The situation in Iraq, the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and the Conference on Small Island Developing States, recently held in Apia: These three subjects were at the heart of the speech delivered on September 11 by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova during an information meeting with the Permanent Delegations. Together they illustrate UNESCO’s efforts to better focus the Organization’s work, improve the efficiency of its programs on the field, and highlight UNESCO’s specific contribution within the United Nations system.
In reference to the tragic situation in Iraq, the Director-General said that the country is facing a crisis in education, in addition to an unparalleled humanitarian tragedy. On the eve of the new school year, the country has 1.5 million displaced people, 550,000 of whom are school-age children.
Deeply concerned by the situation, the Director-General requested that every effort be made to ensure that all children can return to school, as soon as possible. "This is a human rights issue, a development issue and a security issue", she said.
If the dramatic situation in the country requires an urgent response, UNESCO must also foresee a longer term action in the fields of education and also culture. In this regard, the Director-General recalled the Organization’s actions in fighting the illicit trafficking of works of art and in protecting Iraqi heritage, notably including an expert meeting held on 17 July which resulted in an Emergency Response Plan for the Safeguarding of Iraqi’s Cultural Heritage.
With regard to the post-2015 development program, the Director-General called for an "ambitious, inclusive and universal" agenda. She underscored the Organization’s unique contribution in the fight against poverty, in sustainable development and in building a lasting peace.
On the eve of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, she expressed her pleasure that the final document of the Open-Ended Working Group, which is in charge of defining goals for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, reflects UNESCO’s contribution in its various fields of expertise.
The inclusion of science in this new agenda – whereas it was absent from the Millennium Development – is proof . The Open-Ended Working Group also approved the first set of recommendations made to United Nations Secretary-General by the UN Scientific Advisory Body, whose secretariat is hosted by UNESCO. The Organization’s positions on water resources, biodiversity and the ocean were also taken into account.
In the coming months, several major events will be an opportunity for UNESCO to make its voice heard: the 3rd International Conference on financing the Development in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in July 2015; the World Education Forum in Incheon (Republic of Korea) in May 2015; Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai (Japan) in March 2015 (Japan); and the World Water Forum in the Republic of Korea, 2015.
Finally, the Director-General reported on UNESCO’s active participation at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) held in Apia (Samoa) from 1 to 4 September. Twenty years after the first plan for the sustainable development of small islands was adopted in Barbados, this conference was an opportunity to take stock of the progress made, and challenges faced by small islands.
It helped to highlight the work of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission – especially in early tsunami warning – and the essential role of education for sustainable development.
The final document adopted at the end of the conference, the path of Samoa or Samoa Pathway – establishes an inventory of actions that can promote sustainable development in small islands. It is also a stepping stone to major international events that include the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Aichi-Nagoya (Japan) in November or the Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris next year.