Winds of freedom
Winds of freedom
A momentous chapter in the history of our century has opened. Suddenly, in vast areas where once there was silence voices can be heard and freedom is beckoning. In Autumn 1989 the bicentenary of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizens was commemorated in magnificent fashion: within a few short months, Europe witnessed the fall of Bastilles, the disappearance of watchtowers, the opening of frontiers and the reawakening of dormant enthusiasms. The reverberations of these events are being felt throughout the world, encouraging questioning and hopes which in turn herald new democratic harvests.
Such a historic moment bears some resemblance to the aftermath of the Second World War, when citadels of hatred and contempt were also swept away on a rising tide of optimism, and the future was bright with promise.
UNESCO and the other organizations of the United Nations were founded in an attempt to realize this tremendous promise. Unesco itself was entrusted with the mission of mobilizing the world's finest intellects in order to encourage the mutual exchange of knowledge and learning on a global scale and the acceptance of collective responsibility for a cultural and natural heritage which had become indivisible...
But for a long time there were only limited chances that this message would be heeded. The flame of hope lit when the fighting ended soon flickered out. New walls between peoples were erected, and new restraints were placed on their freedom. The last days of Colonialism were dangerously prolonged, and the Cold War set in, sustained by the arms race and the proliferating local and regional tensions. Four decades would pass, years of countless sacrifices, struggles and compromises, of tentatives initiatives and mistakes, of heroism and wisdom, before the outlines of a situation recalling that of 1945 began to emerge.
For many people today, the collapse of the Berlin wall symbolizes a time of renewed promise because it is a culmination of the quest for freedom, dignity and solidarity which has been undertaken on every continent in recent decades. It is the sign of a new maturity, which has been won at high cost by the people of both North and South and has led them to seek common cause rather than war, co-operation between independent nations rather than power struggles between the dominant and the dominated, democracy as a means to individual fulfillment and social development, culture as an essential feature of life.
The winds of freedom have begun to blow again, and with what force! They urge us to shoulder the formidable task of constructing democracy everywhere. It is a task of paramount importance and urgency. Now as in the past the keys to success are dialogue between cultures, the mobility of persons, ideas and creative works, the widest possible intellectual exchange. This time shall we get closer to realizing the great dream of universal citizenship?
Moments so rich in possibilities are rare. When they occur no effort should be spared to grasp them and make the fullest use of all they offer. It is thus more timely than ever for UNESCO to pursue wholeheartedly its mission as interpreter of the collective hopes of humanity. With this in mind, the Unesco Courier has asked some leading figures of today to identify and interpret for us some of the signposts pointing to the world of tomorrow.
Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO