United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, at UNESCO reaffirms U.S. commitment to the Organization

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US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova
© UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo
18 October 2015

In unequivocal terms, Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the longstanding relationship and value of UNESCO as a partner of the United States in building peace, in the context of the 197th session of the Executive Board, under the Chairmanship of H.E. Mr Mohamed Sameh Amr.

Following a bilateral meeting between the Secretary of State and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, Secretary Kerry addressed Members of the Executive Board, and the President of the General Conference of UNESCO, H.E. Mr. Hao Ping, saying, “at this moment, the mandate of UNESCO has never been more in need. This is a critical time for UNESCO’s mission, a time to build peace in the minds of men and women. This is why the U.S. so greatly values UNESCO as a platform for cooperation”.

Director-General Irina Bokova underscored the longstanding and ever deepening cooperation between UNESCO and the United States. “UNESCO was born in London, it is based in Paris, and it bears the deep imprint of the United States,” said the Director-General. “I am convinced UNESCO has never mattered more for the United States – or the United States for UNESCO”.

The Director-General highlighted the wide range of shared objectives taken forward by UNESCO and the United States – including UNESCO’s action to advance literacy and education, fight violent extremism, foster global citizenship, counter racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism through education, safeguard shared cultural heritage, promote freedom of expression and ocean sustainability.

She thanked the United States and in particular Ms. Crystal Nix-Hines, U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO for the deepening of the United States' engagement and expressed special gratitude to Secretary of State Kerry for his vision and support.

The Secretary of State thanked the Director-General for her leadership and expressed appreciation for her eloquent intervention at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, hosted by President Obama during the UN General Assembly in New York. He announced that UNESCO, together with the U.S. and other partners will organize the first-ever conference on “Preventing Violent Extremism through Education” at UNESCO’s General Conference on 6 November. “Education is a hundred times more important than it has ever been before. This is UNESCO’s mission, this is the mission for all of us,” stressed the Secretary of State.

Referring to UNESCO’s efforts with regard to protecting freedom of expression, Secretary Kerry said this is a shared priority between UNESCO and the U.S. “We fully support UNESCO’s implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”.

Mr Kerry was also very grateful for UNESCO’s efforts to promote sustainable environmental practices, especially as it relates to the Ocean.

Addressing the issue of the restrictions on the U.S. contribution to UNESCO, he said, “President Obama and I are fully committed to working with the American Congress in order to do all that we can to re-establish full U.S. financing, contributing to the success of the Organization”.