On 7 March, during her visit to Quebec, the Director-General met with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State for La Francophonie of Canada, Steven Blaney.
Throughout her mission, the Director-General was accompanied by Ambassador J.P. Blackburn, Permanent representative of Canada to UNESCO and Michele Stanton-Jean, Representative of the Quebec government in the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO.
Minister Blaney reaffirmed Canada's strong support to UNESCO and its priorities, underlining its work in the field of education and for protecting and promoting cultural diversity. The Minister expressed the Government's appreciation of the Director-General's efforts to reform the Organization, and to strengthen its impact and delivery. HE Mr Blaney underlined the importance of UNESCO's work to promote gender equality, and noted also the Canadian Government's new special envoy to support religious freedom across the world.
The Director-General thanked the Minister for the depth of Canada's engagement with taking forward UNESCO's mission and objectives. She highlighted the importance of cultural dialogue and the need to protect cultural diversity in the context of respect for universal human rights. She discussed also the need to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression across the world -- namely by enhancing the safety of journalists, especially women media workers. Irina Bokova underlined also the need to step up work to protect humanity's shared heritage wherever it is threatened and UNESCO's role in safeguarding the cultural heritage of Mali.
On 7 March 2013, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, met with the Premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois.
The Premier welcomed the Director-General to the city of Quebec and thanked her for the efforts to advance UNESCO's mandate despite difficult financial circumstances. She underlined the rising importance of UNESCO's work in promoting cooperation in education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. The Premier highlighted the need for greater training and vocational education, notably for Africa, for which she is developing a consolidated policy.
The importance of promoting cultural diversity was underlined firmly in the course of the discussion, where the Director-General presented UNESCO's work in Mali. Irina Bokova also praised the actions of Michaelle Jean, as UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti. The Director-General thanked the Premier for her engagement and Quebec's commitment to taking forward the priorities of UNESCO.
On the same day, the Director-General visited Université Laval, the first and most prestigious institution in North America to offer higher education in French.
She met with the Rector, Denis Brière, and gave a lecture on campus before receiving a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University, in the presence of the Rector, the Secretary General of the University, Monique Richer, and before an auditorium packed with professors and students.
“By awarding this Honorary Doctorate to Madam Bokova, the University recognizes her outstanding action for quality education for all,” said the Rector of the University. “Her deep commitment to promote the creation of networks for scientific cooperation as a means to accelerate the sharing of ideas and culture as a tool for reconciliation between nations deserves the highest of honors”.
“Quebec has proven its foresight in investing at a very early stage in knowledge and science to ensure its development. Université Laval was created as early as 1663 and the Francophone Association for Knowledge (ACFAS) in 1923 -- we need the same visionary spirit today and we must invest in the sciences to meet the challenges of peace and sustainable development”.
The Director-General highlighted the importance of UNESCO’s role to help develop human potential through education, the sciences, cultures and access to information. She underlined the need more than ever to build knowledge societies, a project UNESCO has championed since the first World Summit on the Information Society 10 years ago.
“Knowledge societies give individuals the means to acquire information to improve their livelihoods and to make their own choices,” said the Director-General.
“Building knowledge societies is a social challenge that requires investing not only in infrastructures but also in human capital”.
Knowledge societies build on the principles of freedom of expression, universal access to information, the sciences, and respect for cultural diversity and quality education for all.