Combating illiteracy, developing the dialogue among civilizations and the sustainable growth of the planet, with particular emphasis on climate change, have been set as the UNESCO priorities for 2008.

UNESCO planning for annual programmes can only be in connection to the vital problems that the global community faces”, said the Director-General, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, declaring the beginning of the annual meeting of the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors, whic held on 19 May 2008. “For 2008, we believe that UNESCO owes particular attention and priority to the EDUCATION FOR ALL programme, which aims at combating illiteracy around the planet, promoting programmes for the development of dialogue among civilizations, and applying effective programmes for the sustainable growth of the planet with emphasis on the change of climate, in the framework of the International Year for Planet Earth, as 2008 was declared as such”.

Mr. Matsuura also referred to other important initiatives of UNESCO, such as the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2008) on 10 December 2008, as well as the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy (2009), which took place at UNESCO Headquarters on the 15th and 16th of January 2009 along with an important event organisedon the occasion ofthe 400th anniversary since the first use of telescope by Galileo.

The presentation of the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors’€™ work during the previous year followed along their proposals on the topics set as a priority by UNESCO.

The presentation of Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis was commented for her numerous and high objective activities. In her speech, Mrs Vardinoyannis announced, inter alia, the organisation of the “International Workshop in Ancient Olympia on the prevention of the risks of natural disasters at World Heritage Monuments”, following fires that threatened Ancient Olympia last summer. She also pointed out the prompt response of Mr. Matsuura and UNESCO during those critical days. She further announced the organisation of the International Conference in Athens, in 2009, on climate change and future generations. She also referred to the efforts of UNESCO for the return of cultural monuments to the countries of their origin, such as the Parthenon Marbles, and informed the Ambassadors about the establishment of the Centre for Hellenistic Studies in the Library of Alexandria, as well as the organisation of 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens.

Apart from an official dinner, the Goodwill Ambassadors’ meeting also included a series of very interesting artistic events and magnificent event with traditional music and dances from all over the world, dedicated to the World Day for Cultural Diversity, that was celebrated by UNESCO on the 21st of May.

The event was sponsored by Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis.

On the occasion of this event, Mrs. Vardinoyannis stated: “The World Day for Cultural Diversity Development reminds us that the dialogue among different cultures and the respect to the truths of each population, are the basic conditions for the establishment of peace in the world. Hence, humanity acquires the essential wisdom in order to head to a new environment and face the contemporary challenges”.