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Address by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of receiving a Doctor Honoris Causa at Tongji University


Professor Gang Pei, President of Tongji UniversityDear Professors, Dear Students,Ladies and Gentlemen,I am deeply honoured that Tongji University has decided to award me a doctor honoris causa.I accept this on behalf of UNESCO, and take this is as a sign of trust in the Organization’s work across the world.This is not my first association with Tongji – I was here three years ago, when I visited the World Heritage Research and Training Centre for the Asia and Pacific Region.It is a special pleasure to be here today, just a few days before May 20 -- the University’s anniversary -- so I wish you a happy birthday!Since 1907, Tongji University has been a place to understand the world and shape it to the benefit of all.This is essential today -- at a time when the world is debating the contours of development for the century ahead, after 2015.How can we build the future we want?For decades, ‘development’ was measured, first and foremost, by economic indicators.‘Human development’ then began to be measured by a more complex set of indicators -- including life expectancy, educational attainment and security.Today’s paradigm of ‘sustainable human development’ is fundamentally different to previous development approaches.First, it takes in humanity as a whole, collectively.No single country can hope to achieve sustainable human development alone. Climate change, loss of biodiversity or water pollution cannot be kept outside national borders.We need to work together, because sustainability is not a matter for Governments alone, but for all sectors of society, including foremost universities. We must work with all these sectors, including non-governmental actors.Equally important, sustainability has deeper roots than financial and economic assets.Prosperity is also about access to information and knowledge.It is about respecting cultural diversity, equal opportunity and learning to live together.This conviction lies at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate – at the heart of UNESCO’s Constitution, it is in the minds of men and women that peace and sustainable development must be built.Sustainable development calls on us to shape new ways of thinking, to craft new forms of resilience.This is the meaning, Ladies and Gentlemen, of my appeal for a new humanism for the 21st century.It starts on the benches of school, with quality education,In this, I often recall a piece of ancient Chinese wisdom.If you are planning for a year, sow rice.If you are planning for a decade, plant trees.If you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.This is the founding concept of Tongji University, to harness the power of knowledge for sustainable development.This is the idea guiding the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2003-2012) that UNESCO has led.It requires the development of quality training and capacity-building, learning about ecological contexts, acquiring social skills needed for green jobs.The People’s Republic of China is a leading advocate here.Education for Sustainable Development has been integrated into China’s National Plan for Medium and long-Term Educational Development and Reform (2010-2020).One thousand schools in China have already been designated as pilots for education for sustainable development.This commitment to education was embodied in the 3rd International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education and Training held in Shanghai last year.The People’s Republic of China is deeply committed to education as the means to develop all sources of innovation and creativity.At this time of great change and opportunity, we need to make the most of the endlessly renewable energy that is human ingenuity. We need to build on every source of innovation.Culture is also one of them.Culture is who we are. It is a wellspring of identity and creativity.China knows this very well -- with 43 World Heritage sites, including the West Lake in Hangzhou, where I was yesterday evening, and with 37 expressions on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, including Chinese shadow puppetry.Culture expresses how we live together.It is especially important in cities, where more than half of humanity lives.Most of the great cities today are historical cities – Tokyo, Mexico, Beijing, Bangkok, Istanbul… with a deep cultural heritage and roots.We must develop new ways to manage change and integrate these cultural assets in planning, to foster urban development and social inclusion, together.The stakes are high, and I do not deny the difficulties.Heritage is often neglected or insufficiently maintained for different reasons, in the name of modernization.On the other hand, heritage sites like those inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list experience increasing economic success and are promoted as never before.We need to strike the right balance.This is what we call ‘sustainable management.’We have strong examples across the world – in Paris, Rome and Edinburgh – to show heritage is essential to economic development, job creation and social cohesion.Conserving the existing fabric (built with traditional techniques and local materials and skills) is more environmentally friendly than demolishing and reconstructing.It can contribute to the quality of life of inhabitants as well.This is why UNESCO adopted a new Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, to help cities and Governments to bolster a city’s image and contribute to its inclusive development.This is but one example of the power of culture – and it goes far beyond heritage.Culture is also about cultural industries, crafts, music, design…We must work together to unleash this energy, and UNESCO is committed to forging the tools we need to do so.In this respect, my current visit to China could not be more inspiring.China has put culture high on its development agenda.We need this leadership today – we need the leadership of China to make sure culture lies at the heart of the global development agenda we set to follow 2015.Culture was left out of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. We cannot let this happen again.This is why I was in Hangzhou yesterday, to open the International Congress on Culture and Development, with the support of China, for which I am deeply grateful.We shall not rest until culture is fully integrated into our global development agenda.In this endeavour, I feel inspired by all the work Tongji University is doing in protecting heritage and searching for new solutions to urban development, and encouraged by your motto: Discipline, Practicality, Unity and – what is very important - Creativity

In this spirit, I thank you for the honour of joining your ranks.