7 April 2008 : Speech of His Excellency Mr Seiichi KONDO, Representative of Japan to the Executive Board of UNESCO, 179th Session




"Mr President of the General Conference,
Mr Chairperson of the Executive Board,
Mr Director-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome the newly elected members of the Board. I look forward to working closely with them.


Given the absence of serious and urgent political issues, this session of the Executive Board will provide us with good opportunity to take a fresh look at the objectives of this Organization by looking into the future, while fully understanding how far we’ve come in our recent reform efforts.



In fact, compared to a year and a half ago when I came to UNESCO, we now have many more information meetings, many more informal working groups, we receive many more DG Blue Notes, while a number of administrative and financial reforms have been implemented, including strengthening of financial rules and internal oversight, and evaluation of past activities in the new format of C/3, just to name a few. We strongly endorse the new rotation policy. We are quite happy with these achievements that have made the Organisation more transparent and accountable than ever before.


But these measures are not cost-free. They require enormous amount of additional time and resources of the Secretariat staff. And yet we have been consistently cutting budget every year, trying to shift budget from administration to programmes.


I ask myself: is this sustainable?


I do not have a clear answer. I want everybody around the table to take a pause and look into this. We should at least see to it that all the reforms that have been introduced will be fully completed, and our enthusiasm to further improve the Organisation would not translate itself into a myopic micro-management which could eventually kill the Organisation- a result that none of us wants to see.

(Rolling C/4)

Mr Chairman,

I appreciate, with deep satisfaction, the significant improvement made both in the content and structure of the C/4 for the period 2008-2013. I welcome the idea that the Medium Term Strategy shall be a rolling strategy. However, I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance to maintain appropriate balance between flexible approach to the components of the C/4 and the need to hold a medium-term perspective in our programmes. We need to keep ourselves always reminded of the danger of being trapped by the current trend of being preoccupied with the short-term, tangible results. UNESCO can achieve its unique objectives only by taking long-term and global perspective.



Mr Chairman,

Now I would like to move on to some important programmatic subjects.
While the concept of democracy and market economy brought unprecedented prosperity to the human beings in the 20th century, it is the concept of “sustainability” that is indispensable in the 21st century if we want to inherit this prosperity to our children and grandchildren. Sustainable development will not be achieved solely by science and technology. It can only be achieved through people’s adoption of new lifestyles of less consumption as well as changes in mind and action. This requires awareness raising around the world on the current problems and possible solutions. With this in mind, the Government of Japan continues to advocate the importance of the promotion of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development).

As one of our initiatives, the Government of Japan has announced to host an international Forum on ESD at the end of this year, which will contribute to the success of the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development” to be hosted by Germany next year. You might ask :”OK, that’s fine, but what specifically do you want to do? Governments are not supposed to dictate the content of education”. Our objective is to find ways to encourage schools and teachers to incorporate the importance of the concept of “sustainability”, as an underlying value, similar to democracy, in all classes, including biology, history and economics. We would like to see each government finds its own way to achieve this goal and exchange good practices and experiences.

I would like to see UNESCO, based on the Resolution of the General Conference, to make further efforts towards more visible promotion of the Decade of ESD. The involvement of UNESCO ASPnet (UNESCO Associate Schools Project Network) may be a useful tool for this purpose.



Distinguished Delegates,

Needless to say, EFA is the highest priority of UNESCO. In fact, EFA and ESD are closely related and complementary to each other from various aspects. For example, the enhancement of literacy will greatly help awareness raising for sustainable development, and the promotion of ESD will contribute to the achievement of higher economic and social development of developing countries through more efficient use of resources, which is the ultimate goal of EFA. Literacy itself remains as one of the important EFA challenges to be tackled. Last month, our Government granted 13 million USD to UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) in Afghanistan with a view to consolidating the literacy education system of the country, which still suffers from the post-conflict situation.


(Africa, TICAD, G8)

Africa is the clear priority both for UNESCO and the Government of Japan. In May this year, Japan will host TICAD IV (Tokyo International Conference on African Development), and in July, the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit where “Development and Africa” is one of the major pillars of discussion by the Leaders. I hope that the discussions at these meetings will further enhance partnerships needed for the achievement of MDGs and EFA goals.


(Intangible cultural heritage)

Given the historic significance of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which helps many people in the world to regain their identity and confidence, two values endangered by the acceleration of globalisation, I call upon all States Parties to the Convention to be fully determined to take all necessary steps at the next General Assembly in this June so that the first inscriptions of intangible cultural heritages on the Lists could take place next year.

As a pioneer country to recognize the importance of intangible cultural heritage, Japan will continue to take part in international cooperation in this field, and we avail ourselves of this opportunity to express our intention to continue in this direction, including the establishment of a category 2 centre, while assuring complementarity and synergy in the Asia and the Pacific Region, in close collaboration with China and the Republic of Korea. Our intention was already transmitted in writing to the Director-General.



There is another important point raised by the External Auditor – “Visibility”. The message I wish to convey to you, as one of the rapporteurs responsible for the subject of visibility in the informal Working Group on the Organization of the General Conference, is that time is over to discuss generalities. It is time to start specific actions.

It may take 50 to 100 years to raise UNESCO’s visibility to a satisfactory level, but unless we start specific actions now, we will never get there.


To conclude, and with a view to illustrating the preceding paragraph, let me evoke an anecdote which should inspire us, Member States of UNESCO. It is said that Hubert Lyautey, a famous French Marshall once asked his gardener to plant an oak. The gardener objected that the oak was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied: “In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon”.


Thank you for your attention."



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