An anonymous email provided the following vision statement from Ivonne A-Baki, a candidate for the position of Director General of UNESCO

… since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed…
(The Constitution of UNESCO)
UNESCO’s mission is all too clear. In this dawn of the 21st century, the intellectual resources and ethical values that UNESCO represents are the only hope our planet has for a new century marked with understanding not bloodshed, progress not conflict, and acceptance not hatred. The UNESCO member states are spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year on military conflicts. I envision a UNESCO that will channel resources to prevent wars before they ever happen… a UNESCO that challenges countries to present the best that its young minds can offer… a UNESCO that will focus the energies of the world on what brings its people together… a UNESCO that will show how, through cooperation and mutual understanding, we will prevail over ignorance, intolerance, hatred, injustice, poverty, and disease so that peace can finally emerge.

I am passionate about the mission of UNESCO and what it might do for a poor child in Africa or a bright but equally poor girl in the Amazon who suffers daily of malnutrition, disease and lack of education. I am passionate about what UNESCO can do for a young boy in Iraq who knows well the calamities of war but has never tasted the fruits of peace. The mission of UNESCO will connect a child from Norway, through the internet, to a child in a small village school in Nepal to learn about each other and bring their two worlds closer, one encounter at a time.

I am passionate about Peace.
As a young mother in Lebanon I lived through the civil war which tore the fabric of a country as it tore at the heart of its people. I lived through bombs exploding into my children’s bedrooms. No one should live through this. I vowed then, and it has been my life mission, always to fight for peace. This was what pushed me to become an artist and dedicate my art to peace. This was the driving force in my work for peace between Peru and my home country Ecuador.

I am passionate about Education.
H.G. Wells once said that history is a race between education and catastrophe. UNESCO must win that race to ensure that education is available to all. Today Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) provide us with a real chance to win this race. But we have a race against time. Technology is growing and advancing faster than the means of people around the world to catch up with it. This growth of technology is creating a knowledge gap. The new fault line in the world is between those who are ICT literate and those who are not. My mission, if I am elected, is to put UNESCO at the forefront of the effort to bridge this gap in the ICT field. There should not be a world on Twitter or communicating through FaceBook and YouTube and a world struggling to have access to a radio.

E-learning makes education accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Where in the past we had to invest enormous resources to build thousands of new brick-and-mortar schools and train thousands of teachers on the ground, today students can receive education anywhere at any time – just in time – and, just as importantly, teacher training can also be conducted online. UNESCO’s Education for Peace and the Education-for-All initiatives – EDUCAIDS, TTISSA, LIFE, ESD, and UNESS – will all benefit from new technologies. UNESCO should strive to always be at the forefront of technology in order to be more efficient in fulfilling our mission.

In all our efforts to advance education, we should always bear in mind that inclusive education is a basic human right, and the resources being used in education are an investment in our future.

I am passionate about Science.
It is interesting that the UNESCO year of Astronomy coincides with the 40th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon. I remember the hope that it gave human beings the world over. It was an exciting time at the end of the sixties and the sky was the limit. It is this hope that we need to instill again in people’s minds all over the world, the hope for a new frontier, a new beginning, a new world. It is the light of science that brought us the great breakthroughs in technology, medicine and space. Goethe once said that science and art belong to the whole world and before them vanish the barriers of nationality. UNESCO is very well placed to work across borders and continents and to work with governments and civil society to bring science and science education to every school and every home. UNESCO is also the ideal organization to strengthen the social sciences which are so important for achieving social justice, better governance, and poverty eradication. It is the role of UNESCO to inspire young scientists and support them in their communities. I am sure there is a young beautiful scientific mind somewhere around the world in a small town, a scientist that needs to have the opportunity to be discovered. I want UNESCO to be the organization which discovers this scientist and provides him or her with an opportunity to benefit the world with his or her talent and genius.

Science education and research are lagging behind in most countries in the developing world. As the United Nations has a peacekeeping force in every hot spot in the world to preserve peace, we should have science task forces in the most needed places in the world to support capacity building and help them develop science education and research. If we teach people how to discover and build high tech labs, farms, and factories, and assist governments to develop sound national policies, we will never need to send troops to their countries to bring peace. Progress and innovation bring peace.

I am passionate about Culture.
I believe in the importance of culture and cultural diversity as the building pillars of our world. We live in an interconnected world where culture is redefined every day by people who cross cultures as they cross oceans. The interaction of cultures is an important issue in a world which is increasingly connected, and increasingly interdependent. UNESCO can be the thread that ties all these cultures together by helping them preserve their identities, but at the same time contributes to the connectedness of the world society through cultural exchange and cultural dialogue. I am a living example of multiculturalism. I was born in South America of Arab origin. I married a Lebanese man. My children were born and raised in Lebanon, educated in the United States and live in Ecuador. As an artist I exhibited my paintings all over the world and saw the power of art to unite people regardless of identity, nationality or race. I discovered how art and culture in all its forms are universal languages which are understood by everyone.

UNESCO can also make use of culture as a form of connecting the world. If I am elected, we will draw on culture to bring the world’s people together. Culture is the identity of a people, it is the language they speak, it is the food they eat, it is their poetry, their music, their architecture, their creativity, their aspirations, and their beliefs. The dialogue of civilizations cannot be achieved without intimate knowledge of each other’s cultures. With this knowledge comes respect and understanding… and with respect and understanding…ultimately comes peace.

How will we achieve our mission?

I am not only a dreamer but also a believer and a doer. If we have the vision, energy and commitment to follow through, we will achieve results.

Today, the mission of UNESCO remains more relevant than ever. I am committed to the continuity of this mission. I look forward if elected to pursue and strengthen the work started by previous administrations in key areas such as the environment, climate change, cultural diversity, and, of course, education. However, we should also push the envelope further; we should make UNESCO the world leader in conceptualizing and executing new initiatives with new funding in order to address the burning issues of today and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

There are several essential ingredients for a successful execution at UNESCO:

1. We need to prioritize.
Those projects that have the largest impact, address the urgent needs of our member states, and can be effectively scaled across different regions will be selected. We will coordinate with our member states to align our programs and our priorities to their aspirations, with special attention to the needs of Africa, gender equality, LDCs and SIDS, as well as the most vulnerable segments of society, including indigenous people. We will also choose the projects where UNESCO has truly unique expertise.

Priority Africa is very important because of the vast needs of this continent. Our commitment to Africa should be strengthened as it should also be strengthened to all other areas in the world where war, hunger, disease, and poverty are a daily ordeal. Here in the comforts of Paris it is difficult to imagine the horrors a mother can go through as her child slowly dies in her arms. We should increase our local presence in all the world’s hot spots in order to grasp the urgency of the problems. Nelson Mandela once said, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and it can be overcome and eradicated by the action of human beings.” We at UNESCO have to act now with determination.

Gender Equality is another pressing issue. While respecting the differences between men and women, UNESCO should continue to strive to provide women with equal rights and access to education, work, and healthcare. We should not forget, however, that it is in the minds of people where the battle for Gender Equality should be fought. Women are perceived by many as incapable of managing certain activities and responsibilities. We must show the world that women are just as competent as men.

2. We need visibility.
We need to communicate better with the world giving UNESCO more visibility both globally and at the local level. More global visibility translates into more credibility for the organization, more support for our initiatives, and more resources - organizational, financial and human. It will attract more talent to UNESCO and our cause, infusing it with new blood and stronger results.

I believe in the power of global communication to get these results. As founder and president of the Galapagos Conservancy Foundation, together with other foundations and international celebrities like Yao Ming, Jackie Chang and Harrison Ford, we appealed to global consumers of shark fins to stop consumption. Through prime time television we were able to reach a billion people a week; as a result global consumption dropped by 32%.

Communicating our work at UNESCO should be a high priority. Our work in the cultural programs, for example, could be greatly enhanced. The variety and diversity of cultures are a richness that has to be preserved. But it is not enough just to preserve culture. It is just as important to find the most positive aspects of each culture and disseminate them. It is not enough to just preserve a world heritage site. We should work just as hard to promote this world heritage site and explain to the whole world why it is a world heritage site.

3. We need to partner.
In our increasingly global and complex international environment, no organization can be successful all on its own. Effective communication and collaboration are key to successful partnerships. We need to continue our close collaboration with the governments of our member states and align with their vision for UNESCO’s role and contribution.

We need to strengthen our cooperation with Civil Society, local businesses and international corporations whose vision of corporate social responsibility aligns with our own. For example, when I was a Minister in Ecuador, I worked with several multinational fruit trading companies, and together we built nurseries and schools and launched comprehensive education programs for the children of farmers in rural areas.

And finally, we need to closely collaborate across all the UN organizations in order to enhance the efficiency of the UN System. UNESCO should be the lead UN organization in all its fields of competence. We should collaborate with other UN organizations to take advantage of their large local networks if we want to achieve our mission and reach those areas that are most in need. At the same time we should continue fortifying our field presence in more countries.

4. We need to optimize project financing.
We need to ensure that existing initiatives are financed in the most effective way and that new initiatives bring with them financing possibilities, whether public or private. We will work on increasing the UNESCO budget through strengthening and expanding our global network of donors. We will encourage South-South and North-South-South cooperation which is very promising especially in the education sector. We will tap into the creative ideas of experts in all fields to find new ways of bringing more financial resources and make them available for new projects.

5. We must lead by example.
UNESCO should be the City on the Hill. All the eyes should be turned to it to learn from its implementation of new ideas using modern communications and technology inside the organization and in its projects on the ground. We should strive to continue the work that has been done in the areas of Oversight, Personnel Policy and Decentralization. We should continue our efforts to improve transparency, accountability and credibility. We should also enhance intersectorial communication and collaboration. Every objective of UNESCO requires collaborative work by all its departments; we should work as a single team with one clear mission.

In summary, we have a great opportunity this fall to meet the formidable challenges ahead of us. If elected, I am ready to meet these challenges and to work faithfully for the principles and values that this organization stands for. Together, we will make UNESCO a new and energized organization that challenges our world instead of being overwhelmed by the many challenges we face. I am convinced that, with the right focus, with leadership, and with the commitment to execution through a broad range of strategic partnerships, we will take UNESCO to become an organization that motivates, inspires and mobilizes the global community… a truly global broker of peace.

Now is the time to realize this vision. It is UNESCO’s time. It is our time. Let us seize the moment!

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