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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
31 October 2011



English text follows


Discours de la Directrice générale de l’UNESCO
Irina Bokova,
à l’occasion de l’examen du point
relatif à l’admission de la Palestine
comme Etat membre de l’UNESCO

Séance plénière de la 36è session de la Conférence générale de
l’UNESCO.

Paris, 31 octobre 2011



Madame la Présidente de la Conférence Générale,
Madame la Présidente du Conseil exécutif,
Excellences,
Mesdames, Messieurs,

Nous vivons un moment historique, et nous ressentons tous, en cet instant, la portée symbolique et l’importance de cette décision, pour le peuple palestinien et pour l’UNESCO.

Elle est le fruit de l’aspiration d’un peuple à rejoindre pleinement la famille des nations du monde, liées entre elles par une même ambition de paix, et le partage de valeurs communes.

Comme l’a souligné le Secrétaire général des Nations Unies, M. Ban Ki-moon, une solution à deux états, vivant en paix et en sécurité, se fait attendre depuis longtemps dans la région.

Je souhaite la bienvenue à la Palestine et je voudrais saisir cette occasion de rappeler que notre coopération remonte à de nombreuses années.

Je pense à notre action pour la formation des enseignants, ou pour assurer la scolarisation des étudiants dans la bande de Gaza.

Je pense également aux bourses d’études que nous finançons, aux ateliers de formation à la sécurité pour les journalistes.

Et je veux dire que l’UNESCO s’est fortement investie dans la préservation du patrimoine culturel et pour la mise en place d’un plan de gestion durable des sites de Tell Balata à Naplouse, du parc archéologique et des mosaïques de Qasr Hisham, et de l’Eglise de la Nativité et du musée Riwaya à Bethléem.

J’entends toujours, et plus fortement que jamais, l’appel du peuple palestinien à intensifier l’engagement de l'UNESCO et à renforcer son action dans ses domaines de compétence.

En réponse, je tiens à réaffirmer que je veillerai à poursuivre cette coopération, animée de la plus profonde conviction que la qualité du système éducatif, comme le dynamisme de la culture ou le pluralisme des médias sont les fondements solides de toute société.



Ladies and Gentlemen,

The admission of a new Member State is a mark of respect and confidence.

This must be an opportunity to strengthen the Organization and not weaken it, a chance for all to commit once again to the values we share and not to be divided.

Let me be frank. As Director-General, it is my responsibility to say that I am concerned by the potential challenges that may arise to the universality and financial stability of the Organization.

I am worried we may confront a situation that could erode UNESCO as a universal platform for dialogue. I am worried for the stability of its budget.

It is well-known that funding from our largest contributor, the United States, may be jeopardized.

I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not suffer unduly as a result.

I am thinking of those thousands of girls and women in Afghanistan, in Africa and around the world, who have learned to read and write, with the help of UNESCO.

I have in mind Khalida, a young Afghan woman from the Paktika Province, enrolled in a UNESCO training course, who said [I quote]:

My family was hesitant at first about me joining this programme. But I have learned many new techniques and realized that, as an Afghan woman, I can work together with men and service my community.”

Khalida benefits from UNESCO’s work to enhance literacy in Afghanistan.

I am thinking about the illiterate policemen in Kabul, in Kandahar and other cities, who are learning to read and write to better protect their citizens, thanks to us.

I am thinking of the Iraqi education satellite channel that supports learning to Iraqi girls and boys, including refugees and internally displaced persons.

I am thinking of the hundreds of journalists around the world who are at this very moment harassed, killed or imprisoned, because they stand by the truth -- UNESCO stands by them and speaks out for them.

I am thinking also about the stolen treasure of Benghazi, Libya, for which UNESCO was first to ring the alarm bell.

I am thinking of the millions of lives that may be saved by the Tsunami warning system we launched in the Indian Ocean on 12 October, in response to the 2004 natural disaster.

At this time, I know these thoughts are also on your mind.

The fabric of our societies can be easily torn and is long to mend. I am saddened by the possible loss of momentum and energy in UNESCO.

I cannot imagine we would let these women and men down.

UNESCO’s work is too important to be jeopardized.

Our Organization was created sixty six years ago to ensure that education, the sciences, culture and communication bring people together and foster a culture of peace.
This is our role as a specialized agency of the United Nations.

We are committed to taking our vital mandate forward. I appeal to you all to upkeep UNESCO’s ability to act.

In welcoming once again Palestine to the UNESCO family, let me state clearly that we need each and every member of this Organization to be fully engaged.


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