Building Peace in the Minds of Men:
The mission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO

Speaker: Helene-Marie Gosselin, Director, UNESCO Office in New York

Thursday, June 12, 2008

French Embassy
972 Fifth Avenue
79th Street & Fifth Avenue

Reception 6:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Presentation 7:00 p.m.

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Special thanks to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy for their collaboration on this event.

When the idea of UNESCO emerged in the wake of World War II, the initial concept focused on multilateral postwar reconstruction of schools and protection of physical cultural heritage.  However, in 1945 the American delegation, which included the historian Ralph Turner, Congressman J. William Fulbright and the poet Archibald MacLeish, orchestrated an important shift from this first conceptual base towards an emphasis on peace and security.  They pronounced that international efforts in education, and understanding of each other and each other’s problems, would do more in the long run for peace than international treaties.  Education may not do more than treaties, per se, but it does lay the foundation for establishing commitment and action on these treaties. Since wars begin in the minds of men, UNESCO’s role would thus be “to construct the defenses of peace in the minds of men.”

The UNESCO strategy to promote peace is contingent upon the respect of cultural and religious differences and the recognition that these differences reflect the rich diversity of humankind. It, therefore, requires from our Member States and indeed from all of us, a commitment to dialogue, mutual knowledge and understanding between civilizations, cultures and peoples. To achieve a culture of peace, the principles of diversity and dialogue must be deeply embedded within each and everyone of us.