Statement by H.E. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail at the celebration marking the announcement of candidacy of Ambassador Moushira Khattab, the Egyptian candidate to the post of UNESCO Director General
Tuesday، 16 August 2016 - 04:36 PM
Cairo, July 19, 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Allow me in the beginning to express all thanks and appreciation for your participation in this important cultural event. Allow me also to welcome you in the Egyptian Museum; this unique place that is full of the scent of history and abundant with the precious monuments and works of creativity of Old Egypt while it represents an architectural design attesting to an interaction between history and modern age.
This event is being held at a critical juncture of the world history where the international community is passing through massive transformations at the political, security, economic, social and ecological levels. This state of affairs requires standing up and overcoming these challenges through boosting joint action at the local, regional and international levels.
Therefore, the cultural dialogue which was held this evening and grouped several elite Egyptian intellectuals and thinkers about the role of Egypt and UNESCO regarding international cultural issues, emanates from Egypt's faith in the importance of forwarding a message to all world peoples confirming that there is no stronger weapon in the face of current challenges than cultural convergence and intellectual and innovative interaction. Atop of these challenges come terrorism and extremism of the groups of darkness and ignorance which do not scruple to kill innocent people, shake the stability and security of societies and tamper with and destroy human heritage. I seize this opportunity and extend my heartfelt condolences to the French people and government over the victims of the terrorist attack that took place in Nice on July 14. We express our full solidarity with them in this difficult time and confirm that these acts will add to our determination to be united in the face of the forces of darkness that are seeking destruction and sabotage.
This is why the importance of UNESCO has increased for addressing the different challenges including terrorism and extremism and using violence. The phrase that was mentioned in the UNESCO statute that was ratified in 1945, which is true, expresses the goal of its establishment: "Since wars are first produced in the minds of people, edifices of peace should also be set up in their minds". UNESCO has decided, unlike other United Nations agencies, to include the reasons behind its establishment in its role as the conscience of humanity with a view to contributing to protecting peace and security through working for enlarging and enhancing activities in the domains of education, culture and communications along with other domains that have been recently introduced such as environment, climate change and sports provided that in the heart of all these activities should be the most important component of any modern society that is the youth and women. This all is meant to consolidate cooperation among nations to guarantee the respect of the values of justice, law and human rights and to overcome all basic challenges facing all people without any discrimination on the ground of race, gender, language or religion according to the United Nations Charter.
This is why the Egyptian government was keen to include several important topics, such as education, innovation, knowledge, scientific research, culture and information technology along with environment and climate change, in the National Strategy for Sustainable Development: 2030 Vision", that was approved after a constructive and rich societal dialogue. All these topics are fields of interest to UNESCO as basic issues to guarantee the rights of the coming generations and end poverty and achieve social justice which is one of the most important citizenship rights.
We were also keen within this framework to confirm several principles atop of which come easy access to education for all and guaranteeing its good quality along with respecting diversity, creativity and innovation and non-discrimination in a way that contributes to freeing man from ignorance, intellectual rigidity and extremism.
Also, the government was keen on including all these topics in its program that was referred to the House of Representatives in March and is being implemented now after it was approved.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Regarding relations between Egypt and UNESCO, this relation dates back to more than 70 years ago as Egypt was one of the founding countries of it through signing its statute on January 16, 1945. Egypt was also one of the first 20 countries that signed its charter. More, relations between the two sides go beyond this level and were reflected in UNESCO's cooperation with Egypt in the late 50s for overcoming development challenges as it was a must to build the High Dam. The project would have exposed Nubia antiquities to drowning. International contacts that were made by the eminent Minister of Culture Thrwat Okasha at the time in cooperation with UNESCO, helped launch an international campaign for rescuing Nubia antiquities out of a new principle that was newly put forth by UNESCO which is " the world includes a cultural heritage of high value and the whole humanity should work on fully protecting it as it is its own inseparable heritage". The campaign was successful in covering the expenses of rescuing the Nubia antiquities and Egypt completed its development project of building the High Dam.
On the other hand, I would like to make reference to the fact that Egypt maintained its membership in UNESCO executive office since the convocation of its first meeting in 1946 until now except very few years. This gave Egypt experience in dealing with the organization's mechanisms and activities. This privilege is not available for many of the organization's member states.
Other significant factors allow Egypt a relative privilege within the framework of its relations with UNESCO. I would like to shed light on some of them:
- Its diversified heritage that has been accumulating over ages starting with the ancient Egyptian to the Greek and then the Roman passing through the Coptic and the Arab/Islamic heritage.
- Its unique and distinguished geographic location that combines the African Nile roots, which have been entrenches in the features of the Egyptian personality and its overlooking the Mediterranean interacting with Europe and the West and then its overlooking the Red Sea linking between Asia and Africa.
- Its Al-Azhar Al-Sharif religious institution and its great St. Mark Church along with its Islamic, Coptic and Jewish heritage.
- Its soft power represented in its intellectuals, scientists and men of culture.
- Its unique position as an enlightened beacon of Arab civilization.
- Its faith in the principles of dialogue and respect of the other and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and making just-based peace and harmonized international cooperation an inalienable strategic option in its foreign policy along with its relations with all world countries and within the framework of international organizations.
- Its keenness on cultural diversity and holding high the humanitarian heritage and protecting and preserving it while making education, culture and sound health environment part of the citizenship rights according to the 2014 Constitution.
- Its aspiration to cope up with the sweeping age of information and exerting all efforts for keeping pace with the successive developments in the domain of knowledge management sciences.
- Its African affiliation together with its Arab affiliation, a state of affairs that gives room to consider issues of concern of African peoples and their hopes and aspirations.
In light of all these considerations, and out of the Egyptian action dynamics at the regional and international levels and in accordance with the Egyptian interests within a regional and world context that is facing huge challenges and in implementation of the comprehensive development goals that are aspired by the Egyptian people, the Egyptian State thought that it has potentials qualifying it to contribute to formulating a futuristic vision to achieve the goals and purposes of UNESCO through fielding a candidate to the post of UNESCO director general. This post has never been held by a representative of the Arab world since the establishment of the organization. Egypt is taking that step out of its faith in the importance of the noble mission of its role and out of confidence in its ability to achieve the aspirations of the member states, especially the developing countries of them, in the activities of the organization especially those related to achieving the sustainable development goals that were adopted by the United Nations last September.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
From Tahrir square, that place which became a symbol for freedom and dignity, and from the headquarters of the Egyptian Museum, this unique place which is carrying in its halls and corridors the magnificence of history and the Egyptian civilization and a few kilometers away from the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx that has been standing for centuries now as an eyewitness to the history of humanity, with its achievements and failures, and also not far away from Old Cairo the place of convergence of the three heavenly religions and south to the city of Alexandria which embraced 23 centuries ago the headquarters of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which was revived in 2002 within the relentless Egyptian endeavors for leadership in the domain of culture and knowledge and from the blessed land and cradle of civilizations, I am pleased to announce to you and to the whole world that the Arab Republic of Egypt decided nominating former minister of family and population Mrs. Moushira Khattab to the post of UNESCO director general. She is a woman who is equipped with vast experience and plentiful commended record at the national and international levels. Egypt, through this nomination, is presenting to the world a model example of the Arab, African, Mediterranean Egyptian woman who is enlightened and successful and who is well-known for her hard work. She has always been interacting with the world in a rational and serious way and proved that she has a modern vision and is capable to achieve in the field work. She proved also to be brave in defending her stances.
Egypt is proving to the international community at large, through this nomination, that the Egyptian woman has always enjoyed an important status as long as she proved having the required efficiency. This approach has been adopted by Egypt very long time ago since the age of Queens Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Nefertari along with others despite difficulties facing the process of women empowerment and gender equality throughout years not only in developing countries but also at the international level.
Given the importance of the post of UNESCO director general, a higher committee has been formed including representatives of the ministries concerned to discuss the idea of nominating a candidate to the post and naming several candidates who are eligible to compete in these elections. After lengthy discussions at the highest level considering the outcome of the work of the committee, it was decided that Mrs. Moushira Khattab is the official candidate of Egypt to the post. Several friendly and influential countries inside the organization were consulted regarding the nomination and her chance to win the election. All reactions came very positive in light of the honorable diplomatic and field career of the Egyptian candidate and because her experience is matching with the fields of action of UNESCO. Accordingly, a final decision was made to nominate her to the high post.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Our candidate has reached high posts through holding the post of minister of family and population. She has massive contacts at the international level. Her relations with governments and international organizations along with non-governmental organizations and research centers are diversified. She also has a strong and diversified career together with her rich experience through working with international organizations. She has proved having unique administrative skills in leading a large number of human resources and creating a unanimous view regarding critical issues.
Besides her diversified experience which you all know and which is explained in detail in her profile that will be handed out to you, our candidate boasts having tangible achievements in the field work as she was touring herself provinces and governorates in all parts of Egypt to inspect personally the initiatives which she floated in the educational, development and human rights domains along with preserving environment and fighting human trafficking and uprooting all forms of violence and discrimination and other fields that are of interest to UNESCO. This made her a leading woman in her work fields as you all know it is not enough to propose ideas or put forth initiatives to measure the success of any official. But what matters is the implementation and perseverance and going down to the field for achieving the hoped-for goals.
I would like to conclude my speech with confirming that the Egyptian State with all its official and non-official institutions and through efforts of its sincere sons are strongly supporting this nomination. There is an understanding inside the organization that the coming director general would belong to the Arab group in implementation of the principle of fair geographic distribution in light of the fact that the Arab group is the only group that did not get the honor that one of its members held the post of UNESCO director general. There is no doubt that Egypt with its cultural, intellectual and scientific contribution is eligible to the post and can have its mark on the history of the management of this organization.