Message of the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, on the occasion of the Charity Symphony Concert for Japan

To be delivered on her behalf by Mr Mogens Schmidt, Director of Bureau of Field Coordination
UNESCO, 10 April 2011

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to stand with you today on behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova.
The Director-General is unable to be here today, but she wished to send to all present the following message.
START MESSAGE His Excellency, Ambassador Isao Kiso, Permanent Delegate of Japan to UNESCO,
Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The world is standing today with the people of Japan.
On behalf of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, I wish to express our deepest condolences for the victims of the earthquake that occurred off the north-eastern coast of Japan on 11 March and to convey heartfelt sympathy to all who have been affected by its devastating impact.
We celebrate this year the 60th anniversary of Japan’s association with UNESCO. In these difficult times, it is worth remembering all of that we achieved together.
The Japanese people have always played a special role in UNESCO.
The world’s first UNESCO club was born in Sendai, on 19 July 1947. Having lived through the destruction of World War II, the people of Sendai rallied around a new vision of peace, founded on cooperation in education, science, culture and communication.
This grass-roots movement led to the creation of the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan in 1948 and it paved the way for Japan’s full membership of UNESCO in May 1951. That was before the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed in September the same year to officially end the War, and five years before Japan was admitted to the UN.
This Charity Symphony Concert embodies the strength of our cooperation for over sixty years.
It conveys a powerful message of conviction and unity.
Our conviction is that reconstruction must start with education, with schools, students and teachers. These are the foundations for the future. They are the best hope for change. All funds collected will contribute to assisting the 7008 schools that have been affected by the recent disasters, channelled through National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan.
Ours is also a message of unity.
This is not Japan’s crisis to carry alone; it is our shared responsibility. We have all been affected by the impact of these disasters; we will all work together to rebuild and start anew.
I wish to express my deep gratitude to everyone here, to the musicians and to our audience, for their engagement.
I thank Kanako Abe, Keita Matsumiya and others for their initiative. I thank Mami Hagiwara and all other performers for their commitment.
More than anything, this Concert conveys a message of hope.
On this Sunday afternoon in spring, I am reminded of the words of Yosa no Buson, the famous 18th century poet, who wrote:

lighting one candle with another candle
— spring evening

This haiku captures the essence of this time of year — the sharing of light to ward off darkness, the rebirth of life that springs from this exchange, the hope that light carries.
This is why we have gathered here today. To share the light of spring and to move forward together.
Music is the medium today for this solidarity. Music enlivens and transcends. It speaks to the heart in a language we all understand. It is one of humanity’s most powerful expressions of strength, unity and hope.
I thank you once again and I wish you an excellent concert.

Irina Bokova

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