President PARK Geun-hye announces initiatives to widen partnership with UNESCO during visit to the Organization’s Headquarters

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© UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo

President Park Geun-hye today presented a range of projects that will be carried out in cooperation with UNESCO during an official visit to the Organization’s Headquarters, the first such visit by a Head of State of the Republic of Korea.

The President spoke to Permanent Delegates of UNESCO Member States and members of the diplomatic community on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Organization, which was established in the year that saw the Republic of Korea gain independence.

President Park attributed much of the “Miracle on the Han River,” her country’s rapid development over the past seven decades, to UNESCO’s early support in developing the education system of the Republic of Korea.

“UNESCO has indeed evolved into an inclusive international organization that fortifies the overall intellectual fabric of humanity, thus reinforcing the defences of peace in our minds,” said the President before outlining plans to reinforce cooperation with the Organization.

President Park announced that the Republic of Korea will partner with UNESCO in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “The global economy still remains mired in slow growth, high unemployment and suffers from income inequality. What is more, climate change and resource depletion have tremendous implications for the survival of humanity, and thus call for bold transformations to existing paradigms for economic and social development,” she said.

The President announced plans to expand the partnership with UNESCO for global citizenship education through UNESCO’s Asia Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding in Seoul to develop school curricula and disseminate best practices.

“There is no better way to construct the defences of peace, that will stand the test of time, than to sow in the minds of children in conflict zones the seeds of reconciliation over hatred, dialogue over violence, and hope over despair. I believe the answer lies in none other than 'education', and that accordingly, global citizenship education must be disseminated and strengthened further,” said President Park as she called on the international community to find fundamental solutions to tackle violent extremism, cultural and religious strife.

Other areas in which the Republic of Korea will work in closer concert with UNESCO include the “Better Life for Girls” Initiative to improve access to education and healthcare services in developing countries; the second phase of the Better Education for Africa Rising project that will be broadened to ten countries; strengthening information and communication technologies for education innovation in three African nations; a 15-nation initiative to provide support in science, technology and innovation, a plan to establish an International Centre for Water Security and Sustainable Management; and activities to deepen cooperation in the realm of culture and through cultural industries. She said that the Korean government is building a Culture Creation Convergence Belt to turn creative cultural content into new engines of growth.

Turning to the division of the Korean Peninsula, the President declared, “I am seeking to resolve the question of peace on the Korean Peninsula through the peaceful reunification of the two Koreas. […] To bring us closer to peaceful reunification, I propose that we open three corridors of cooperation between the South and the North that are oriented to the environment, people's livelihood and culture. The cultural corridor, in particular, will become a focal point for restoring a sense of common identity as one people,” she said.

“The international community must step up to the plate and tear down the barriers that divide us and bring our minds together to achieve sustainable, mutually-beneficial development. […] Korea will always stand with UNESCO as a reliable companion in its noble quest to further uphold human value and dignity and lay the foundation for lasting peace,” the President concluded.

During the visit, the President had bilateral talks with the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to streamline and focus cooperation between UNESCO and the Republic of Korea, and to establish an International Centre of Martial Arts for Youth Development and Engagement under the auspices of UNESCO.

The Director-General of UNESCO expressed profound appreciation for the Republic of Korea’s commitment to support UNESCO and said that “this cooperation is essential to bring forward the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] and lay the foundation of a more inclusive society for sustainable development and a healthy planet. This is the energy we want to bring to this week’s discussions at COP21, which are decisive for the future of our planet and our societies.”