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Good morning, my name is Olga Algayerova, and I'm the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Today, with the help of some wise words from a celebrated composer from my home region, Antonín Dvořák, I want to explain what multilateralism and cultural exchange have in common - and why together they are so important in facing the complexity of today's challenges.

photo journaliste

Olga Algayerova,

21.11.2020


UN75: Reflections on multilateralism as the essence of intercultural dialogue


Photo article

The Silk Road concert in 2017, organised by the UN Alliance of Civilizations, celebrated the exchange of culture and knowledge (ONUART Foundation)

In the late 19th century, Antonín Dvořák, Czech composer and celebrated musician from my own region said admiratively of locomotives: “It comprises so many parts, so many different components… everything has its purpose and role and the result is astounding!”

Dvořák's expression would make a generous tribute to our diplomatic system: so many parts, each with its own role.

We stand at a critical moment. More than ever, the great challenges we face – like Covid-19, the climate crisis, unsustainable resource use, and inequalities – cannot be faced by one country alone.

The 75th anniversary of the United Nations is the time to reflect on how we can best work together to address them. Because the challenges we face are complex, our collective response must be multifaceted. For this reason, political cooperation, scientific and technical work must be fostered alongside cultural exchange.

Indeed, this recognition is imprinted in the very DNA of our modern multilateral system. Signed in 1945 among the still smouldering ashes of the Second World War, Article I of the UN Charter – whose entry into force 75 years ago we celebrate in 2020 – states the objective “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character”.

In fact, the “intellectual and moral solidarity” of humankind was deemed so essential to build lasting peace that in the very same year, the signature of the UNESCO Constitution established a dedicated organisation within the fledgling United Nations system, its purpose being "to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture”.

And in turn, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948, affirmed that “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community” and “to enjoy the arts”.

Over the decades, much has changed, but the intergovernmental apparatus set up back then has weathered the storms, thanks also to the mutually reinforcing foundations of political cooperation and intercultural understanding.

Indeed, three-quarters of a century of the United Nations project has taught us a great deal about common endeavour. Today, at a time of rising nationalism and tensions, we may look to lessons from history.

Read the full article


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Photo article

Ocean Farm 1 facility for salmon aquaculture dragged to its final location. (Photo: DNV-GL)

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This renewed enthusiasm about aquaculture’s future comes with concerns. Will species important to feeding people in the developing world also be at the core of those scientific research? Will consumers accept fish and shellfish that have been altered using technologies that rewrite genes or move them between species? The following article in Science magazine leaves these questions largely open for now but shows how close genetics currently is to profoundly changing aquaculture.

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This selection is proposed by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator GESDA, working on anticipating cutting-edge science and technological advances to develop innovative and inclusive solutions for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants.


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