The 2009 annual meeting of the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors was held on May 14, at UNESCO’ s Headquarters in Paris.

Among the Ambassadors who attended this year’s Meeting were: the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Mr. Valdas Adamkus, the First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, H.R.H. Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco, H.R.H. Princess Caroline of Hanover, H.R.H. Princess Firyal of Jordan, the former President of the Republic of Iceland, Mrs. Vigdi­s Finnbogadottir, Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, H.E. Sheikh Ghassan I. Shaker, Mrs. Ute-Henriette Ohoven, Mrs. Cristina Owen-Jones, Mrs. Kim Phuc Phan Thi, Mr. Patrick Baudry, Mr. Pierre Berge, Mrs. Claudia Cardinale, Mr. Cheick Modibo Diarra, Prof. Ikuo Hirayama, Mr. Vitaly Ignatenko, Prof. Jean Malaurie, Mrs. Susanna Rinaldi, Mr. Miguel Angel Estrella, Mr. Kitin Munoz, Mr. Madanjeet Singh and Mr. Zurab Tsereteli.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura opened the Meeting with a speech, first assessing the proceedings of UNESCO on the projects of 2008, and then he extensively referred to the programmes to be implemented in 2009.

As Mr Matsuura pointed out, throughout 2009 UNESCO is giving particular emphasis and priority to

humanitarian aid programmes in the regions affected by armed conflicts and to the dialogue among the conflicting peoples, aiming at the reconciliation and re-establishment of peace among them.

The Ambassadors presented their work of the previous year as well as their future programmes along with their proposals on the confrontation of the issues which were given a priority.

Presenting her action during 2008-2009, Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis referred to her effort to combine UNESCO priorities with the initiatives that she has taken throug the “Foundation for the Child and Family” and the “Association of Friends of Children with cancer ELPIDA” that she presides, as well as the activities of international NGOs, where she serves as a Board member.

“I believe”, she said, inter alia, “that the key in order to confront world problems, such as trafficking, the impacts of climate change, children protection from the paedophilia on the Internet and sexual abuse, poverty and youth unemployment, the protection of the world cultural heritage monuments, etc., is international collaboration of the humanitarian networks and organisations which are active in each country”.

Then, Mrs Vardinoyannis referred to the important conferences in which she participated, such as the International “Vienna Forum against human trafficking”, the “Universal call for climate change” addressed by the Global Humanitarian Forum from Geneva, the “4th International Youth Employment Summit on the elimination of poverty and youth unemployment”, organised by the YES campaign in Baku, under the auspices of the First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mehriban Aliyeva, the International scientific Workshop on the prevention of the risks of natural disasters at World Heritage Monuments organised in Ancient Olympia, the Cairo Conference with the topic “Crossing Borders to Protect the Children of the World” organised by ICMEC, the International Conference of Bahrain entitled “Human trafficking at the crossroads” organised by the “Suzanne Mubarak Women’ s International Peace Movement” under the auspices of H.H. Shaikha Sabeeka of Bahrain, etc.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis also informed the Ambassadors about the International Conference with the topic “Climate Change and Challenges for the Future Generations” which she organised in Athens in June 2009 under the auspices of UNESCO with the collaboration of the Chairman of the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (Nobel Peace Prize 2007) and Director-General of “The Energy and Resources Institute” (TERI), Dr Rajendra Pachauri, about the progress of the construction of the Oncological Hospital for Children in Athens, that will be completed in 2010, about the reconstruction of Makistos village which was destroyed by the fires of 2007, about the establishment of the “Centre for Hellenistic Studies” in the Library of Alexandria, that was founded thanks to the initiative and sponsoring of the “Vardinoyannis Foundation” and the “Alexandros S. Onassis Foundation”, as well as the official opening of the New Acropolis Museum which took place on 20 June 2009. She aloso reffered to the necessity of the return of the Partehnon Sculptures to Greece by saying: “I would like to underline the necessity of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, as they are an integral piece of this magnificent monument, which constitutes a world heritage symbol”.

Closing the session Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, whose term as Director-General of UNESCO ends on November 2009, thanked all the Ambassadors for their fruitful contribution to the work of the UNESCO and he awarded a Honorary Diploma to H.E. Sheikh Ghassan I. Shaker, Mr. Miguel Angel Estrella and Prof. Ikuo Hirayama, as they completed 20 years of term as Goodwill Ambassadors.

Addressing to Mrs. Vardinoyannis, he thanked her for everything she has done so far and particularly congratulated her for her initiative to organise the international conference for the impacts of climate change, in Athens, because, as he characteristically said: “this is one of the most vital problems which the global community faces today”.

After the end of Mr Matsuura speech, Princess Firyal offered Mr. Matsuura a commemorative symbolic gift -a silver disk with the signatures of all the Goodwill Ambassadors- as an expression of acknowledgement for his work by the Goodwill Ambassadors.