ANNEX III. Opening address by Mr Dominique Föllmi, State Councillor, Head of the Public Education Department of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, and Head of the Swiss Delegation
It is my honour to welcome the ministers, vice-ministers, ambassadors and senior officials to Geneva and to greet the delegations taking part in this 43rd session of the International Conference on Education.
I hope that our city will do everything possible to make your stay a pleasant one.
In the next five days, you will have an opportunity to take up and examine in depth a large number of topics revolving around the linkage between education and cultural development.
It is not my intention to discuss one or other of these themes in my opening remarks. I should, however, like to make a number of general observations about the importance of culture as an in-built feature of human beings in their relationship to time and space and to one another.
To use a metaphor from the vegetable kingdom, plants have their roots in the soil from which they draw their sustenance and life; yet plants drawing on the same source can, like mistletoe, exert a harmful, parasitic influence or else, like apple trees, prove beneficial.
The same is true of culture whose spiritual sustenance nourishes to child from birth. Through the medium of the family, friends and, above all, school, boys and girls are imbued with and shaped by words, ideas and beliefs.
From early childhood onwards, the positive aspect of the culture is instrumental in forging identity, strengthening the sense of belonging, fostering assertion of the self and singling out differences.
Unfortunately, there is another side to culture, one that fuels xenophobia -the hatred of others -and ethnic or tribal war, with its determination to destroy others.
This is the destructive culture of intolerance, the rejection of those who are-different, the culture of exclusion.
The fundamental role of education in a world where values can prove more destructive than weapons is to contribute to a forte of cultural development which will sustain billions of human beings, and provide them with an underpinning and inner consistency, and which will also equip them with the means to resist technologies that are equally capable of enslaving the people using them as of working for their benefit.
From this point of view, the contention that peace is primarily inculcated by education, even before people start sitting round the negotiating table, is only an apparent paradox, inas-much as it takes account of the cultural dimension with due respect for both oneself and others, for we ourselves cannot live without others.
It only remains for me to wish you success in your work. I hope that every participant and delegation will leave with the firm conviction that their words have been heeded and that they have worked to advance the idea of culture as a constructive force.
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