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I commend UNESCO for its commitment to address the issues of the development of science and education, President said in the Conference of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors

Thursday, May 14, Paris - As part of his working visit to France, President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus attended the annual meeting of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors in Paris.

In his address to this annual conference, the President of Lithuania spoke about the current role that UNESCO plays in the world facing the economic crisis, shared Lithuania's experience in building knowledge society, and reflected on the tools to be used to create a global knowledge society. President Adamkus has been inaugurated as UNESCO's Goodwill Ambassador for the Construction of Knowledge Societies since 2003.
 
Addressing the UNESCO leadership and his fellow Goodwill Ambassadors, President Adamkus underlined that in the face of today's global crisis, the role played by UNESCO has acquired a crucial significance. Yet, the President noted with regret that the current economic turmoil severly hit education, science, culture, and communication.
 
"The total aid commitments to basic education declined from 5.5 billion US dollars in 2006 to 4.3 billion in 2007, representing a decrease of nearly 22 percent," Mr. Adamkus said, and underlined that as a result, the world would fall short of the goals agreed by the international community in Dakar in 2000.
 
"An estimated 11 billion US dollars is needed annually to reach key education goals in the world's poorest countries, but the actual aid to these countries has hardly reached a quarter of that amount," President Adamkus said.
 
"And we still spend considerably more of our recourses on weapons than on education. In 2008 the world spent more than 1.2 trillion US dollars on arms," the President said, and noted that these figures meant that three days of the world's military budget would be enough to solve its education problems.
 
Having pointed out that today's modern information and communication technologies offered unprecedented opportunities for access to education for all, the President gave an example of several hundred freedom-loving students from Belarus studying online at the European Humanities University.
 
President Adamkus emphasized that the development of Knowledge Society was one of Lithuanian Government's priorities. The Head of State mentioned success stories of public private partnerships in such areas as school computerization, internet access and adult education. Another success story mentioned was a project financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided free access to computers and the Internet in public libraries in small towns and villages of Lithuania.
 
President Adamkus said that knowledge society was among the most ambitious and promising projects promoted by UNESCO. Therefore, seeing the good practice and experience in Lithuania, the President put forward several proposals which, he thought, would help develop the knowledge society worldwide.
 
First, the President thinks we must work to diminish the still existing digital divide between the developing and the developed countries. Second, it is important to push harder towards open access to information and unrestricted exchange of knowledge in all countries of the world. Third, the private sector must be involved in the creation of knowledge society, particularly through efficient development of technologies. And finally, as underlined by the President, specific technological solutions, such as the development of free and open source software and the use of IT tools in distance education, should emerge as the main generator of knowledge society.
 
President Adamkus ended his address to the conference of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors by noting that education and knowledge allowed mankind to alleviate the crises and go on with industrial and technological progress, teaching humanity to better understand intercultural differences and to walk down the path of political dialogue, staying away from stereotypical clichés.
 
"I commend UNESCO for its commitment to address these issues and merge global education targets with the capacities and development of modern technologies," President Adamkus said.
 
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura thanked President Adamkus once again for his contribution to the development of knowledge society.
 
Today, President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus finishes his two-day working visit in Paris and comes back to Vilnius in the evening.


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