Sunday October 11, 2009
Marching on to 1world
By CHOI TUCK WO
Over 200 delegates from the world’s six regions attending Unesco’s general conference in Paris got a buzz on the 1Malaysian concept.
FROM 1Malaysia to 1Region and ultimately 1World. Powerful words, glittering promises. And it’s a foretaste of the epic struggle ahead.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s attempt to take the country’s national philosophy to the world stage may, on the surface, seem to be a tall order.
Tell us more: Najib (third from right) having a discussion with delegates during a reception at Unesco headquarters in Paris.
Yet it was no talk shop, for none of what he expounded at Unesco’s general conference in Paris earlier last week is rocket science. It’s about getting the basics right.
The keynote address – the first by a Malaysian premier to the august body in the country’s 51-year history with Unesco – was an example of a first-rate speech at its best; serious points, seriously argued, with grown-up courtesy and good humour.
Indeed, Najib’s plain speaking and blunt integrity struck a chord with the over 200 delegates from the world’s six regions – Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Arab States.
The Prime Minister’s speech did, however, have one simple, if implicit message – the importance of inter-cultural dialogue among the world’s communities.
And it came through absolutely clear, not wrapped in economic or diplomatic jargon.
As the premier so rightly put it: “Truly, for Malaysians, inter-cultural dialogue is an everyday fact of life.”
The question is – and it’s a big one – can Malaysians rise to the challenge?
Sadly, too often consumed with hatred, extremism, fatalism and fanaticism, some people appear to be living in a different planet, frozen in time while the rest of the world races ahead.
Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to Unesco Datuk Kenneth Luis said the Prime Minister’s speech was well received by the delegates, especially his focus on education and the 1World concept.
He said one of the stumbling blocks faced by the world body was the lack of teachers, particularly in sub-continent Africa which had a shortage of 18 million teachers.
“The trust fund to train teachers is crucial to Unesco’s efforts to achieve education for all by 2015,” he noted.
Kenneth said the delegates were also impressed with the 1Malaysia concept starting from the family and extending to the community.
“If we are one as a family, we would be one as a community and one as a nation. That’s what our premier is encouraging as a region, and then as a world,” he added.
Unesco’s first female incoming director-general, Bulgaria’s Elrina Bokova, hailed Malaysia’s concept of mutual respect and tolerance as the basis for global peace and harmony.
She expressed full support for the Prime Minister’s emphasis on cultural diversity and integration, and not assimilation.
“Malaysia is an interesting example of multi-culturalism, tolerance and diversity in one nation,” she added.
Bokova also commended Malaysia for demonstrating solidarity with the most vulnerable, the Africans and the small islands through the setting up of the trust fund.
Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan lauded Malaysia for utilising its multi-cultural communities as a source of development and not for conflict.
“Personally, I support your 1Malaysia slogan. I think other countries can study your experience in that area,” he added.
Philippines Ambassador to France, Monaco and Portugal, Rora Navarro-Tolentino, described Najib’s call as timely, saying the world was a global village where conflict in one region would affect another.
She believed that if the global community were to put their resources and efforts together, they would be stronger and more effective in addressing the challenges.
She cited Asean as an example, when the voices of the 10 member countries would be heard more and their action more impactful because “we have strength in numbers”.
“I believe this 1World vision can be realised one day if we’re united and strive for it in a determined way,” she said, adding, however, that it could not be achieved overnight.
Uganda’s Ambassador to France, Portugal, Spain and Unesco Elizabeth Paula Napeyok echoed similar views, saying the concept was about bringing people together with tolerance, love and peace.
She supported the Prime Minister’s call for trust, mutual respect and full acceptance, not assimilation.
“We must not assimilate people; we should accept them as they are, accept them in their circumstances, because who are we to change people – we’re not supposed to judge.”
She said that like multi-racial Malaysia, Uganda respected diversity as it had four major regions whose people spoke 44 languages.
“And if we don’t respect each other – what we do, how we behave, how we talk, cook or dress – I’m sure there’ll be disharmony,” she added.