Founded in the same year as UNESCO, by Julian Huxley and Bertrand Russell, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the goals of UNESCO. IHEU welcomes the outline of the resolutions adopted and notably the sustained efforts towards universal literacy, to defend and conserve natural landscapes and cultural heritage, education, the sciences, culture, communication and the freedom of expression of information”.
UNESCO ought to have the financial resources to fulfil its mission to promote democratic values and a culture of peace. In light of the decisions made at UNESCO’s 36th Session of the General Conference, IHEU would like to state that it shares the concerns of Ms Bokova, Director General, regarding the announcement of some of its Member States to suspend their contributions to the operating budget of UNESCO.If that suspension were implemented, it could affect the continuation of UNESCO’s programmes, particularly in Education For All and the fight against obscurantism.
Whatever the outcome of this decisive issue, IHEU supports UNESCO’s efforts to abolish all forms of discrimination through education to promote a/for a culture of human rights, in order to offer future generations an opportunity to live together in peace and oppose the continuation of discriminatory practices, notably against ‘untouchable’ communities, albinos and sexual minorities. Overlooked by religions which are exclusively controlled by men, and by societies attached to out-of-date traditions, the dignity of woman, who make up half of humankind, must be fully acknowledged as equal to men’s dignity; laws should grant equal rights to both women and men, throughout the world, particularly concerning access to education, health services and social rights.
As education builds self-awareness and leads to more self-confidence, it naturally induces a better understanding of oneself and of one’s neighbour. It should therefore be fully prioritised as the only way to reduce the effect of beliefs and superstitions that inevitably lead to suspicion and mistrust, which in turn leads to violent unrest in societies. We would like UNESCO to highlight more vigorously the priority of education.
The following three issues that IHEU also proposes to defend are not always sufficiently taken into account in UNESCO’s work. And yet, we believe that UNESCO, as an intergovernmental organisation, would be honouring its aims/ would gain kudos by using its prestige among its Member States to implement more humane measures.
The first issue concerns superstitions that incite to commit criminal acts. In Africa today, albinos are victims of criminal acts because of their difference. In Asia, Africa and even Europe, people suspected of witchcraft are victims of violence. Religious sects are guilty of a series of criminal acts and in some cases, human tragedies.
The second issue is the abolition of the death penalty everywhere in the world. Human conscience is horrified when one thinks of Troy Davis, Mumia Abu Jamal, and many others throughout the world.
The third issue is the prohibition of arms trafficking and trade. In numerous countries, lots of arms dealers are making money by trading arms which spread the threat of new massacres everywhere.
In order to fulfil these three goals, IHEU does not seek any financial contribution from UNESCO; but rather a moral, Humanist stance which conforms to the ethics that govern our minds.