Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Weeding out violent extremism Message from UNESCO Chair Education Commission Attacks in Paris

(l-r)Chair, UNESCO Education Commission, Dr Kris Rampersad  consults with
Commission Secretary Head of Education Section at UNESCO Borhene Chakroun
at UNESCO 38th General Conference, Paris, France
Education towards building a culture of peace in our societies

Immediate implementation of the UNESCO Education Agenda to 2030 which includes measures to weed out violent extremism both inside and out formal school arenas becomes more imperative than ever.
The time is now for public officials, politicians, academics, media, the private sector and civil society to come together in solidarity and consolidate to impact the environment of extremism which devastated Paris.
My sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to the French people and indeed all in our global communities who have been rocked by the violence in Paris and in which I was myself caught over the past few days.
The effects of violent extremism we have all witnessed in Paris these past few days show none of us are immune and signals more than ever the relevance and significance of the work of our Commissions and our efforts through UNESCO and otherwise of reaching into its root causes to grow a culture of peace both inside and outside of schools.
More than ever we see the need for public officials, politicians, academics, the media, the private sector and civil society to consolidate and band together against hate, discrimination, prejudice at local, national levels that feed and lead to violent extremism. The time has passed for rhetoric and postering and for more specific action and leadership by example, for role models to youths in schools and communities.
We know the powerful educational influences of the informal arenas of culture, information and social spaces as communities, places of worship, homes and families.
In addition to focussing on reform and revisioning the education programmes, budgets, systems and structures, is the need to engage the equally powerful formal and informal systems of the families, homes, communities and social relations at national and global levels. The Education Commission commands the largest share of UNESCO’s programme budgets and premiere programme focus among UNESCO’s aligned functions in Culture, Human and Social Sciences, Science, and Information and Communication.
It is not business as usual.SDG4 as a central mandate of UNESCO as the lead UN agency for Education, to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”
We must nurture generations who can rise above prejudice and discrimination whether it is at political, social or economic levels that are responsible for so much of the social strife that occupies UNESCO’s attention today.
The new Education agenda mandates us to recognise that most of learning occurs not inside a classroom wall, but outside: not within school hours but outside on the streets, in communities, in religious institutions, in families, among gangs and peers as my friends from the UNESCO Youth Forum can testify.
The purpose of our education agenda is not just to form or inform, but also to remake, reform and transform; to break down the barriers of prejudice, discrimination, and conflict to respect the natural human rights as citizens and as global beings

Related Links: 
In a State of Statelessness: Attacks in Paris
Paris awakes to shock of attacks
Paris bombings tonight
Planning education for a better world
A light from UNESCO 
UNESCO Education Commission adopts programmes budgets
UNESCO Executive Board paves way for General Conference
Happy 70th Birthday to UNESCO
UNESCO TT Rep asks US Sect of State to support Caribbean SIDS
UNESCO asked to review economic categorisations of SIDS

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In a State of Statelessness: A stranger took me in. Attacks in Paris

In a State of Statelessness: A stranger took me in.

Last evening’s events in Paris and Beirut that have seen more than a hundred dead and more than 200 wounded, bring home very sharply the fragility with which our life and freedoms should be guarded and the important need for leadership that inspires peace, reconciliation and settlement of disputes through non violent means.
That has been the raison d etre of our work at UNESCO, in the last two years: most recently as Chair of the Education Commission; on the Executive Board and even before since I have been working with communities across the Caribbean region to strengthen cultural confidence, identities, mutual respect and promote intercultural dialogue.
Last evening's attacks on Paris and the experience of being so close  to the mayhem brought closely home that the spirit of goodness in people is alive and well, despite the trauma that accompanied and is only now setting in at the thought of how close a call it was, again, to be almost accidentally, in the line of fire, of insurrection and siege.  And this morning as we braved venturing out not knowing the extent of the state of emergency, that feeling strengthened as Paris and her admirers reaffirmed that we are not cowing behind closed doors in cafes, in grocers, at their monuments as we did at the Sacre Coeur overlooking the city Paris this morning and lit a candle for peace in the world and for peace in my country.
Searching the Google Map to establish my location, I awoke this morning to the reality that I was not very far from the districts that had been bombed when a stranger took me in. In a split second she had assessed that with the all-round panic I would not make it to where I was staying. Her home was close by. She ushered me up the hill and some winding roads and into what I thought was the safety of her home. In my mind the actions of the bombings were some distance away on the other end of Paris. She knew that it was in the district neighbouring.
When we got in and turned on the news to see bits and pieces of the damage. She connected me to her wifi so I could be in touch with friends and family. She made her couch, got me fresh clothes and hot tea while we discussed the unfolding news. She must have been trying to find strength in making herself useful. Sometime, while we were looking at the news she just started bawling. ‘Why were people like that? Why? It was uncalled for.’ She could not stop. She was an American living in Paris for some 30 years, a singer. She had gone out, the first time in a long while, she said, with another friend, French, also a singer, to listen to the singer in that restaurant, also her friend.
I was sitting at a table and they asked for the seats next to me. We started talking about music and Paris, the Caribbean, America.
And just as the singer was about to begin her last rounds our phones started beeping with news flashes.
We paid bills and grabbed coats and it was then she said I should follow them. By the time we stepped outside the streets in one of the most vivacious districts of Paris – Montmatre – was already emptying out. not a cab in sight and we guessed that the metro would have been halted or clogged with the mayhem.
I stranger took me in. Thinking about it now I want to bawl like she did, kneeling on her bed and bawling. We didn’t need the hate crimes and the suicide bombings and the lives lost: the impetus of ignorance and arrogance. We wanted leaders with vision and a passion to do what was necessary to change, not to perpetuate animosity and negativity. It was not business as usual. That is what I told the opening of the Education Commission that I chaired. The violence in schools, one of the issues on the agenda of the Education Commission being debated have roots in the minds of men and women and politicians and academicians and homes and communities and those had to be addressed by the education system too because they reached into the schools and created the problems of violence and bullying there.
A stranger took me in and officials in my country seemed intent on pushing out.
I had gone to that district at the other end of Paris to escape the negativity that had been brought into an environment trying to build peace, encourage dialogue and negotiate compromise and that was threatening to undermine the work we were trying to do on the UNESCO Education Commission. Many of these were negotiated positions and actions accomplished through months and in some cases years of discussions, dialogue, debate and compromise, through various fora.
On Monday November 4, at the start of the High Level meeting on the Framework for Education to 2030, I was escorted by the Secretary to the Education Commission to the Trinidad and Tobago nameplate which forum I was invited to address as Chair of the Education Commission, a position proposed by the Executive Board in April, reaffirmed in November and which was endorsed by the General Conference the day earlier.
However, I was told by the Minister who headed the T&T Delegation that I was not to sit with the Trinidad and Tobago delegation. I was confused. I was at UNESCO as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago flying the flag of Trinidad and Tobago in the work of UNESCO. “You are not needed here,” he said. “Go.”
I left the room, shocked, I guess, and dejected and rejected. Sometime later I was told that the speaking time allotted to the. Chair of the Education Commission had been appropriated as well.
It did not end there.
I was ‘not a member of the Trinidad and Tobago delegation’. That message came in a note three days later, addressed not to me, but to a member of the UNESCO Secretariat. I wasn’t copied in on the note, but UNESCO brought it to my attention as they wanted to understand and thought I could explain as they had looked and could not find any of the three persons named as the Trinidad and Tobago delegation on the seats with the Trinidad and Tobago nameplates in the two rooms where meetings were being held.
I was as confused as they were. It was unprecedented that a member state would isolate its representative, and one who was chairing a commission, and not any commission, the flagship education commission at that and deliver the message in that manner. It raised many questions and no one to answer them. It had the desired effect to make everyone uncomfortable. On no man’s land, I began to understand the feeling of statelessness.
Officials in my own country were trying to deny my national identity? On the other side of town, a stranger would take me in.
“I have a refugee in my house,” the stranger who took me into her house laughed to her friend who called the check in on her during the night of the attack. She knew nothing of the situation I had been facing, but somehow the reference seemed appropriate.
In the week that the ‘delegation’ had been here they could have asked for an audience with anyone in UNESCO and get it; and I was there for any discussions as well. I had made several times to dialogue. That was the modus operandi of UNESCO. Fostering dialogue. But dialogue can only happen if parties agree to. It takes two hands to clap. And two to make a debate that can stimulate a flow of ideas and enrich a nation. But we know what has been the fate of calls for national leadership dialogues and debates. Is it any wonder?
No reasons given. We were all left guessing. We worked out various scenarios to ensure that the good work of the Commission and its achievements would not be jeopardised. Some may not know how to put partisan interests behind them in favour of the national and global interests, but that was the forte of UNESCO; that was the kind of preparation I had been undergoing for the last many years, functioning with its sometimes very cumbersome instruments and processes from community levels across the Caribbean, with other intergovernmental agencies trying to utilise them and more recently as a member of the Executive Board trying to refine them, make them applicable and relevant and then connecting them and aligning the global agenda as Chair of the Education Commission, to the local needs and interests raised by states.
I had just come from rooms where various international agendas were being tabled. Leaders were expressing the rhetoric of commitment to various UNESCO’s and the UN ideals.
In the rooms of the various commissions and committees were working our way to find consensual ground for these competing interests and agendas, and on all counts, with a slam of a hammer, the aide of an experienced and competent secretariat, I found great satisfaction in thumping the hammer - to signify that we had reached a consensus and the issue was resolved and ‘adopted’. Moments like that peaked and the room filled with tension when I announced the item on UNESCO’s role in protecting cultural property in occupied Arab Territories, a hot topic issue that has been raging in the international arena. We had had behind the scenes discussions with both parties, Isreal and Palestine, on how the matter could be handled with minimal disruptions but in a room full of a diverse range of Member States, any State could change the tone and timber of the dialogue. So it was with relief that when Member States took the floor it was to commend the ‘consensual’ and conciliatory tone of the discussions.
It is in reflecting on that, of what can be done, and at what we have achieved, and the high commendation of my colleagues, both in the room and outside, to members of the Trinidad and Tobago delegation, and to members of the UNESCO Secretariat and the Director General that the trauma began to set in, on what a fragile place Trinidad and Tobago sits.
I have devoted most my time and energies of the last two years, and the decade earlier, to these processes; to broadening the space for Trinidad and Tobago, for the Caribbean, for Latin America, for Small Island Developing States – all these felt not fully integrated and included and we had been beginning to broaden those spaces as well as increasing opportunities for cross regional collaborations through the Commonwealth and across UNESCO/UN defined regions. I felt proud that from a small island state I was able to win the approbation and confidence and support of my colleagues to represent UNESCO interests at both governing organs of UNESCO – the Programme and External Relations Commission of the Executive Board four  consecutive times is quiet a vote of confidence;  and thereafter to Chair the Education Commission of the General Assembly – especially as education was the flagship programme area of UNESCO and member states had tremendous ideas and expectations of what needed to be done to meet the needs of the next generations.
Except for the tremendous show of support, confidence and strength from international colleagues and the UNESCO family, I am left a refugee it seems, by officials of my country.
No one has called or attempted to contact me to find out how I am faring, except relatives, the social media and conventional media friends.
The second letter had come unsigned at the end of day on the day before the Divali holiday in Trinidad and Tobago, and signed the day after. The workload of the Commission was occupying my time so mails didn’t get cleared until the end of the week. That’s when I saw the instructions that I was to not attend any other Executive Board meetings in a letter that tried erroneously to link the representation on the Board 2013 to 2017 to the post of Chair of the National Commission for UNESCO which four year term 2011 to 2015 ended in August 2015. They are unrelated. That the instructions have come while I am in Paris, away from home, performing functions raise their own questions.
I am awaiting an explanation, reasons: whether my performance or competence is being questioned, and dialogue as I had requested before I left Trinidad and Tobago as I commended the new office holders and wished them success in carving a way forward for Trinidad and Tobago.
That way forward should not be one that leaves citizens isolated and marginalised. That was the feeling that had me looking for a space away from the meeting rooms and cocktail chatter at the close of the work day at UNESCO to the other end of Paris where the vitality of people singing and dining and reaching out to each other in easy and difficult circumstances, when amidst the bombings and explosions in a foreign country, a stranger took me in and convinced me more than ever, as the UNESCO motto reads:
Since wars begin in the minds of men and women, it is in the minds of men and women that the defenses of peace must be constructed.




Opposition on auto-pilot
Monday, November 30 2015
THE EDITOR: The Leader of the Opposition recently said the Government was on auto-pilot. This is untrue.
The Government is alive and well. If anything, the Opposition seems to be on auto-pilot.

Maybe because of its upcoming internal elections. How else can it explain its silence on issues haunting our nation currently.

How is it that our representative for UNESCO can be left stranded in Paris amidst the terror attacks and citizens were only made aware of this from reading international news? My heart goes out to Dr Kris Rampersad who was forced out of the UNESCO meetings in Paris by the minister heading the TT delegation without any explanation, just a cold-hearted “you are not needed here.” Thank God for the kind heart of a local who took Rampersad in amidst the siege.

The Opposition must be on auto-pilot as six-year-old Ezekiel McIntyre from Sea Lots pleads with the public for assistance in raising $150,000 for open-heart surgery in Cuba as he has been turned away by the Government and is nearing his deadline.

Three million dollars in paintings and trips to London for $1,900-a-plate dinners for Balisier House have taken precedence over the life of a child and the Opposition is yet to be heard.

While they battle each other, touting their achievements and who is more for the people, the people are being abused and neglected.

We are in a sorry state of affairs here in TT .

Allan Hewitt Maraval

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Paris awakes to shock of attacks

Paris awakes to shock this morning over violent attacks. Still uncertain about what the state of emergency means for people and how much movement is allowed it what civil liberties contained while Parisienne want to keep their routine activities...
More than 120 reported dead; two hundred people reported injured...
More soon
#paris #parisattacks #parisbombings


Paris bombings tonight

Bombing in Paris tonight all of Paris shut down
Some 40 killed 60 hostages different parts  of Paris. It's Friday night...many people out....streets emptied in seconds
killings at a bar in 10th district at a bar near France a stadium Stade De France, 15 dead at concert hall

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A light from UNESCO Happy Divali

While the focus of the International Year of Light has been been about how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health, it also recognises that light plays a vital role in our daily lives. It has revolutionized medicine, opened up international communication via the Internet, and continues to be central to linking cultural, economic and political aspects of the global society. (see link here).
Over the doorway to Room II where the UNESCO Education Commission of the 38th General Conference met lending its energy to the room as policy makers, politicians, educators, librarians, NGOs and social workers met to analyse and assess and helped carve a pathway to the future we want through the Education Agenda to 2030 is the painting by Mexican Rufino Tamayo. It was commissioned for the then newly built UNESCO headquarters in Paris. It captures what may be considered a Grecian legend of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind – to others it is the indigeneous spirit of our regions, the primeval energy of fire that sparked the progress of humankind through innovation and invention.
Tamayo’s own words on his mural as he passed it to us was:
That the light that seems to irradiate out of the fire of my badly lit ‘Prometheus’ may illuminate the spirits of those who are in charge of the tremendous task of unifying the world through culture

That was 70 years ago. Now, 70 years on, we are again renewing that commitment, charged with the task of unifying the world through transforming the culture of education and spreading enlightenment through art, culture, science and information.
And may the many myriads of Divali that would light up the world tonight illuminate our hearts and minds towards a culture of peace so we leave the best possible legacy for this and coming generations of the world we want. Happy Divali! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

UNESCO Education Commission adopts Budget & Programmes 2015 to 2017

The UNESCO General Conference unanimously adopted the Report of the Education Commission with high praise for quality and efficiency from member states and the Conference Chair on November 13, 2015.
This follows the adoption of the report by the UNESCO Education Commission of the report of UNESCO’s number one programme area - Education – and its aligned budgets at Commission sessions at the 38th General Conference .
 The more than US$117 million dollar budget and aligned programmes for education were subjected to intensive scrutiny by member states but was piloted to successful consensus.
Chairing it was challenging and taxing at times, but member states were intent on value for money and in redirecting focus on programmes and activities that would meet the global agenda to 2030 in the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the interrelation with SDG 4 of Quality Education to Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. 
The Commission met to consider the programme and budgets for 2016-2017 of UNESCO Major Programme I – Education - and to prepare the draft programme and budget for 2018-2021.
Education holds the largest share of UNESCO’s US$667 million budget and is labelled its number one programme area, which may explain the avid participation.
The major task was to assist members states and the secretariat in ensuring that initiatives reflect expectations of the Education framework for action to 2030 and would help bridge the gaps in reaching the education for all goals and stimulating synergies between the formal and conventional school and classroom-based education focus with equally influential non formal arenas of knowledge acquisition and transmission through home, community, media, culture and other spheres so as to make the global education thrust more inclusive, more holistic and therefore more sustainable.
Member States expressed concerns that the global financial crisis and other economic challenges that have affected UNESCO’s financial position but were reassured by the Assistant Director General for Education, Mr Qian Tang that UNESCO’s education agenda continues to attract partners and sponsors as ‘everyone wants to be involved in education’. That Mr Tang and his Secretariat were able to promptly respond to all queries posed to the Commission helped in the success of our deliberations.
Balancing the diversity of interests and priorities were perhaps the most challenging, but at the end of the day we were able to work our way from at times extreme and conflicting positions to a centre of consensus that found a balance between global and national priorities.
With key pitches on inclusivity, equity, transformation to reach all through intersectoral and multidimensional approaches, we believe we have defined a path that will see the global education agenda directing meaningful actions that will give effect to other SDGs and be beneficial to communities everywhere. It was energising to have such keen and enthusiastic participation from both member states and the support of the UNESCO Secretariat under Mr Tang and Mr Borhene Chakroun and our team Lee Sohae, Paz Portales, Mariana Kitsiona, Katrien Daelman, Jennifer Dajczman and Maimouna Niang.
The Commission sat from November 4 to 7 when member states proposed revisions and recommendations to align the programmes and budgets to their national priorities and to reflect global development goals. Also examined by the Commission which received consensual approbation were the following: implementation of the resolution concerning UNESCO educational and cultural institutions in the occupied Arab territories; management and establishment of UNESCO institutes and centres, recommendations from the Youth Forum of the 38th General Conference presented by Ms Biru Anjanie from Indonesia, Ms Esther Van Duin from the Netherlands, and Mr Faisal Khalid Bin Ghannam from Saudi Arabia.
For more see this blog; and www.unesco.org
Photos Above:
UNESCO Secretary General Mrs Irina Bokova greets Dr Kris Ramperad, Chair of the UNESCO Education Commission at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris France. (Photo UNESCO: Cyril Balleul). 
1.      Chair of the UNESCO Education Commission, Dr Kris Rampersad and Secretary to the Commission Mr Borhene Chakroun talk to a delegate at the meeting of the commission at the 38th UNESCO General Conference. (Photo: Kris Rampersad Archives, 2015)
2.       Chair of the UNESCO Education Commission Dr Kris Rampersad and the secretariat at work behind the scenes during the 38th UNESCO General Conference at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris France. Mr Borhene Chakroun and our team Lee Sohae, Paz Portales, Mariana Kitsiona, Katrien Daelman, Jennifer Dajczman and Maimouna Niang.  (Photo: Kris Rampersad Archives)

See Also: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

UNESCO executive Board paves way for General Conference

Executive Board paves the way for the forthcoming session of UNESCO’s General Conference

The 58 Members of UNESCO’s Executive Board today ended their 197th session, which was dedicated to the Organization’s governance and preparations for the General Conference of UNESCO. The Executive Board is chaired by Mohamed Sameh Amr, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Egypt to UNESCO.

The Programmes ad Extrenal Relations Commission is chaired by the Ambassador too Mexico and cochaired by the Trinidad and Tobago Representative, Dr Kris Rampersad.   

During its session the Executive Board of UNESCO committed the Organization to pursue work on education in the framework of the newly adopted United Nations sustainable development goals and implement the outcomes of the World Education Forum 2015.
The Board also discussed UNESCO’s work towards implementing the 2030 Agenda and adopted important decisions thereon related, such as on investing for more efficient delivery in the implementation of this universal agenda, on a reinforced strategy and action for countering violent extremism through education and on the protection of culture and the promotion of cultural pluralism in the event of armed conflict.
The Board also recommended to the General Conference the admission of the Republic of Kosovo* as a Member of UNESCO.
During the session, several distinguished personalities came to speak to the Executive Board among them: Riad Toufic Salamé, Governor of the Bank of Lebanon, Dr Hayat Sindi, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and Member of the Shoura Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Dr Samia Al-Amoudi, Founder and CEO of the Al-Amoudi Center of Excellence in Breast Cancer (Saudi Arabia). Fathallah Sijilmassi, the Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean, also addressed the Executive Board on the occasion of the signing of a partnership agreement between UNESCO and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
The forthcoming 38th session of the General Conference will bring together representatives of all of UNESCO’s 195 Member States from 3 to 18 November. On this occasion, the Member States will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Organization with a Leaders' Forum that is expected to draw the attendance of an unprecedented number of Heads of State and Government. See more unesco.org
*Within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, dated 1999

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