“To bend a bamboo, start when it's still a shoot.’’ It is with this Malaysian saying that the Director-General called upon students and faculty at the University of Malaya to join in crafting a new humanism for the century ahead and to shape the direction of their societies and economies, on 21 May, the first day of her official visit to Malaysia.
Irina Bokova advocated for a ‘’new vision of development where every woman and man feels a sense of responsibility towards others and for the safeguarding of our planet. A new humanism must contribute to relations between all regions in a world where all societies are connected.’’
She affirmed that education is the most powerful way to integrate all dimensions of Malaysia's Vision 20\20 vision, an ambitious agenda to foster inclusive and equitable development, as the basis for higher growth.
Stressing that ‘we need a new humanism rooted in the respect of human dignity, fundamental human rights and the diversity of cultures," the Director-General underlined the responsibility we have to promote and preserve cultural heritage in all its forms as a means to ensure respectful and peaceful cultural exchanges in an increasingly interconnected world. "Those who know and value their own culture and history are better equipped to be open and tolerant toward other cultures," she said.
South-South cooperation is another hallmark of the new development paradigm. The Director-General praised Malaysia's determination to share its experience with its neighbours, in particular through its UNESCO Category 2 science centres and the UNESCO-Malaysia Cooperation Programme, established this year.
This spirit of solidarity is also embodied in the UNESCO Club founded at the University of Malaya in 2007. Mrs Bokova signed a certificate formalizing the creation of the Malaya University UNESCO Club, that now brings together all UNESCO clubs across the country. Affirming that the Clubs were partners in peace and dialogue with UNESCO, students briefed Mrs Bokova about some of their activities, ranging from celebrations of World Philosophy Day, marking Earth Hour to organizing cultural exchange programmes.
The Director-General thanked the students for their commitment, stressing the importance of social inclusion and cultural dialogue for building peace in the globalized era.
The University of Malaya counts some 30,000 students and some 2,200 academic staff. The Director-General was welcomed by the University's Vice Chancellor and the Director of its Center for Civilizational Dialogue.