Press Release
December 9, 2013

Report on the 37th UNESCO General Conference
and the 2013 Women in Parliaments Global Forum

9 December 2013 - Senate Session Hall

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I am pleased to report on the outcome of two missions I have been honored to carry out the past weeks.

These involved my participation at the 37th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, France and at the Women in Parliaments Annual Summit at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

My first mission was intended to help contribute to the discussions on UNESCO's post-2015 role, specifically towards crafting bolder but measurable and reachable development targets past the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

I offered representation that was intended to help in our bid to become a member of the World Heritage Committee; and I am pleased to report that our country did not only get elected to the Committee, but also obtained the second highest number of votes with 116 States Parties supporting us.

On November 8, as head of the Philippine delegation to the 37th UNESCO General Conference, I delivered the Philippines' Policy Statement which outlined the nation's agenda on environmental protection, disaster risk reduction, cultural and heritage promotion and preservation, peace building and sustainable development.

My message was clear. The preservation of our World Heritage Sites can only be as strong and resilient as our action on the challenges of a changing global landscape. With climate change and extreme weather events becoming part of the new normal, we need to chart our development goals in a way that considers these realities not just as "blips" on the radar screen. These now are parts of our life that we do not just live with. We have to deal with them.

Two important dimensions of human development were highlighted--science, technology and innovation or STI, and culture. These two key areas are considered accelerators of development and should be given more importance in the post-2015 agenda.

STI is vital in building sustainable communities especially that we must aim to shift to green technologies. It is an instrument we must use to address the pressing needs of various sectors like agriculture, transportation, industry, energy, infrastructure and services. It is a tool we cannot live without in light of the new challenges we have to deal with.

Programs based on scientific research and innovation can change lives by averting disasters, safeguarding jobs, incomes and livelihoods, enhancing food supply, promoting environmental sustainability, and combating poverty.

Meanwhile, the role of culture in building more progressive and resilient societies need to be highlighted. Creative economies that promote inclusive growth, ingenuity, indigenous knowledge and local resources need to be developed. The Philippines, being a multi-ethnic society and having been blessed by rich, diverse cultures, stands to benefit much from this approach.

The figures of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlight this fact -- the global export of goods and services under the creative industries amounted to US$624 billion in 2011 alone.[1]

Director General Irina Bokova, during our meeting agreed with this observation. She stressed that China, Brazil and Indonesia are doing much in this area and that the Philippines has great potential that needs to be fully harnessed.

During our meeting, I have also made an appeal for UNESCO to maintain geographic representations in the UNESCO offices amid the financial challenges facing the organization. The appeal was made with Filipinos working in UNESCO in mind. This was responded to with an assurance that once the situation has stabilized, normal career development opportunities will be set in place for UNESCO staff.

Mr. President,

The second part of my report is on the more recent Women in Parliaments Global Forum Annual Summit held in Brussels, Belgium on November 27 to 29, 2013.

More than 400 female parliamentarians gathered to discuss how women can help close the gender gap and strengthen their role as leaders in their respective communities.

I had the opportunity to share our country's work on the promotion of gender equality and women's rights and in ensuring the participation of women in nation building.

The World Economic Forum ranked the Philippines 8th in the world in 2012, improving further to 5th in its 2013 global survey. In the South and Southeast Asia, the Philippines is number one--an achievement recognized at the annual summit.

It was a proud moment when, on behalf of the Philippine government and the Filipino people, I accepted the Philippines' award for closing the gender gap, which speaks highly of the country's success in promoting gender equality through relevant policies and programs of the government, including laws for the protection of women: the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, the Magna Carta of Women, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and the Domestic Workers Act, among many others.

On the sidelines of the conference, I paid a courtesy call on Commissioner Kristallina Georgieva, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, and extended to her the nation's deep appreciation to the EU for its support and generous contributions to the rescue and relief efforts in Yolanda-affected communities as well as for its pledge of support for the rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts.

Commissioner Georgieva herself paid a visit to Tacloban and Cebu in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda to personally assess the damage wrought by the typhoon and monitor EU assistance to the affected areas. She informed us that the EU is currently crating new legislation on civil protection, strengthening risk assessment, preparedness and prevention. Furthermore, the Commissioner said that the EU will soon announce new funding support for the Philippines, in particular focusing on the needs of children affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

We are greatly thankful for the EU's immense support to our nation. As a sign of our deep gratitude to the EU and all the other nations and organizations that have extended their generous help, it is a must that we ensure the strict implementation of our laws on disaster prevention and preparedness, and see to it that all lessons learned from Typhoon Yolanda and other past disasters must be incorporated into our resilience efforts.

I also had the chance to meet with Ms. Jody Williams, Chair of the Nobel Women's Initiative and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who pointed out the need to strengthen the role of women in conflict resolution and the peace building process. It was my meeting with Ms. Williams that inspired me to file Senate Resolution No. 407 that will look into the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in light of the country's commitments to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. This UN Resolution primarily acknowledges the significant role of women in conflict prevention and peace building efforts.

In closing, I wish to encapsulate the messages of these two conferences in a call for action.

We are living in a fast-changing world with finite resources. Survival is not the only name of the game. We must work to protect a planet that will outlive not only the immediate generation but also others to come.

Let us go back to the basics - science, technology, and our people. Accept not only what is available but innovate because there is so much that our culture and our people have to offer.

Thank you.


[1] Trade in creative products reached new peak in 2011, UNCTAD figures show

News Latest News Feed