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Mr. Philippe Kridelka - World Interfaith Harmony Week

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World Interfaith Harmony Week


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Mr. Philippe Kridelka

Philippe Kridelka, Director, UNESCO Liaison Office, New York. UN Photo  Paulo Filgueiras

The Imperative of Dialogue

The imperative of dialogue has perhaps never been as important as it is today. People and societies are more interconnected than ever, but new inequalities are arising. These are times of great opportunity but also of turbulence and economic crisis. In ever more complex societies, in cities that are ever more diverse, we know what happens when dialogue and understanding break down.

The fabric of society is quickly torn, but it takes long to mend. Cultures and religions are different across the world, but humanity remains a single community, united around human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Diversity is a reality for our societies. It should be considered as a positive and enriching force for innovation and renewal and as an engine for development.

However, for its potential to be fully explored, diversity must be integrated into policymaking, into policies that unfold within a framework of democracy and pluralism, to lay the foundations for greater tolerance, dialogue, and cooperation between peoples of all cultures, religions, and faiths.

Cultural literacy is a lifeline today. This must lead public policy and education. It should guide the evolution of media. It can inspire cultural policies, and it supports he arts.

These goals guide all of UNESCO’s actions to build bridges of understanding and solidarity within societies and between them. They lie at the heart of our Convention on Cultural Diversity, where diversity and creativity are recognized as tools for sustainable development. Examples include training of artists, media, and legal professionals in Niger and in Mozambique.

In Nicaragua UNESCO helped the authorities to map the cultural traditions of the first nations and of the people of African descent so that those traditions can better contribute to dialogue and to development. Those principles guided our stewardship of the 2010 International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and our new initiatives, such as the Teaching Respect for All project that we are implementing with Brazil and with the United States of America with the aim of developing school curricula which help combat prejudice based on ethnic origin.

Those principles guide our World Heritage Convention, whose fortieth anniversary we celebrate this year, and which includes sites of outstanding universal value. These sites all over the world contribute to economic development as exemplified in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, around the Lalibela churches in Ethiopia, or in Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

Those principles inspire our global leadership of education for human rights, democracy, and peace, of which Holocaust education forms an integral part so that the Holocaust is never forgotten by future generations. Those principles guide our commitment to strengthen freedom of expression and to support major freedoms. For instance, UNESCO has been training journalists in Tunisia in coordination with the new authorities.

All faiths convey a message of peace, of justice, and of human solidarity. These goals guide all of UNESCO’s action to build a culture of peace across the world and to place a new humanism at the center of development in the twenty-first century.

Philippe Kridelka was appointed Director of the UNESCO Office in New York and Representative to the United Nations, and assumed his post in 2010. Mr. Kridelka joined the Belgian Diplomatic Service in 1987. He was First Secretary at the Belgian Embassy in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, from 1989 to 1992, when he returned to Brussels as Deputy Director of the Central European Desk.

Mr. Kridelka was Counselor at the Belgian Embassy in Poland until his posting as Diplomatic Advisor to the Belgian Minister for Foreign Trade. He served as Counselor to the Belgian Representation to the European Union-World Trade Organization desk and as Diplomatic Advisor to the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister before being appointed in 2002 as Ambassador of Belgium to the Republic of Singapore and to the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam. He was appointed Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Belgium to UNESCO in 2005 and served as Director of Cabinet, Office of the Director General of UNESCO from 2009 to 2010. Mr. Kridelka holds a Master’s Degree in Law.

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