Speech to the UNESCO General ConferenceBy the Chair of the New Zealand National CommissionMr Bryan Gould
Tena koutou katoa kua huihui mai nei i tenei ra.
(English translation: Greetings to all who have gathered here
Mr President, Ladies and
In 1946, when UNESCO’s
Constitution came into force, New Zealand was the second country to step forward to sign it. We did so,
in the aftermath of a tragic conflict, so that the instinct for peace should take hold in the minds of new generations.
So, with other founder members, we signed up for a future built on the life of the mind and the heart and the spirit
– on education, culture, the sciences, and the free exchange of information and ideas.
Sixty three years later, New Zealand continues to support UNESCO’s
goals. Both at home, in managing our own affairs, and in offering an example internationally and particularly
in the Pacific sub-region, we try to demonstrate through our actions the value of UNESCO’s agenda for progress.
So, we are strong supporters of education for
sustainable development and we have an active network of ASPnet schools committed to UNESCO’s values. In
science, we focus on waiora, the Maori word for our sustainable fresh-water resources. The bicultural foundation
of our country – Maori and pakeha – gives us a strong base to take advantage of the growing cultural diversity
that enriches our society. And we continue to enjoy, and encourage others to emulate our commitment to,
a free press and the free exchange of ideas.
What we seek is to lead by example, to cast new light on old problems, to think strategically, to change attitudes,
to open minds, to know and understand more of ourselves and of others.
We like to think that New Zealand lives UNESCO’s ideals. We do so at what
is another critical moment in the world’s affairs. The global recession may not be a disaster on
quite the scale of the Second World War, but it should lead us nevertheless to re-affirm the great value and importance of
what UNESCO stands for. The recession, after all, was the end result of a doctrine that said that all that
really mattered was the maximisation of profits for the masters of the global economy.
We now know that we cannot entrust human progress to the tender care
of the bottom line. That way lies not just economic crisis, but ecological degradation, social disintegration,
and international conflict. Man is not just an economic animal. The lessons of the recession
should teach us that the way forward lies – not with ever faster and less responsible consumption of material things
by a small fraction of the world’s population - but with learning more about and responding better to our relationships
with each other and with our planet.A General Conference is inevitably concerned
with budgets, elections, resolutions, organisational structures and processes. But we must never lose sight
of UNESCO’s true purposes, and each of our individual decisions should be judged according to whether it advances or
hinders the achievement of those goals. So, New Zealand, from our vantage-point in the Pacific sub-region
– the sub-region most distant from Paris and covering the greatest number of countries and the largest
geographical area, but a sub-region challenged not only by immediate dangers of which last week’s tsunami is a sad and
destructive example, but also by longer-term threats such as climate change - has naturally been a consistent advocate
for decentralisation. We welcome the report of the second task force review. But modalities are
less important than people. We continue to be concerned at the damaging delays in recruiting
professional staff to the UNESCO Office for the Pacific in Apia. There is no point in changing the structure
if we cannot commit the resources to make it work. Similarly, we are concerned about the performance indicators proposed in the
draft 35C/5. We are not convinced that these largely quantitative performance indicators will
provide a meaningful assessment of the Organisation's effectiveness. They may be easily measured but they tell
us little about our real achievements; at worst, their adoption could lead to a diversionary goal displacement. We strongly
encourage the Organisation to undertake further work on this issue. We continue to believe that working across sectors and themes
is the way UNESCO should operate. The next Medium-Term Strategy UNESCO programme should, we believe, be organised around
these intersectoral themes with a Secretariat that mirrors this structure. Two years ago, my predecessor delivered her speech to the General Conference while
wearing a Maori cloak or korowai. I am similarly privileged today. The cloak that
I wear has been gifted by the National Commission to UNESCO as a taonga or cultural treasure. It is a work
reflecting the great skill of a traditional weaver who has brought together a range of materials to produce something of significance,
value and beauty. It is, we like to think, a suitable metaphor for the role that UNESCO should and must
play in tomorrow’s world.No reira,
tena koutou katoa.(English translation:
In conclusion, greetings to you all).