Guatemala City 17/01/2015- On the first day of her visit, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, participated in the launch of the Plan of Action of the National Policy for Violence Prevention, chaired by the Vice Minister of Violence Prevention and Crime, H. E. Mr. Arkel Benitez. The event was held in the framework of the United Nations Fund for Peace Consolidation. This plan is a top priority for Guatemala, due to the increase of gang related violence that has dramatically risen in the country in recent years. UNESCO, as well as other United Nations agencies in the country, has contributed to the plan within its fields of competence. The President of Guatemala declared 2015 as the “Year with No Violence”.
“Violence is the cancer of societies because it destroys lives and spreads fear”, said the Director-General. “It also builds fear of the future and prevents us from seeing each other as brothers, as sisters. We must do all we can to fight against violence, against all forms of racism from an early age”.
The Director-General underlined that prevention should be an essential part of any policy to surpass violence. “In this regard, prevention means inclusion, education and citizenship”, she declared. “After so many years of conflict, the Guatemalan people know better than others the need to integrate peace in the minds and in the hearts of every woman and man”.
On the same day, the Director-General congratulated the Vice President, H. E. Ms. Roxana Baldetti, for her appointment as the first woman holding the responsibility of Vice President of the country. The Director-General referred to UNESCO´s activities in the field of gender equality, girls´ education, and underlined the importance of cooperation with UNESCO.
The Director-General also took part in an event organized by the Minister of Culture and Sports, held at the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. “I came here to pay tribute to the history of your country, as well as to the memory of a great civilization that set up the basis of a culture that, after centuries, is still alive in Guatemala and in Central America”, said the Director-General.
“I also came here to recall the power of history and of culture to gather peoples as a force of dignity, of cohesion and dialogue, especially among young people and among all the communities of this multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual society”, she continued.
During the event, Ms. Rosa María Chan, Vice Minister of Culture and Heritage, informally announced that Guatemala would probably soon ratify the Convention on Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001).
The Ombudsman for Human Rights, Mr. Jorge Duque De León, gave the Director-General an overview of the situation in the country 18 year after the Peace Agreements. Ms. Regina Rivera, Vice Minister for Social Development, explained the Guatemalan social policy focused on children, youth and woman.
Finally, the Director-General also met with Ms. Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Prize Laureate and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. The Director-General said that UNESCO remains committed to the issue of indigenous people all over the world, and also recognized the long-standing work of Ms. Menchú in this area.
During her visit to the historical center of Guatemala City, nominated Latin American Capital of Culture for 2015, the Director-General envisaged to support a programme on creativity for business initiatives.