ISJ November 2013: Striking the balance: Promoting the rule of law and the role of education in the work of the United Nations
Patricia O’ Brien
I begin with the words of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon. He often recounts his experience of life as a young boy in the 1950s in the aftermath of the Korean war. His words are those of someone who knows better than most the value of education and who, as a result, is especially strongly committed to doing all he can to bring its benefits to as many people as possible. He recently said:
Education has shaped my life and the history of my country. I grew up in a society ravaged by war and mired in poverty. Schools had been destroyed. My classes were held in the open under a tree. We had no desks, chairs or other basic necessities. The Republic of Korea was on its knees, but education enabled the country to stand tall again. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other international partners provided books and school supplies to help pave the road to recovery. Someone provided me with a textbook to help me to learn. At the back of this book it said words that I will never forget: ‘Please study hard, because UNESCO has given you this book.’ I will never forget the hope that these basic tools gave us.