Prominent persons from all over the world attended the 12th Annual Meeting of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors, which took place in Paris, on 16 October 2012, at the UNESCO’ s headquarters. This year, for the first time, the Goodwill Ambassadors were joined by Artists for Peace, Champions for Sport and Special Envoys for Education; all the categories of UNESCO emissaries.

The Meeting’’s proceedings were opened by UNESCO Director-General Mrs Irina Bokova, who talked in detail about the programmes the international organization has put into implementation in the new year. As Mrs. Bokova noted, in 2013 UNESCO will give priority to programmes for promoting the Culture of Peace, Sustainable Development and Education for All.

The Goodwill Ambassadors presented their actions over the past year. Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis referred to the work carried out by the ELPIDA Association and the “Foundation for the Child and the Family,” to the major new vision of ELPIDA for the creation of a “Bone Marrow Donor Bank” to be opened within 2013, to the collaborations she had, and to the humanitarian work for relieving vulnerable groups and supporting schools in Greece.

Ambassadors from countries in a state of war issued a dramatic call for ceasefire and the protection of freedom of expression.

A main priority set by all the Ambassadors was to assist UNESCO and its Member States to invest in youth education and skills, which are a prerequisite for a better life; an effort, it was noted, that will contribute to fighting poverty and unemployment, as well as to confronting inequalities that are growing due to the global crisis.

The decisions taken by the ambassadors were based on the UNESCO Education for All – Global Monitoring Report 2012, which was presented before the meeting by the former UK Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr Gordon Brown. The Education Ministers of France and South Africa, as well as experts and young representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations participated in the presentation.

It was underscored that 61 million children throughout the world do not go to school, while 200 million young people need a second chance at education. The experts’ estimate that every 1 dollar invested in education and skills for youth in developing countries yields 10-15 dollars in economic growth caused a sensation. Some 171 million people would be able to escape poverty if all the students in poor countries had basic reading skills.

The Report calls on donors to support education to ensure the preparation of young people for employment. It is estimated that it would cost 8 billion dollars – less than half the cost of the major international sporting events – to send all young people to high school in poor countries so that they could learn basic skills and be able to work.

Following the Meeting, Mrs. Vardinoyannis stated: ““It is a main concern of UNESCO, as we draw nearer to 2015, to the deadline of the UN Millennium Development Goals, – to intensify efforts so that as many children as possible can go to school. The efforts concern all countries, as the global crisis is hitting many of the humanitarian and educational programmes. What we all concluded was that without schools there is no hope. And that is why we will fight for hope, for children’’s future”.”

On the occasion of the meeting, a ceremony was held for the appointment of a new Goodwill Ambassador, Mr Nasser D. Khalili, Islamic art collector.

The Ambassadors in attendance at the meeting included the First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, former president of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadottir, HRH Princess Firyal of Jordan, actress Claudia Cardinale, French composer Jean-Michel Jarre, Turkish composer Zulfu Livaneli, artist Comtesse Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, Brazilian entrepreneur and Chairman of the ABC Group, Nizan Guanaes, and the first European scientist who reached the North Pole, Professor Jean Malaurie.