Great Thinkers

Certain personalities have left their mark on their environment, country, continent, or even their century. Through their reflection, activism, will, or their perseverance, men and women have always expressed their ideas, but also their ambitions and their vision of their society and the future. This expression often responds to the desire to build a culture of peace and knowledge, and thus fulfils UNESCO's mandate.  

In this non-exhaustive mosaic, UNESCO looks back over the career paths and actions of personalities who have left their mark on UNESCO or the Organization’s fields of action.

Gisèle Halimi 

"Is woman part of nature, or of culture? But why the question, since she is fully half of humankind, the one known as the other half (since there has to be another half) as opposed to the half, the one that matters, the male half? The story of her debarment from responsability and the democratic process gives us our first answer to these questions." 

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Alain Mabanckou

"There are always ways to thwart a system, and it is sometimes by entering into the vocabulary of that system, by deconstructing it and demonstrating how empty it is, that a new way of thinking can emerge!"

A novelist, journalist, poet and academic, Alain Mabanckou is among the most recognized writers in French contemporary literature. His twelfth novel, Les Cigognes sont immortelles (The Storks are Immortal), was published in France in 2018.

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Nelly Minyersky

Born in 1929 in San Miguel de Tucumán, north-west Argentina, Nelly Minyersky is one of the most prominent women's rights activists in her country. She was the first woman president of the Asociación de Abogados de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Bar Association) and of the Tribunal de Disciplina del Colegio Público de Abogados de la Capital Federal (Disciplinary Tribunal of the Buenos Aires public Bar Association).

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Marcus Miller

“The story of slavery tells us that we can overcome. That the world can change for the better. And that we can do more than simply survive – we can soar!” 

Marcus Miller, renowned American jazz musician, composer and producer, was nominated UNESCO Artist for Peace and Spokesperson for the Slave Route Project, by UNESCO's Director-General, on 4 July 2013.

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Zeinab Badawi

"I see my hyphenated identity as an advantage that gives me a first-hand experience of both non-Western and European culture. I don’t see any inherent conflict. I just have the feeling that I have the best of both worlds!"

Zeinab Badawi was born in Sudan and moved to London at the age of 2. A prominent broadcast journalist, she  studied at Oxford University and the University of London. 

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Manu Dibango

"In music there is neither past nor future, only the present. I must compose the music of my time,  not yesterday's music. I have always been accused of "pinching". How can you create if you don't take from that which gives the age its substance? 

Born in Cameroon, Parisian by adoption, Manu Dibango is one of the first musicians to blend traditional African music and jazz. 

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Ouided Bouchamaoui

The first woman to be president of UTICA, Ouided Bouchamaoui was designated “Best Businesswoman in the Arab world” by the Deauville Partnership, launched at the G8 Summit in 2013. In 2014, she received the Business for Peace Award from the Oslo Business for Peace Foundation, and in 2015, was awarded the Golden Shield of Excellence by the Arab Organization for Social Responsibility.

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