Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay,Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day of Vesak

In words often attributed to him, Siddhārtha Gautama, known as Buddha or the
“Enlightened One” said: “We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts,
with our thoughts we make the world”. His life, his ethics and his spiritual practice were
and continue to be an invitation to openness, to listening to oneself and to others, and
to building peace.
This year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the proclamation of International Vesak
Day by the General Assembly of the United Nations, UNESCO invites us to celebrate
these universal and timeless values: empathy, wisdom, inner peace and generosity.
Commemorating the life of the wise Buddha, on a day sacred to millions of Buddhists
around the world, this International Day is now celebrated each year at UNESCO.1
The values promoted by this International Day echo the daily work of UNESCO, whose
motto “building peace in the minds of men and women” reaffirms the main teaching of
Buddha: to establish peace, we must first find it in ourselves and in our openness to
Since everything begins with education, day by day our Organization promotes
education for peace and openness to others. Last year, at the General Conference, our
Member States took an important decision to update the international doctrine in this
regard, through the UNESCO Recommendation on Education for Peace, Human Rights
and Sustainable Development, formerly the 1974 Recommendation. The international
community now has a road map for building peace through education in the twenty-first
century, adapted to the contemporary challenges of digital technology and climate
Promoting openness to others and perpetuating this universal message of peace and
dialogue is at the very foundation of UNESCO’s actions to encourage dialogue between
cultures and peoples. The UNESCO Silk Roads Programme, for example, invites us to
discover and promote not only the trade that developed there, but also the cultural and
human exchanges that took place. In fact, we are about to launch two new publications
on the subject: one on cultural exchanges in the field of architecture and the other on
the role of the Arabic language as a vector for business and scientific exchanges.
Building a more inclusive world, in line with Buddha’s message, means working for a
world free of discrimination, hatred and racism. This is a core commitment for UNESCO,
which we recently strengthened at the third Global Forum against Racism and
Discrimination held in Brazil at the end of last year. We are particularly active with young
people around the world, through our dedicated masterclasses, in which, since their
launch in 2019, over 14,000 young people have participated.
1 Pursuant to the decision taken by UNESCO Member States during the 219th session of the
Executive Board (219 EX/ Decision 27).

On this Day, illuminated by the full Moon, let us take a moment to forge bonds and build
bridges across our differences, and thus adopt the peaceful, open attitude to the world
that Buddha invites us to take. Its message of compassion, humanity and wisdom may
be 2,500 years old, but it has never seemed so relevant

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