Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris on 28 October 2011

28.10.2011 - Speech

Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova,
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Sixty years ago, Germany became a member of UNESCO. Since then, we have put both scientific expertise and significant intellectual and financial resources towards UNESCO’s global mission in almost all sectors, budgetary and extrabudgetary, through experts, government, and civil society. Today we are the third largest contributor.

UNESCO has a good reputation in Germany. As a country of ideas, a country with a rich cultural and scientific tradition, we want to continue to support and actively help guide UNESCO’s important work.

However, we do not have an eye only for what we can contribute in this multilateral forum of UNESCO. We are also open to learning through global exchange. Political or geographical boundaries are increasingly losing significance: African questions concern the European continent as directly as those of Latin America or Asia. Climate change is a challenge that can only be met globally. Germany has already formed long-standing friendships with new partners. We must seize the opportunities presented by a globalized, constantly changing world.

That we are able to do this within the framework of UNESCO can be seen in how intensively German institutions are networked into almost all its programmes and projects. A glance at the German World Heritage sites, biosphere reserves, UNESCO-Associated Schools and UNESCO Chairs at institutions of higher learning as well as inscriptions in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register makes clear that the initiatives developed by UNESCO have enjoyed a productive reception in Germany.

The pace of change today is extreme. We are experiencing a period of upheaval: financial and economical crises affect us; we perceive the effects of environmental and climate change, which threatens to wash whole countries from the map and become a security policy challenge; resource scarcity and poverty put us to the test. The question of water is as strategically important today as the question of energy. Only if we in the United Nations are able to act can we shape these global changes. We can only solve problems, if the world community stands together. This world community must also understand itself to be a community of common values.

A world of cooperation in a spirit of partnership is the best basis for peace, security, development, and prosperity. Education, science, culture, and communication – the core areas of UNESCO’s work – are essential to this. It will be necessary for UNESCO to work more efficiently and make its relevance easier to recognize. I am happy that by including education in the Millennium Development Goals significant progress could be achieved. A key demand of UNESCO’s constitution cannot be repeated often enough: “That a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.”

Knowledge and education are increasingly becoming the decisive resources for prosperity and development. We must invest in the creativity of all people to be able to solve the world’s urgent problems. In the age of globalization, the quality of educational systems is of crucial importance.

Education is our most important resource for a peaceful world. In light of the crisis of the euro, we should not be afraid to invest more in education. I share the opinion of the American statesman, Benjamin Franklin: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” The German Government is investing 12 million euro more in education and research over four years despite all austerity measures.

The concept of education must be understood in a broad and innovative way: not only Education for All, schools and universities, but also the concepts of Education for Sustainable Development, Technical and Vocational Education and Training, and Lifelong Learning are gaining in importance. UNESCO has been very committed to dealing with these topics, and also in this we want to give it our long-term support. We are very happy that with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg and the International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Bonn we have two important institutions located in Germany.

Germany works actively with UNESCO to implement the demands to secure peace. The German Government has been elected to the Executive Board multiple times. For the current General Conference it is Vice-President. This is a clear sign of the trust that other member states place in our work at UNESCO. For the next election period we will withdraw from the Executive Board in order to focus our energy on our candidacy for the World Heritage Committee. There, we very much hope that we can make an even greater contribution with our expertise!

Not only in recent years have we seen that politics also needs wisdom and discipline to achieve important goals with limited means. In such a changing world, even organizations such as UNESCO must examine their structures and actions more critically and must continue to develop. Clear priorities, modern processes, and an uncompromising focus on results are part of that. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has written calling on all UN Organizations to look for means of saving. That is not an easy task.

You, Director-General, have nevertheless made your resolve to reform UNESCO clear. You have supported a more efficient division of labour with other UN Organizations. For that, you deserve our recognition. I want to encourage you to make progress in implementing the reforms that have been started. Germany wants a strong UNESCO that makes an influential contribution to shaping globalization in a humane way.

Germany has been and will remain a reliable and constructive partner for UNESCO. We will continue to do our part so that UNESCO can fulfill its important task in the UN system.

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