1. The 43rd session of the International Conference on Education, convened by the Director-General of UNESCO in accordance with resolution 1.2 adopted by the General Conference at its twenty-sixth session, was held at the International Conference Centre, Geneva, from 14 to 19 September 1992.
2. The Conference was attended by 125 Member States of UNESCO; four non-Member States; Palestine; eight organisations of the United Nations system; eight other intergovernmental organisations; 17 international non-governmental organisations and one foundation. The 43rd session of the Conference was attended, in all, by 551 delegates, including 54 ministers and 26 deputy ministers of education, and 82 representatives and observers. The list of participants in the 43rd session is appended hereto.
3. Opening the 4Srd session, H.E. Mr Aljun Singh, Minister of Human Resources Development and Head of the Delegation of India, the Member State which had ensured the chairmanship of the 42nd session, observed that the theme chosen for the 43rd session The contribution of education to cultural development was significant and timely. He noted that, since the previous Conference, the world's political landscape had irreversibly changed towards peace, a deceleration in the anns race and an avoidance of nuclear catastrophe, holding out the hope of a more just, equitable, humane and rational world order. However, he also noted that the process of democratisation had at the same time released forces of violence, ethnic strife and cultural and religious intolerance. In this situation, he said, there had emerged a greater need to use education and culture as media to purvey the message of multicultural coexistence based on the underlying socio-religious unity of mankind. Referring to the fact that the Conference was taking place at the mid-point in the World Decade for Cultural Development, 1988-1997, he suggested that the inextricable linkage between education and cultural development and their concomitant relationship had to be fully analysed and compre-hended to render education more relevant and acceptable as a viable tool to preserve the cul-tural ethos, foster cultural development and promote global cultural understanding. Expressing the hope that the deliberations of the Conference would lead to action-oriented recommenda-tions which would guide decision-makers and Member States in integrating the crucial aspects of cultural development in the content and process of education, the Chairman gave the floor to Mr Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Director-General of UNESCO.
4. In his address to the Conference, the Director-General thanked the authorities of the Swiss Confederation and of the Republic and Canton of Geneva for their hospitality which they had extended over many years to the Conference, and welcomed the representatives of Member States and observers from non-Member States, liberation movements, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations and organisations of the United Nations system. He noted that the Conference's focus on education and culture was significant from a number of standpoints. Firstly, recalling that the World Conference on Cultural Policies in 1982 had underlined in its recommendations, as well as in the Mexico Declaration, the relations which exist between education, cultural development and the cultural dimension of deve-lopment, the Director-General reminded the Conference that the programme of action for the World Decade for Cultural Development explicitly foresaw the contribution of education to cultural development as one of its first objectives. Secondly, the intersectoral and transdis-ciplinary theme of this Conference reflected the fundamental and universal linkage or c o n v e rgence which existed between education and culture. This convergence, he said, was exemplified particularly in the Gennan concept of Bildung, in which education and culture were semantically related. Culture in its widest sense, defined in the Mexico Declaration as 'the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterise a society or social group', both encapsulated and impregnated education, determi-ning in part its objectives and modalities.
5. Education and culture, the Director-General emphasised, were related symbiotically. Culture was an effect of education, and education in turn was a motor of cultural change with the potential of contributing either to the impoverishment or enrichment of culture. In view of this, there may be an over-emphasis in school programmes today on scientific, technical and economic questions at the expense of the arts and the humanities. Thus, the Director-General suggested that the time might be appropriate to review the composition of school curricula and the appropriateness of existing teaching methods. It was important, he further stressed, not to neglect the place of artistic expression in cultural development. Works of art, he said, represent culture in one of its narrowest but noblest senses, distilling the very spirit of a culture. Education, he added, had a vital role to play in fostering artistic expression.
6. Observing that the domain of culture is universal, the Director-General noted that cultural development is in part the promotion of dialogue between cultures. This, he noted, had always been one of UNESCO's central concerns involving both the strengthening of cultural identities and developing exchanges between cultures to their mutual benefit and enrichment. The study of foreign languages was of particular significance, he said, since it provided an unrivalled insight into other cultures and created a valuable disposition towards intercultural dialogue. In the past, education had too often played a part in the destruction of minority cultures. The preservation of cultural diversity - no less than biological diversity - was crucial, he emphasised, for the future of mankind, and education could make a significant contribution to the specific problem of multicultural living and intercultural understanding.
7. Noting that the promotion of human creativity is at the heart of cultural development, the Director-General observed that cultural development becomes one with human development. Referring to UNESCO's new Centre for the World Heritage, as well as to the organisation of two commissions on culture and development, and on education for the twenty-first century, he drew attention to the intersectoral and interdisciplinary nature of UNESCO's mission within the United Nations system which aims at helping to construct a culture of peace.
8. The Chairman then gave the floor to Mr Dominique Föllmi, State Councillor, Head of the Public Education Department of the Republic and Canton of Geneva and Head of the Swiss Delegation. Mr Föllmi welcomed the Director-General and delegates, and proposed some points of reflection on the importance of culture for the development of the human being. Utilising the metaphor of a plant in soil from which both sustenance and harmful parasites and disease could be drawn, he suggested that the young child could be either nourished or deformed by culture. Culture had both a positive side in nourishing all that was best in the individual being, and a negative side in feeding xenophobia and the will to eliminate others. The fundamental role of education, he said, was to contribute to the development of a culture which would enable millions of human beings to live together peacefully and to give them the means of resistance in the face of technologies which have as much the capability of enslaving as of serving those who utilized them.
9. The Honourable Mr Antonio Silipo, Minister of Education, Province of Ontario, Canada, was then elected as Chairman of the 43rd session of the Conference by acclamation. Taking the chair, he noted that the Conference was taking place at a time when we are deeply aware of the importance of cultural identity, cultural diversity, cultural conflict and cultural development in our lives. As educators, the Chairman emphasised, young people are always our inspiration and the main focus of our deliberations. Recalling his own youth, spent in three different countries, he observed that there are children and young people in every part of the globe who are going through the experience of immigration involving, often in an acute form, an interaction between culture and education. He sketched out a number of key issues related to the theme of the Conference which affect many Member States: the defence and preservation of endangered minority cultures; the need to respect and honour local ways and traditions while remaining open to the practices and values of other cultures; the extension and improvement of education in the full range of arts which should be open to all students, not only to a chosen few; and the means of forging stronger links between the school, the family and the community in dealing with issues of culture, language and cultural development. At a time of crisis, when people are being displaced and their lives shattered by war, famine and natural disasters, we must, the Chairman urged, dedicate ourselves to securing hope for the future through the most powerful means of all - education.
10. The Conference then unanimously accepted the recommendation of the IBE Council, presented by its President H.E. Ambassador Ruth Lerner de Almea, that Rule 4.1 of the Rules of Procedure be suspended in order that the number of Vice-Chairmen be increased from eight to nine. The following Vice-Chairmen were then elected by acclamation:
12. The Chairman then suspended the plenary meeting to open the first meeting of the Commission, of which Mr Gonzalo Figueroa (Chile) was elected Chairman by acclamation. The plenary meeting was then resumed with the Chairman submitting the provisional agenda (ED/BIE/CONFINTED 43/1) and the proposed organisation of the work of the Conference (ED/BIE/CONFINTED 43/2) to the delegates, who approved them unanimously.
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