UNESCO raises Palestinian flag at Paris headquarters

December 14th, 2011 - 4:50 pm ICT by BNO News  

PARIS (BNO NEWS) — The Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Tuesday raised the Palestinian flag for the first time as the UN agency marked Palestine’s admission as a full member.

Palestine was admitted during the agency’s General Conference on October 31, becoming UNESCO’s 195th member, and the membership took effect on November 23 when Palestinian officials signed and accepted the agency’s constitution in London. UNESCO thus became the first UN agency to admit Palestine as a full member.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, which was attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and several senior UNESCO officials, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova noted that membership “goes beyond raising the flag” and includes critical rights and responsibilities, as well as the sharing of universal values such as tolerance and respect for others.

“Membership allows a country to bring to the world that which it cherishes most - the wealth of its culture, the resonance of its dreams for mutual understanding,” Bokova said, underlining that the Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage.

“They must benefit from quality education, education for peace,” Bokova added. “A strong educational system teaches respect for human rights. A vibrant culture respects the culture of others. In this connected world, healthy societies flourish through ties with others. UNESCO stands for all of this.”

Abbas, meanwhile, said the admission to UNESCO was “a tremendous source of pride to us. Palestinian writers, artists and researchers have played a vital role trying to preserve the culture and identity of our people.” The Palestinian president also recognized that UNESCO has played a fundamental role - and has been “a loyal partner.”

Bokova expressed that the ceremony marks an opportunity for all parties to join together around shared values and renewed ambitions for peace, stating that “multilateralism has never been so important.”

The move to admit Palestine to UNESCO, which is part of a broader campaign by Palestine to get recognition as a state by the United Nations, sparked outrage in Israel and the United States. Both countries suspended funding to UNESCO in response to the admission.

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