The 2011 Annual Meeting of the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors took place on September 12 2011, at the UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris. Focus was turned to the countries afflicted by war and natural disasters, as well as the repercussions of the world economic crisis.
Those who joined the Meeting included: the First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva, HRH Princess Firyal of Jordan, the former President of Lithuania Mr Valdas Adamkus, the former President of Iceland Mrs Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, the French composer Jean-Michel Jarre, the American actor Forest Whitaker, the Italian architect Renzo Piano, Mrs Ute-Henriette Ohoven, Mrs Cristina Owen-Jones, Mrs Kim Phuc Phan Thi, Mr Vitaly Ignatenko, Prof Jean Malaurie, Mr Zurab Tsereteli, Mrs Ivonne A-Baki, Mr Pierre Berge, Mr Ivry Gitlis, Mrs Bahia Hariri, Mr Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, Mrs Suzana Rinaldi and Mr Yazid Sabeg.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mrs Irina Bokova opened the meeting with a speech, which first gave an assessment of UNESCO’’s achievements during 2010, and reported thoroughly on the projects which will take place in the new year. Mrs Bokova, explained that in 2011 UNESCO will prioritise with emphasis on:

Programmes of humanitarian help in the countries that have been affected by war conflicts and natural disasters;

Programmes of gender equality;

The continuation and growth of “”Education For All”” programme;

The strategy for the young people of Africa and the new means of communication and social networking, aw reported at the 7th Youth Forum.

The Goodwill Ambassadors presented their actions for the preceding year and they explicitly discussed proposals in implementing programmes to be prioritised by the UNESCO.

Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis pointed out the immediate and increasing needs for protection of women and children in the countries that have been affected by wars: “”We cannot,” she said, “build peaceful societies overnight; we are however obliged to protect the women and children who live in violent societies. We should all stand side by side, to mobilise each institution and mechanism that can help them. The “International Institute for Peace Studies” in the Library of Alexandria, which I support, could contribute to this aim through its research and network””.

Regarding the promotion of “”Education for All”” programme, Mrs Vardinoyannis underlined: “According to “Education for All – Global Monitoring Report 2011”, in a lot of countries, as a result of the war conflicts, instead of public finance going to education, it is being given to serve military requirements. Even if it is a very difficult undertaking, I believe that UNESCO ought to try put pressure on the governments to increase the funding allocated to education and to decrease that used for funding military equipment. And all of us, Goodwill Ambassadors, should contribute to this effort, while at the same time undertake initiatives to influence public opinion and organise charitable events, the income of which will be donated to UNESCO to assist with the continuation of the “”Education For All” programme”. Even if the international community could collect the 16 billion dollars needed for the completion of this programme, i.e. all children of the world attending primary schools, there should be a special international institution – even if this is within UNESCO – in order to coordinate, watch and regulate the investment of this money so that it is channelled exclusively for educational aims in each corner of the globe, thus eliminating any public doubt as to the final destination of this money””.

Closing her speech, Mrs Vardinoyiannis spoke with particular emphasis about the delay of implementation of the humanitarian programmes due to the world economic crisis: ““The world economic crisis does not only affect the developing but also the developed countries. Every day we all witness the social agitation and insecurity, as much in Europe as in America, as well as criminal, violent, racist, xenophobic acts which cause fear and isolation in people’’s hearts. In the developed societies, the humanitarian campaigns could have been sounder if the people were not so much concerned for their personal problems, a fact that makes them indifferent for the problems of the developing countries. The reason why the UN Millennium Development Goals have not yet been implemented is not only the lack of funding but also it is the lack of social and, in extension, political will. Because if there is no social pressure exerted, the governments can overlook certain issues. In order the developed countries to support the developing, it is required that the developed ones are able to socially support themselves in the first place. The UNESCO programmes of basic education as well as the values and principles that they imply can help the children, the future citizens of the world, develop different ideas and behaviours, while at the same time contribute to the sensitization of their parents. UNESCO could possible ask the governments of its member states to establish a course in the primary schools exclusive concerning the teaching of the UNESCO principles. This course could be an introduction to important values such as peace, friendship, respect to the nature, cultural heritage, cultural differences of populations. It is very probable that the Ministries of Education of the UNESCO member states agree on the establishment of a common course in the schools on the humanitarian values. But also, we, as Goodwill Ambassadors, could visit the schools during this course and speak to the children, the teachers and parents about the UNESCO’s ideals””.

After the completion of the Meeting Mrs Vardinoyannis stated: “’We should not allow the world economic crisis to be the cause or the alibi for the governments of the developed countries to place the humanitarian issues as a second priority. The economic crisis does not imply that we are allowed to be less human””.