With discussions focused on the theme of “shaping the post-crisis world”, the Director-General underscored the need for greater investment in global public goods such as education and water, arguing that this was “not only a question of social justice and of protecting the poorest from the effects of the downturn, but also of laying the foundations for a more inclusive and sustainable economic recovery”.
On Friday 30 January, Mr Matsuura participated in a private session on the global water crisis where he discussed with representatives of governments, businesses and civil society strategies for the improved management of freshwater resources. Three main messages emerged from the meeting: that the world is living in a water “bubble” as unsustainable and fragile as that which precipitated the collapse in global financial markets; that the water crisis is directly related to and impacted by other global challenges such as climate change and fluctuating food and energy costs; and that without the right information, data and tools it is difficult to make informed decisions on the effective management of this vital resource. With regard to the latter, the Director-General drew attention to the triennial World Water Development Report, produced by the UN World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). Bringing together the knowledge and expertise of 26 UN bodies, he said that “the report provides solid evidence and analysis of the status of global water resources together with practical policy recommendations for use by different stakeholder groups”. Mr Matsuura agreed with other participants that a key issue going forward was how to strengthen the link between these intergovernmental processes and private sector-led efforts to assess water-related risks and opportunities.
The question of how to strengthen multistakeholder partnerships was also at the centre of the meeting of the Global Education Initiative (GEI), which Mr Matsuura addressed on Saturday 31 January. The GEI was launched in 2003 to catalyze partnerships in support of Education for All (EFA). The aim of the session was to take stock of progress and identify areas for future cooperation. Arguing that despite major advances progress was too slow and uneven to achieve the EFA goals on target, the Director-General encouraged partners to focus on three key challenges. He called for greater investment in education, arguing that the current economic downturn was a reason and an opportunity to boost spending on the sector. He urged that much greater attention be given to inequalities in education – both within countries, to the poorest and most marginalized populations; and internationally, to those countries furthest from achieving the EFA goals. Finally, he highlighted the massive shortage of qualified teachers, encouraging partners to support the new Task Force on Teachers for EFA established by the EFA High-Level Group at its meeting in Olso in December 2008 (see Flash Info N°183-2008*). “We know that Education for All cannot be achieved without broad-based partnerships. Today is an occasion to look at how we can make these partnerships more effective, both for the benefit of individual learners and for social and economic progress”, the Director-General said.
Whilst in Davos, Mr Matsuura also took part in several open discussions. He intervened in a public debate on cultural literacy to underscore the importance of cultural diversity and dialogue in today’s globalized world, highlighting what UNESCO was doing in this area and signalling key concerns for the Organization, including the promotion of multilingualism and the safeguarding of endangered languages. The Director-General also took part in a debate on the theme “reconciling religion and science in society”, where he signalled UNESCO’s efforts to encourage debate on the ethics of science and technology, in particular the Organization’s normative action in the field of bioethics.
The Director-General greeted several distinguished personalities during the Forum, including: the President of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Wade; the President of Mongolia, Mr Nambaryn Enkhbayar, the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Taro Aso; the former Prime Minister of Norway, Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik; the deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Ms Julia Gillard; and Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
- Flash Info N°183-2008