Unescos generalkonferens 27 oktober 2011
Birgitta Ohlsson, EU-minister
Swedish Statement UNESCO General Conference 36th Session 27 October 2011 - General Policy Debate
Check against delivery
Mr/Ms President of the General Conference,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Isaac Newton once said:
"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
Everyday we all stand on the shoulders of giants. They are people who have contributed to democracy, sciences and culture.
I hope that we can make wise decisions here, so that future generations can stand on our shoulders and see further than we do!
Sweden fully concurs with the statement made by Poland on behalf of the European Union. The EU must continue to work for a world fulfilling the noble goals of the United Nations.
Sweden has closely followed the impressive work of the Director-General, Ms. Bokova and we fully support her work for reform of UNESCO.
We welcome the proposals based on the outcomes of the independent review of UNESCO. We are convinced that the reforms will lead to a stronger and more relevant organization.
Sweden also supports Ms. Bokova's commitment to put human rights of girls and women at the core of all her undertakings as the leader of UNESCO.
It is sad but evident that freedom of the press must remain at the top of UNESCO's agenda in the coming years.
Education is probably the single strongest force for positive change for individuals as well as nations. The right to education is as a universal human right, but still there are millions of children not attending school. Sadly most of them are girls. That's a shame.
A majority of the world's 775 million illiterate adults are women. Falling short of respecting the right affects not only individuals but also societies.
In these times of global economic crisis, it seems obvious that we must realize the full potential of all human resources.
Closing the gap between male and female employment rates would have huge effects on the global economy.
Sweden would like to congratulate UNESCO for its important work for sexual education. With sexual education we can reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, and decrease the number of unexpected pregnancies.
A pregnancy can seriously affect girl's health and ability to pursue empowerment through education.
When artists can't work, books are burnt and cultural heritage is destroyed it is a sign of repressive, dark times ahead.
Sweden considers the cultural conventions of UNESCO and other relevant legal instruments as important tools in the organisation's work within the cultural sector.
This year squares and streets have been the scene for major uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.
Women have been an important part of these movements. We need to ensure that the future also brings greater empowerment of women.
History teaches us that revolutions might happen fast, but that democracy-building takes time. I am happy to see that UNESCO already has started working in these countries.
Long term support is needed by national authorities, by non-governmental organizations and by UNESCO to ensure reform and progress.
What has happened in many countries in North Africa is a victory for the values on which UNESCO is built.
Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of a democratic society.
Internet, social media, and mobile phones should continue to play a crucial role as instruments for democratic participation. The same human rights that we have off-line must also be protected on-line.
The test of democracy is the freedom to criticize.
We cannot allow the freedom of expression to be undermined. The Swedish Government attaches great importance to this matter, and to the work of UNESCO in this field. International NGO:s also play a important role in monitoring press freedom
More that 500 journalists have been killed over the last 10 years. The majority of them not reporting from war zones but reporting about corruption and scandals. Most of these murders are never punished. Sweden appreciates Mme Bokova's diligence in condemning such killings.
We must speak up on behalf of those who have had their own voices silenced, like the Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak.
He was arrested with other colleagues in Eritrea on 23 September 2001 for publishing articles critical of the government in the free Eritrean press. Dawit Isaak is imprisoned because he used his right of freedom of speech, a fundamental freedom, now denied him and for which he personally has paid dearly for 10 long years.
We call for his immediate release.
The Horn of Africa is an area of concern for press freedom. Two Swedish journalists, Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson, have been detained for over three months in Ethiopia.
They were arrested by the Ethiopian authorities in early July after crossing the border from Somalia into Ethiopia. The Swedish Government is working for their freedom.
Remember: killing or imprisoning a journalist doesn't only silence one individual, it silences the voices of thousands.
Science and research are tools to build a brighter future for us all. As the lead UN agency for research, UNESCO has an important role to play.
We who have plenty must take our responsibility and invest in education and research globally.
This year it has been 50 years since the Swedish UN Secretary-General Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld's tragic death.
We commemorate one of the greatest international civil servants of all time.
Let me conclude with these words from Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld:
"The UN has not been created to take humanity to heaven but to save it from hell."
The need for a United Nations based on political legitimacy, on justice, and on human rights is as strong as ever.
Thank you for your attention.