliefs. It also goes without saying that any form of
discrimination would merely be a source of conflict.
Cultural diversity has been a
topic of increased reporting and debate. Furthermore, all legislators
agree that the notion of development cannot be dissociated from that of respect
and acceptance of differences. In 1996, the World Commission on Culture
and Development tabled a report entitled “Our Creative Diversity”, which
focused on this very issue.
Another area of UNESCO involvement is exclusion in
education (100 million children have no access to primary schooling and 800
million adults are illiterate), in science (the research costs are increasingly
affordable to only the wealthiest countries) and in communication (80% of the
entire world's population lives without electricity) and this is why the third
area of UNESCO involvement stresses citizen participation in what is known as
The prerequisites for this
process, which is closely linked with the notions of democracy, justice and
development, are equal opportunity, the sharing of knowledge and expertise,
access to education for all and the preservation of minority cultures.
In conclusion, increasing
capacity goes hand in hand with the notion of diversity since all citizens have
huge opportunities to grow thanks to the sharing of knowledge and skills, and
this must clearly evolve in a context of respect for human rights, equality,
dialogue, peace and tolerance.
1. Such as ASEAN (Association of South-East
Asian Nations) or ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
2. The capacity to ensure that civil society
is involved in public debate is an example thereof.
3. Poverty and exclusion affect 50% of the