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17 Dec, 2011

Standing Ovation For Palestinian Leader As Flag Is Raised At UNESCO

PARIS, December 13 (UNESCO Media release) – The Palestinian flag was raised at UNESCO’s Headquarters on December 13 to mark the admission of Palestine to the Organization. The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova, the President of the General Conference Katalin Bogyay, the Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board Alissandra Cummins and the Presidents of the regional groups, were present at the ceremony.

Addressing the assembly of delegations and guests, President Abbas said: “Our admission (to UNESCO) is a tremendous source of pride for us […] Palestinian writers, artists and researchers have played a vital role trying to preserve the culture and identity of our people. UNESCO has also played a fundamental role – and has been a loyal partner.”

Welcoming Palestine to UNESCO, MS Bokova said: “UNESCO is working on the frontlines today, to build a more peaceful, more democratic and more just world. Human dignity is our starting point and the measure of our success. Solidarity is our guide and our objective. Multilateralism has never been so important. This new membership must be a chance for all to join together around shared values and renewed ambitions for peace. It is in this spirit that I welcome Palestine to UNESCO.”

UNESCO became the first UN agency to admit Palestine as a full Member after its Member States voted to admit Palestine as the 195th Member of UNESCO on 31 October, during the 36th session of the Organization’s General Conference.

Speech By UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova (in French and English)

Monsieur le Président Abbas, Monsieur le Ministre, Madame la Présidente de la Conférence générale, Madame la Présidente du Conseil exécutif, Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,

Un jour d’automne 1945, un jour comme celui-ci, l’auteur américain Archibald MacLeish écrivit les premiers mots de notre Acte Constitutif.

« Les guerres prenant naissance dans l’esprit des hommes, c’est dans l’esprit des hommes que doivent être élevées les défenses de la paix ».

Cette conviction est la raison d’être de l’UNESCO.

Elle est ancrée, plus fortement que jamais, dans le cœur de ceux qui sont ici, et de tous les autres, qui sont nombreux.

Aujourd’hui, devant le drapeau Palestinien, je repense aux paroles du poète Mahmoud Darwich : « il n’y aura pas de paix au Moyen-Orient tant que la colombe n’aura pas pris son envol, la justice sur une aile, et la liberté sur l’autre, et atteint la terre du rameau d’olivier. »

La Palestine fait partie d’une région qui est le carrefour de trois civilisations millénaires.

Il en résulte un devoir, devant l’histoire, et devant l’humanité – un devoir de paix et de compréhension mutuelle.

Sur cette terre – comme l’a souligné Ban Ki-moon, Secrétaire général des Nations Unies – une solution à deux états, vivant en paix et en sécurité, se fait attendre depuis longtemps.

« La paix a une chance, et il faut la saisir » a dit le premier ministre Israélien Itzhak Rabin, dans son dernier discours, prononcé le 4 novembre 1995.

Je veux croire que l’adhésion de la Palestine à l’UNESCO est une chance.

Une chance de montrer que la paix et la sécurité se construisent aussi à l’école, par la culture et la science.

Chaque enfant qui nait est une chance pour la paix, s’il grandit dans la dignité et dans le respect des autres.

L’UNESCO est la gardienne de ce message universel.

Au nom des hommes et des femmes qui croient en ce message, je souhaite à la Palestine la bienvenue dans cette Maison.

Membership of UNESCO goes beyond raising the flag. It comes with rights and responsibilities. It means sharing values – the values of tolerance, respect for others. Membership allows a country to bring to the world that which it cherishes most — the wealth of its culture, the resonance of its dreams for mutual understanding.

The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage. They must benefit from quality education, education for peace. A strong educational system teaches respect for human rights. A vibrant culture respects the culture of others. In this connected world, healthy societies flourish through ties with others. UNESCO stands for all of this.

Culture, education, the sciences, and communication must be bridges, not pretexts for division. This is the promise of multilateralism — collective action is more powerful when it crosses borders.

This is why I dream of joint protection of world heritage by Israel and Palestine.

I dream of joint educational textbooks on the history of shared ties to the land where Israelis and Palestinians live.

This is the promise held before us today. Change is racing across the region. Young Egyptians are calling out for dignity. Young Palestinians are demanding respect of their rights. Young Israelis are pushing for more justice.

Across the world, people are calling for new forms of action — to leave the nightmares of history behind and to build a new world.

We must raise our ambitions to the new demands for peace everywhere. This is why UNESCO provides literacy to policemen in Afghanistan. This is why we defend press freedom in Egypt and Tunisia. This is why we fight violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is why we are rebuilding Haiti’s education system.

UNESCO is working on the frontlines today, to build a more peaceful, more democratic and more just world. Human dignity is our starting point and the measure of our success. Solidarity is our guide and our objective. Multilateralism has never been so important.

This new membership must be a chance for all to join together around shared values and renewed ambitions for peace.

It is in this spirit, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I welcome Palestine to UNESCO.

President Abbas to UNESCO: It’s an Emotional, Historical Moment

(Source: WAFA, Palestine News Agency) – President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday described the raising of the Palestinian flag at UNESCO headquarters in Paris as a historical and emotional moment.

Shortly after raising the flag making Palestine officially UNESCO member number 195, Abbas told the General Conference that “it is a historical and an emotional moment for me and my people to raise the Palestinian flag at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.”

UNESCO voted on October 31 to admit Palestine as full member, the first for a UN agency.

Abbas received a warm welcome and a standing ovation when he entered the hall and after he took to the podium of the General Conference to address UNESCO plenum. It is a cause for pride that UNESCO, with its noble and humanitarian charter, programs and objectives, was the first international organization to admit Palestine a full member, said Abbas.

“Today the Palestinian state is a member of UNESCO, and we hope it will soon be a member of the United Nations, to live side by side in peace with Israel,” he said. Abbas submitted an application on September 23 for full membership of the UN. However, strong US opposition had obstructed its membership.

“In the first years following the Nakba (1948 catastrophe), the Palestinian people resolved to education, culture and arts to preserve the Palestinian soul, memory, identity and national legacy in refugee camps and exile, after being uprooted from their land, and led to banishment and oblivion,” he said.

He stressed that during the successful process of building the Palestinian state institutions, education was a main priority, as well as all aspects of culture, arts and archeology, with the partnership and sponsorship of UNESCO.

He said that cultural, educational and historical marks in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron, will be preserved, renovated and protected to overcome the obstacles and hardship by the Israeli occupation, urging UNESCO to help in that.