Oct 10- 2022
ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA,NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO,AT THE OPENING OF THE 215TH SESSION OF THE UNESCO EXECUTIVE BOARD, ON MONDAY, 10TH OCTOBER 2022, IN PARIS, FRANCE.
It is always good to be back in Paris, and to the headquarters of UNESCO. I thank the Secretary-General for the opportunity to deliver these remarks at the two hundred and fifteenth (215th) session of the Executive Board of this organisation, arguably, the most outstanding global agency to have emerged out of the formation of the United Nations.
We, in Ghana, continue to be proud of our membership of UNESCO, and I do not hesitate to stress that, just as we were the first country, south of the Sahara, to gain our independence, Ghana’s distinguished diplomat, the late Patrick Seddoh, was the first African to be elected chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO in 1983. We were also the first African country to have a female representative on the Executive Board, in the person of another distinguished diplomat, the late Mrs. Therése Striggner-Scott. I am confident that this positive association with UNESCO will continue to flourish.
Indeed, a month ago, we reaffirmed her commitment to the work of UNESCO, when Ghana played host to the Africa Conference of National Commissions for UNESCO. This meeting, the first of its kind in a decade in Africa, sought to converge the common strategic priorities of National Commissions for UNESCO in African Member States, with the overarching goal being to enable the continent implement the Global Priority Africa Programme, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its 41st Session.
Today, as you may know, the dynamics of the Global Priority Africa Programme have changed, both in their continental aspirations and in their strategic focus. This is because our world continues to change with new and complex challenges, and, as such, we believe that Global Priority Africa must respond strategically to the needs of the changing times. I am delighted that UNESCO has made Africa a Global Priority, and I see UNESCO’s flagship programmes, such as the dissemination of the general history of Africa and its pedagogical use in African schools, the sustainable benefits of technological advances including the deployment of artificial intelligence, and the preservation of Africa’s rich cultural heritage, including the restitution of stolen artefacts during colonial occupation or resulting from illicit trafficking of cultural properties, as being relevant to achieving the objectives of the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063, i.e. “The Africa We Want”.
Excellencies, when I took my turn to address the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, some three (3) weeks ago, I urged the world to step up efforts at addressing the many socio-economic challenges that confront our world. Likewise, with its wide fields of competence, UNESCO is also, today, expected to respond to the diverse challenges confronting the world, especially in Africa, and I hope this meeting of the Executive Board will provide you with the opportunity to discuss how UNESCO can employ its unique competencies, expertise and networks to tackle critical issues buffeting the world at this point in time.
Despite growing international commitments to promote peace and sustainable development, as envisioned by the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it appears we are unable to “build peace in the minds of men and women”. Global disruptions have become ever-increasing, complex, and intertwined, thereby militating against our collective efforts to achieve the ideals of UNESCO. Two years ago, we fought against an invisible, dangerous virus which highlighted the frailty of our common humanity and the insufficiencies of our international scientific advances, and even exposed, furthermore, the brevity of human life.
As though that was not enough, our international order, today, is under severe strain, since the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Like many, I have bemoaned the effects of this conflict on the economic advances of Africa and her peoples. It is not just the dismay that we feel at seeing such deliberate devastation of cities and towns in Europe in the year 2022, we are feeling this war directly in our lives in Africa. Every bullet, every bomb, every shell that hits a target in Ukraine, hits our pockets and our economies in Africa. This is evidence, if any more was needed, of the interconnectedness of our world today, where the effects of this conflict, and any crisis for that matter, reverberate throughout the entire world.
We do not have the luxury to pick and choose which crises we want to fix. At this moment, we cannot pick and choose between funding guns and education. We cannot pick and choose between the interests of the present generation and the future of our girls and boys. We cannot choose geopolitical concerns over preserving our cherished cultural heritages, lest we perish universally.
Unfortunately, due to global instability, education has become one of many competing priorities of domestic budgets. Development aid to the education sector is seriously under pressure. Indeed, countries reduced their spending on education after the onset of the COVID-19, and, at the same time, direct aid to education by bilateral donors fell by some three hundred and fifty-nine million dollars ($359 million), which is not compatible with the objectives of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing sustainable development and the goals of the SDGs. We are further informed that prospects for reaching funding target, through voluntary contributions, are uncertain as several long-term donors have already reduced significantly their voluntary contributions to UNESCO due to a change in development cooperation priorities, thereby significantly impacting our planned programme implementation.
In spite of these challenges, I commend UNESCO for the lead role it played in ensuring the success of the Transforming Education Summit, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Necessitated by the seminal “Futures of Education” report from UNESCO, this summit, and, indeed, the pre-summit held here in Paris, have been extremely successful in getting the world to reflect deeply on the trajectory of educational systems, and how to addresses the challenges of our time.
As the recently appointed Domestic Financing champion of the Global Partnership for Education, I seek your cooperation and support to work towards developing sustainable homegrown financial solutions, so we can develop the educational system for the future we want in our various countries. We must strive, as Member-States, to ensure that education remains a priority in our common development agenda.
Excellencies, I also seek the collective commitment of UNESCO to win the fight against Climate Change. With our planet heading towards a dangerous tipping point as a result of climate change, our determination to protect nature and the environment has not yielded the desired dividends globally. We find ourselves in a race against time.
Nonetheless, I commend UNESCO for the effort to strengthen the “Man and Biosphere Programme”, whose goal is to help protect nature and biodiversity loss globally, through the Biosphere Reserve Concept. I urge UNESCO Member States to strengthen measures, at their respective national levels, that recognise formally the contribution of Biosphere Reserves, and designate more biosphere reserves and geoparks as a sure way for solving the climate crisis.
The holding of the Mondiacult Conference on Cultural Policy and Sustainable Development, in which the Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture of Ghana participated in Mexico City, is worthy of commendation. The Government of Ghana recognises culture as a lever for sustainable development, socio-economic development, peace, social justice, human rights and gender equality. It is key to the attainment of our mutually agreed upon sustainable development goals. It is in this regard that the propagation of culture has been mainstreamed in Ghana's National Development Plan. I wish, therefore, to add my voice to the call that the World UNESCO Conference should be organized every four years under the auspices of UNESCO, as a means of providing an idiosyncratic global platform for countries to interact and brainstorm on good practices and approaches for the development of our respective cultures.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to inform you that Accra has been named the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2023, making our vibrant city part of the prestigious World Book Capital Cities Network. This is an acknowledgement of the giant strides Ghana and Africa are making in developing our book and creative arts industry, and we thank you for your diverse contributions that made this possible. The year-long programme to celebrate this honor done us by UNESCO will commence from 23rd April 2023, which is celebrated globally as the World Book and Copyright Day. I wish to use this opportunity to invite you all to join Ghana in this year-long celebrations.
As I indicated at last year’s 75th anniversary celebration of UNESCO, we must continue for the next seventy-five (75) years to deepen our co-operation even further in the areas of education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, communication and information to achieve the future we want, and leave no one behind.
I wish you a successful session, and I thank you for your attention.