Speech by the Prime Minister of Malaysia the Honourable Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak at the 35th UNESCO General Conference

By Tuesday October 6th, 2009 No Comments

Speech by the Prime Minister of Malaysia
The Honourable
Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak
At the
35th UNESCO General Conference,
6TH October 2009

Mr George Anastassopoulos
Temporary President of the General Conference of UNESCO

Mr Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai
Chairman of the Executive Board of UNESCO

Mr Koichiro Matsuura,
UNESCO Director General
Honourable Ministers,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. First and foremost I would like to bring the fraternal greetings of all Malaysians to the delegates and observers of the 35th UNESCO General Conference. On behalf of the people and government of Malaysia I would like to thank UNESCO and Director General Matsuura for giving me the honour and privilege of addressing this General Conference, a first for a Malaysian Prime Minister.

2. On a personal note, walking through the hallowed halls of this august body has rekindled past memories, camaraderie and friendships forged during my service on UNESCOs’ Executive Board a decade ago. It was a poignant and nostalgic moment, reinforced by the fact that it was my late father, Tun Abdul Razak, as Malaysia’s pre independence Minister of Education and the country’s second Prime Minister who had played an instrumental role in Malaysia’s decision to join UNESCO more than five decades ago.

3. It is also worth noting that this conference will witness a historical milestone. The metaphorical glass ceiling will finally be shattered in an institution dedicated towards equality for all as it will formally elect Madam Elrina Bokova as its’ first female Director General. I wish her well and have every confidence that she would continue the good works of her predecessors.

4. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the outgoing Director General Mr Koichiro Matsuura for his excellent stewardship. As we are well aware during his tenure, Mr. Matsuura managed to bring UNESCO to a higher level of performance and successfully laid down a solid foundation for organisational reform and renewal.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen

5. Today, as we grapple with an ever deepening gulf between cultures and faiths, dark clouds of a global recession, heart wrenching tragedies induced by climate change, we cannot afford to be in our comfort zone. The choice before us is not one of unilateralism or isolationism. The path forward lies in a more imaginative and inclusive form of global collaboration.

6. Basically, there are three major challenges that currently confront the international community which need to be collectively met and overcome. First, the challenge of ensuring a durable peace, a just and equitable peace, not just peace for our time, but, peace for all times. A peace premised upon a covenant of the willing and not one of enforced by way of hegemony through fear and coercion.

7. Such peace can only come into existence if we are willing to constructively engage each other through dialogue. I recall the famous German theologian-philosopher, Professor Hans Kung, who has rightly observed when he said, “There can be no peace in the World if there is no harmony among the religions and cultures for that matter; and there can be no harmony between religions if there is no dialogue amongst them”. Indeed, ignorance, fear, prejudice and apathy left unchecked is fertile ground for breeding hatred, extremism, fatalism and fanaticism, the root causes of what ills the world today.

8. Malaysia is willing to play its role in facilitating inter cultural dialogue. Geography and the legacy of history have positioned Malaysia strategically to act as a bridge in linking all of the worlds’ major cultures. It is not an offer grounded in altruism but an offer based upon our mutual and shared interests. After all it is a truism that a peaceful internal and external environment is pre requisite for national development.

9. Truly, for Malaysians, inter cultural dialogue is an everyday fact of life. Our founding fathers in their wisdom chose at the outset of independence to use integration rather than assimilation as a national policy to manage race relations and to forge a new nation. It was a conscious choice much criticised when it was taken but ultimately vindicated by history. We have evolved from merely tolerating diversity to acceptance and now finally the apex of this mindset is celebrating diversity as a source of national strength rather than a source of conflict.

10. This is at the root of the 1Malaysia philosophy which I introduced at the outset of taking office last April. We believe in this philosophy, predicated on mutual trust and respect between all communities; my clarion call for Malaysia is 1dream, 1people, and 1nation. I believe it is the right formula not only for national harmony but it is also appropriate towards enhancing regional and global peace. Therefore, the next logical extension of this national philosophy would be the concept of 1Region and ultimately 1 World.

11. At the regional level, forty years ago, South East Asia was a region mired in conflict. Today, by and large it is a region of peace and stability. Clearly, the culture of peace permeating throughout the region has allowed member states to focus on their respective national development agendas. This culture of peace and stability in the region is under pinned by ASEAN’s unique form of regionalism which is predicated upon dialogue and constructive engagement within and beyond the region.

12. The second challenge is in creating a new global financial architecture. The last fifty years have witnessed the ultimate and decisive triumph of market economy over central planning. Concomitant to this is the ubiquitous impact of rapid globalisation which engendered a wide range of attitudes and responses ranging from unbridled exuberance to total rejection.

13. Moreover the arguments against globalisation have been somewhat strengthened by the current global financial implosion which is caused by the inherent weaknesses in the global financial makeup. Obviously, it is a reflection of the success and extent of globalisation, that, while the tremors of the Asian financial crisis a decade ago reverberated regionally, the current financial meltdown has left no nation unscathed.

14. Notwithstanding the ongoing raging global debate, we as policymakers neither have the comfort of abstract discourse nor the luxury of time. We need to deal with realities. Globalisation is irreversible. The clock cannot be turned back nor progress halted. Nevertheless the necessity of embracing globalisation does not come with the carte blanche of unconditional acceptance.

15. We must shun the instinctive primordial tendency to retreat into the familiar shell of narrow nationalism and protectionism. Rather we must meet this challenge head on by collaborating to steer the process towards a more sustainable, equitable and just outcome.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen

16. In ensuring the desired results, the robust entrepreneurial spirit must be tempered with social conscience. It should also promote equitable growth and take on board the interests of all stakeholders. We must never again allow unbridled capitalism driven by naked greed to run amok. Without a judicious regulatory framework the world can be brought to the brink of catastrophe and misery.

17. It is imperative that the new global financial architecture that is to be created will ensure prosperity is equitably shared. Appropriate mechanisms must be put in place to deal with excesses and manipulation of the system. It has been proven that many succumb to the lust for wealth by any means with no compunction.

18. The third, is that of managing climate change. It is a major challenge not for future generations but for us today. As I speak to you, my region is experiencing major natural disasters and catastrophes’ such as earth quake in Padang, Indonesia, Tsunami in Western Samoa, hurricanes in the Philippines and the major floods in Southern India. To the peoples of Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Western Samoa, I offer our heartfelt sympathies. These heart wrenching tragedies remind us all of how fragile the world we live in, and how interdependent our world has become.

19. The forthcoming summit in Copenhagen in December must reflect a strong global commitment and action to reverse the serious deterioration of planet earth. UNESCO has been in the forefront to preserve some historical sites as part of our global heritage. Yet the most valuable heritage that we can bequeath to future generations is planet earth itself; a planet which can sustain the quality of life for mankind to the end of time.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen

20. I will be the first to admit the task that lies before us as policymakers and leaders in ensuring these challenges are met is not easy. However, we cannot afford the price of inaction. We need to do what is right, even if it is hard. These are the challenges of our times. It can neither be left unmet nor unresolved. They must be addressed head on by the world community with a concerted will and common purpose drawing upon our reservoir of goodwill and collective experience.

21. Failure is not an option, for it will have far reaching consequences for our very survival. Generations past have been forced to rebuild the global order from the ashes of destruction only to see it again being wrecked asunder by the unwillingness of those among us who are able but choose not to, when the opportunity arises to make a difference.

22. Finally, as a gesture of our sincere commitment and firm believe in the ideals of UNESCO’s mandate to bring peace and development through education, science, culture and communication, I am happy to announce that the Government of Malaysia will establish a UNESCO – Malaysia Cooperative Trust Fund. This fund will be utilized to enhance South-South cooperation for capacity building in education and science for the benefit of the Least Developed Countries, Small Island States and in support of the Priority Africa agenda.

23. We are convinced that quality education can only be provided for by quality teachers. In Malaysia we believe in the principles of democratisation of education, i.e. equitable access to quality

24. and lifelong education. Ideals much championed by UNESCO. Our nascent programme is to emphasise early childhood education (0 years to 6 years) which is the most solid foundation we can give to any child.

25. In order to make our contribution towards sharing these ideals with other nations, I have the pleasure to announce that next year, Malaysia will provide a launching grant of USD 5 million, followed by a contribution of USD 1 million annually. Programmes under this fund will be worked out in close consultation with the UNESCO Regional Offices in Bangkok and Jakarta, the priority Africa Department and the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO in the Ministry of Education. Under this initiative Malaysia will provide teachers training facility at pre service, in service, school administration and management. Towards this end, about 300 places will be provided annually at all levels.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen

26. There is an old Malay proverb which translates as, that together collectively we can conquer all peaks, traverse all valleys and cross all rivers. No obstacle is too high or too deep nor too wide for us to overcome if we join hands, think and act together as 1World.

And with that, I thank you…

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