Building peace in the minds of men and women

Irina Bokova speaks of the raison d’être of UNESCO at the University of Tehran

On the first day of her visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Director-General gave a speech the country’s oldest and most prestigious university on the theme “the role and raison d’être of UNESCO in contemporary societies”.

“In these complex and challenging times, it is important to review and to renew the institutions we have built to foster peace and development, in order to better understand where to strengthen and what to change,” she said. 

The Director-General went on to emphasize the “soft power” the world needs today “to place education, the sciences, culture, communication and information at the forefront of sustainable development”.

“Sustainability has deeper roots than economic assets,” she argued. “It is about enhancing the rights and dignity of every woman and man.”

“Our core task is to make the most of the potential of each and every individual”, and “this is reason why UNESCO is important today”, she stated.

She went on to emphasize that across the world young people are seeking skills and opportunities for decent jobs, for greater engagement in shaping their societies, "we need better universities as higher education institutions play a critical role in shaping our societies."

Under the skillful moderation of Ambassador Ahmad Jalali, who stressed the need "to be able to create and share knowledge together if we want to be able to live together," an audience of over sixty professors and members of the academic corpus of the university engaged in an interactive debate with the Director-General. Women empowerment, access to education, the development of scientific research were among the themes discussed as being particularly critical to sustaining the transformative power of societies.

Ambassador Jalali recalled the role of the great Persian thinkers, philosophers and poets, such as Rumi and Avicenna in advancing humanistic concepts that have enriched the world's intellectual development.