22 June 2007 – The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today expressed concern over a threatened boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the British University and College Union, stressing that opportunities for peace and dialogue must be seized especially in conflict situations.
“Academics are responsible for gathering, processing and distributing information, which are tasks necessary for building stable, prosperous and democratic societies,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “We need to preserve the universality of research, exchange and learning, and support all joint academic activities that foster the sharing of experiences and expertise.”
Academic work and institutions are centred on the free flow of ideas and knowledge, which is the core of all intellectual activity, he added.
The request for the boycott is current being circulated to all local Union branches for discussion.
“If we are serious about the need to promote sustained peace, democracy and development, I believe that we have the moral responsibility to share knowledge and promote understanding,” said the UNESCO chief, noting that cooperation among the world’s university is a necessity, not a luxury.
“We must therefore continue to support all efforts within civil societies to nurture contacts in the spirit of respect and mutual understanding which characterize peaceful relations.”