Inaugural Address at 194th session of UNESCO Executive Board, Paris, France
Dr Kris Rampersad, Trinidad and Tobago Representative on UNESCO Executive Board 2013-2017 at the 194th Session of the UNESCO Executive, Paris, April 2014
Greetings on behalf of the Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago who welcome, admire, respect and support the Director General’s initiatives to reform and restructure UNESCO and her intensive drive to use soft diplomacy which we believe is crucial to significantly impact the post-2015 agenda as we transition from priorities of the Millennium Development Goals and consolidate the gains of them through more focussed Sustainable Development Goals.
Trinidad and Tobago pledges its commitment to engaging in this process of futuring the operations of UNESCO to remain relevant and responsive to a global environment of dynamic and effervescent change. It is an environment that is demanding greater inclusivity. It is placing increasing pressure for erasure of barriers of geography, age, ethnicity, gender, cultures and other sectoral interests, and in utilising the tools placed at our disposal to access our accumulate knowledge and technologies towards eroding these superficial barriers.
In this context, we believe that the work of UNESCO remains significant and relevant and that UNESCO is indeed the institution best positioned to consolidate the gains of the past towards carving responsive and relevant paths to progress that address the needs of generations to come. Foremost among these seems to be combating the ennui and disenchantment at failed and failing macro political, institutional and bureaucratic formulas, systems and structures in favour of more glocally (global-local) focussed initiatives that emphasis and value empowerment of individuals, communities and civil society to explore their full potential.
Certainly there is much more that needs to be done to particularly better utilise new technologies in making our work here at UNESCO more effective and more relevant.
We reiterate the call made by the Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Education to the Director General at the last General Assembly, that UNESCO, along with its focus on other disadvantaged groups as women and children in general, take a lead role in championing actions throughout the United Nations system that would directly impact and bring in to the mainstream the estimated 30 percent of the global population of special needs children who are still severely marginalised and handicapped by current existing systems in education, culture, science and information.
We support our colleagues speaking on behalf of strengthening the culture initiatives having regard to the direct benefits this is having from the work done in our societies where for many the main sources of income and survival reside in leveraging their talents and skills as the counter to the haemorrhaging of national resources, by exploitative, corrupt and ineffective systems and practices. We endorse the culture-centred development drive that recognises not just intercultural linkages but also cross sectoral links.
At the same time, we particularly commend the drive to synergise and harmonise sustainable actions in biocultural diversity and acknowledgement of the intrinsic interplay between physical, mental and emotional cultural spaces and the potential to either erode, or energise these through use of scientific understanding and technologies.
In this regard, we believe compilations as the 2013 Creative Economy Report could achieve greater depth were it to more fully explore the cross-sectoral cost-benefit analysis of the co-relation between the creative and cultural sectors and other out-of- the-box-areas - as the economic value of social and culturally inclusive practices on political stability for instance – an area of analysis that is sadly lacking and could provide the data, if not ammunition, needed by UNESCO in pursuit of its motto of building peace in the minds of men and women.
As such, we look forward to deepening of UNESCO’s intersectoral increasing drive to promote multisectoral partnerships, and collaborative mechanisms through cross institutional and cross regional platforms, including with other institutions of the United Nations.
It is in these contemporary areas of UNESCO’s focus, including its now developing perspective on Big Ocean Sustainable States (Boss) – the informal rebrand of SIDS - Small Island Developing States posited at the last General Conference - that we in the Caribbean believe we can draw the greatest strength, given our evolution from a history of fragmentation, violence, migration and marginalisation.
The Caribbean Sea at once connects and separates us from all the regions of the world. It presents to the UNESCO community beyond the hard politics of power and dominance, a living example for survival and resilience that endures despite and through a history of genocide of indigeneous peoples, slavery, forced indentureship, and migration.
Such resilience is represented in the survival of religious and cultural practices, habits and beliefs: the vibrant celebrations that range from pre-Columbian festivities of the Mayans, Incas, Tainos and others to the evolving festivities of migrated peoples: the Garifuna and Rastafari from oppressed African heritage; and others transposed from the East – the resilient Ramleela, Chinese Dragon festivities, and their evolving fusions in our cuisine, music, dance, drama, our Carnivals and steelpan, reggae, zouk and chutney. All of these present significance to UNESCO ideals of peoples, who beyond conflict and tensions, are finding ways to celebrate their migrations, cultural contact and shared occupation of our natural environment.
Yet, our space is at the same time, severely endangered by the risks of climate change and sea level rise, deforestation, poor land use practices and pollution and other development challenges.
We believe that the UNESCO mechanisms in science, education, information and culture can be more effectively used to bridge these divides, and to help us to further explore, capture and harness these experiences for the benefit of building peace in the minds of men and women
Even as we admire the creative initiatives of the Director General to balance a shrinking budget in challenging financial times, we pledge to work with her for further rationalisation, while we particularly look forward to better engagement and more equitable treatment of the countries of the Caribbean. We form part of the Latin American and Caribbean UNESCO region, and represent almost 40 percent of the votes from this region, but not an equivalent allocation of UNESCO resources. In its programme of restructuring, we would also suggest that UNESCO look at ways of redressing of imbalances in its institutional structure and mechanisms of field and national offices in our region where of 12 offices in the region, only one – located in Kingston - serves the 13 member and four associated members of CARICOM.
We assure you of our commitment and support to the Director General’s goal of making UNESCO more relevant and more effective.
I thank you
Dr Kris Rampersad, Trinidad and Tobago Representative UNESCO Executive Board