My education and career have often brought me in close contact with the world’s “fruitful diversity of cultures” - the very cultures which unite under UNESCO’s roof, where the most diverse cultural expressions coexist. I have pursued comprehensive studies in Arab universities (in Egypt and Lebanon) as well as Western (in France and the United States), and was appointed ambassador to several countries in Europe and the Americas.
I consider myself a citizen of the world, and believe that a unifying and consensual spirit of understanding and harmony should drive my efforts aimed towards imparting UNESCO with a new momentum.
A diplomat from an Arab country leading this Organization for the first time in its history would be a most precious opportunity to reinforce multilateral cooperation, to remind us of the common destiny of Mankind, and to extend bridges between the Arab-Muslim civilization and the other civilizations of the world. Of all, it is UNESCO’s universal vocation that will move forward with new vigor.
Let us create the circumstances that will drive the organization into the future, that will bring a new breath to the necessary debate of ideas – UNESCO’s lifeblood – and assure it a renewed ease in its day-to-day operation.
THE FUTURE OF UNESCO
Toward a new momentum!
The world has changed tremendously since the inception of UNESCO, seventy years ago – a change that may have been even more brisk since the beginning of the 21st century.
The need for multiculturalism becomes evident, as does the rightful protection of cultural identities.
Millions of youth, of women, of people suffering on this earth gradually lose hope by virtue of deplorable living conditions in all regards. A broadening of tension zones and a multiplication of internal and external conflicts occur as a direct result. The shadow of these ills extends ceaselessly, often with tragic consequences: mass migrations, cultural isolationism and a surge of fanaticism and terrorism. We find ourselves facing a crisis of values threatening the world at large.
We will need to arm ourselves with the ideals and ethics of UNESCO – standards established on the shared principles of human dignity, social justice and mutual respect between nations. Today, Mankind has a critical need for this value system and for the expertise accrued throughout the decades by this esteemed organization. We intend to hasten the relaunching of these UNESCO initiatives, building upon the successes and the alternatives presented to us by men and women of science, intellectuals and researchers of diverse horizons.
Let us imagine this new momentum together!
Education first! For all!
Over seven billion inhabitants call Earth home. How many of them are illiterate? How many people are actually benefiting from proper education?
UNESCO is facing a responsibility of historical proportions. It is our duty to massively magnify its engagement towards education. It feels to me that this engagement is one of our raisons d’être, today more than ever.
I feel bolstered by all programs dedicated to provide and improve education worldwide. UNESCO in partnership with several countries and NGOs has already implemented many programs that command respect and due recognition. I am pleased that my country is among those that fund education on a global scale. Joint initiatives such as Educate a Child, Education Above All, and the World Innovation Summit in Education deserve to be supported and widened in order to bear additional fruits.
It is imperative to develop our action towards women’s education throughout the entire world, taking great care not to overlook the regions mired in ignorance, which breeds all types of fanaticism and impedes sustainable economic growth.
We will work together towards multiplying the opportunities for education in Africa and Asia, and to sustain UNESCO’s efforts in the struggle against the phenomenon of early school dropout – efforts which have already borne success in several Latin American countries.
In support of these goals, we intend to develop partnerships between states, institutions, and the world’s best universities to finance the education of millions of children of both genders in underprivileged areas, and to enhance the distribution of high-standard know-how wherever possible. We will leverage all available technological means to combat the educational wastelands plaguing the poorest regions of our planet.
Without education one cannot hope for dialogue, and without quality schooling, one cannot create a better quality of life for future generations.
SCIENCE AND UNESCO
This is a topic particularly dear to my heart, and it is of the utmost importance for UNESCO to continue interacting with hubs of contemporary expertise. This collective brain we call UNESCO needs men and women of knowledge to pursue its mission and continue gifting the sum of intellectual and scientific human progress to all. The international scientific community also needs UNESCO, as it represents none other than its collective conscience - an entity which supplies their independent researches with its ethical dimension.
We will favor assembling a panel of experts, while promoting academic exchanges, the networking of researchers and connections with the potential to yield concrete and immediate applications in all fields that could determine the future of Mankind (water management, taking care of the oceans, global climate change…).
Furthermore, we will do everything to make advanced scientific knowledge available to the greatest number, advocating for a more open and transparent science while being respectful of intellectual property.
It would be sensible to provide additional effort, steering scientific research towards preventing natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, and the fight against the deleterious effects of industrialization (notably climate change and potable water).
This is particularly important since it is a field in which UNESCO has already received notable praise with its Agenda for a global early warning system.
Since science and education must be at the service of sustainable development, I intend to support African and South-American countries, not to forget island nations. We will launch partnerships aimed at fostering progress in the realms of sustainability and the fight against natural disasters since these serve the interest of the international community as a whole. Developing island nations are numerous (Barbados, Cabo Verde, Cook, Fiji, Marshall, Mauritius, Palau, Solomon Islands…). In light of global warming, each and every one of them presents a unique case for sustainability tied to their particular vulnerabilities, and requires a specific partnership.
A treasure and a responsibility
World heritage is UNESCO’s recognized “brand”. Thanks to world heritage, UNESCO’s purview is widely known and understood.
Certain sites are hallowed locations in the history of the world. In principle, their inscription onto the UNESCO world heritage list allows for their preservation and visibility, as well as for them to be offered to the knowledge of the whole world. These sites, of course, transcend national identities and religious communities.
Today, everyone is aware that the world’s heritage is under threat of destruction in certain regions. Our fight will be to protect these sites, the monuments, manuscripts and works of art which constitute Mankind’s collective treasure.
UNESCO will have to not simply satisfy itself with protecting what must be, but will also have to be at the forefront of all workshops and work sites aimed at digitizing manuscripts, rebuilding libraries and destroyed monuments, and reviving these sites which speak to the memory of all mankind. It will have to fully engage in the protection of natural and linguistic diversity, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, as well as underwater heritage.
UNESCO is the appropriate and legitimate authority on the redaction of laws protecting human heritage in all its forms, and prosecuting those who harm these wonders.
Freedom of expression and free flow of information
The transition from the “culture of secret information” to the “culture of total transparency” requires colossal efforts. There is still much work to be done to develop international standards and regulations that should broaden civic participation in public life, the process of decision making, and the establishment of principles for transparency, good governance and the fight against corruption. There can be no development without creativity and renewal, and no creativity or renewal can exist without the free flow of information.
It is true that the digital revolution has torn down the old ramparts and opened the way to the construction of a universal civilization founded on new human underpinnings. In order to participate in it, we must make every effort towards defending freedoms, since freedom is the champion of creativity in all domains.
Infringing actions against the freedom of expression and access to information, attacks on journalists, creators and artists, both in conflict zones and elsewhere, remain too frequent – there are continual violations and attacks that often remain unpunished.
We should reflect upon the means to broaden the partnership with journalism schools, various public and private media, local and international civil society, experts and opinion-makers in order to bolster freedom of expression and the free flow of information and ideas.
An ideal place for the dialogue between civilizations
In a globalized world, interdependent but threatened by standardization and various lightning-quick threats, it is essential for UNESCO to be the permanent de-facto shelter for the dialogue of civilizations.
We will take great care to provide new momentum to the debate of ideas that has made UNESCO a global center for discussion and reflection since the time of its inception.
We will structure this opportunity for dialogue and debate within the organization. UNESCO is the ideal place to converse with one another leaving all preconceptions, conventions, political rigidity and misunderstandings at the door.
We will call upon all of the intellectual elites of the world to gather in the Headquarters’ host country, twice a year, around themes touching upon the dignity of the human person and multicultural paths. We will establish partnerships with the major halls of knowledge and the international media.
THE MEANS TO OUR AMBITIONS
Good governance and resource development
There is a general consensus about the fact that UNESCO faces a sharp financial crisis that requires creative solutions and innovative minds in dealing with it. Several countries from all continents donated generously to UNESCO all along its successful journey despite the obstacles and harsh times, allowing the international organization to achieve outstanding results in education, culture and science. In this regard, all Directors General and their staff made exceptional achievements that I respectfully hail.
However, UNESCO needs a new momentum marked by innovative and creative solutions adapted to our global environment and able to remediate and mitigate the shortcomings that impede good performance. I am very confident that once we communicate adequately the noble objectives of UNESCO at a large and targeted scale, the whole world will perceive its importance – today more than ever – in building peace in the minds of men and women. Then, donors, supporters and friends will respond and provide the necessary means allowing UNESCO to fulfill its ambitions at the service of Mankind.
An organization the size of UNESCO cannot deliver its best without good governance and high transparency.
It would be good practice to enhance coordination between the various administrative departments all the while implementing projects following a multidisciplinary approach and using modern project management tools. This would result in much greater cost efficiency and a better management of human and financial resources.
I am convinced that hundreds of institutions throughout the world share the same message and noble objectives with UNESCO, at the service of Mankind.
Communication in this area is of the utmost importance.
The good governance criteria should lead us to intensify the fieldwork. In this regard, we will broaden the debate with geographic groups while making regular visits to worksites to track the various projects and initiatives.
So one day we all can say:
UNESCO is important to me!
No one is disputing the nobility of UNESCO’s ideals. But let us be realistic: if we want these ideals to inspire our action, it is up to us to make them clearly known to all audiences, in all countries. Dynamic communication regarding UNESCO’s infinite potential is a prerequisite to the solidarity required for any financial mobilization.
It is of the utmost importance for UNESCO’s initiatives to be better recognized and appreciated by the younger generation, large corporations, charities and philanthropic associations and the like. This improved visibility applied to all of our activities will allow for more immersive interactivity, will attract more of these entities and will encourage fundraising.
We will dream up flagship projects for the years to come, based on the cornerstone themes of the organization (science, education, heritage).
We will spare no effort to stay in close contact with the United States and advocate for the nation to return under UNESCO’s roof.
All countries need UNESCO, but UNESCO needs all countries as well.
It’s from this base that we will aim to launch this new momentum.