Building peace in the minds of men and women

At UNESCO, Michaëlle Jean pleads in favour of reinforced multilateralism


© UNESCO/Cyril Bailleul

“UNESCO and La Francophonie stand first of all for the sharing of principles and values that serve the democratic ideals of dignity, equality and respect for human beings,” declared the Secretary-General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF), Michaëlle Jean, during her address on 20 April to UNESCO’s Executive Board.

Ms Jean spoke during an official visit to UNESCO on the occasion of the Organization’s 70th anniversary and recalled that “intellectual solidarity” and the “spirit of mutual assistance,” underpinned the creation of UNESCO.

Recalling her strong connection of long standing with the Organization, Michaëlle Jean talked of her work as UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti (2010-2014), in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the country. “I was really able to experience UNESCO’s ability to mobilize and coordinate support alongside Haiti’s government and civil society,” she said.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova for her part spoke of the strong links between UNESCO and La Francophonie and paid tribute to Michaëlle Jean’s action: “In these troubled times, as we face violence, intolerance, the erosion of universal values and growing social divides, we need a strong voice.” Michaëlle Jean certainly represents “one of the clearest and most audible voices there is,” Ms Bokova said.

The Secretary-General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie furthermore spoke in favour of reinforced multilateralism in a world where States are no longer able to tackle global challenges: “It is only within the framework of international organizations that this multilateralism can thrive, whether at the global, or regional level or—as is the case with La Francophonie—at the linguistic and cultural level.”

Ms Jean also recalled the efforts of UNESCO and the IOF to promote high standards for the sciences, education for all, particularly girls, and preserve cultural diversity. In this respect she voiced indignation at deliberate attacks on World Heritage and the destruction of ancient cultural properties.

“This is not a clash, or war, of civilizations, but a combat between two concepts of society on the global scale: one based on destruction, regression, obscurantism and hatred; the other on construction, progress, the legacy of the Age of Enlightenment, the insights of all cultures, and the spirit of fraternity,” Ms Jean said.

“This project,” she continued,” is shared by billions of people all over the world, regardless of their cultural background, religion, or the civilization they belong to […]. This is the project we must […] commit to day after day, to bring about, at long last, the fulfilment of our dream for a world with more justice, freedom, prosperity and peace. This is the dream which inspired, a few decades ago, the founders of both UNESCO and La Francophonie.”