Philippine theater icon Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, who was the former executive director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), addresses the United Nations in New York during its international debate.

Cecile Guidote Alvarez
Cecile Guidote Alvarez

I am a UNESCO Artist for Peace and I speak on behalf of the International Theater Institute consisting of 100 nations.

I thank HE Vuk Jeremic, UN General Assembly president, for inviting me as special guest of this historical global gathering that puts into center stage the importance of culture as an essential ingredient for development.

We applaud UNESCO’s first woman Dir-Gen. Dr. Irina Bokova for underscoring that development is unsustainable when there is an absence, or token regard of culture. The dynamic application of culture accelerates development.

For 52 years, we have struggled in this metier of service. Therefore hearing the inspiring commitments from delegates from all continents points to a global policy that culture and the arts are an educational force for promoting bio-cultural diversity protection, forging national identities, a driver of creative industries eco-heritage based tourism with employment expansion, a catalyst for learning and a facilitator for social cohesion and change to create the womb of values from apathy and greed, to caring, sharing and compassion.

Our collective presence demonstrates the potential of harnessing a creative army for peace under UNESCO, able to persuade the world that we can win the war against poverty and pollution, drugs and despair, crime and corruption, terrorism and tyranny, ignorance, inequity and injustice, not by compulsion BUT BY PERSUASION, not by force BUT BY ART.

Instead of billions spent on arms and missiles that destroy life, can the UN appeal to mobilize our diverse cultural traditions and heritage, artistic resources, and talents to affirm life, to interest, inform and motivate people, to assist the common goal of achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals and confronting the crisis of global warming.

My country’s Earthsavers Academy/Ensemble was recognized as a UNESCO DREAM Center for its poverty alleviation initiative of cultural caregiving services to vulnerable groups, of accessing free arts education to the oppressed, those with disabilities, trauma, victims of war and environmental disaster, the abandoned, the street kids, the out-of-school youth, the delinquent, the indigenous youth, those in prison, and drug rehabilitation centers which feel helpless. It is a vehicle to discover the gold mine of their abilities, of their confidence to cope and transform their social realities to live a dignified life. Training in all artistic disciplines and multi-media presentations that draw meaning and power from people’s lives and language, can fire their imagination, stimulate innovativeness, crystallize the will to overcome difficulties, develop their artistic skills of expression to pursue their dream for a healthy and just society.

Threatened are our indigenous communities. We have encouraged their creative industries that must be mainstreamed through curriculum, media and venues for partnerships with business, civic and religious groups which can help them with micro-lending, cooperative development and marketing.

The Sec-Gen. travels thousands of miles with his clarion call to give peace a chance. Filipinos have readily joined UN’s peacekeeping forces. Our first giant steps towards peace was undertaken with an agreement with our Muslim rebels by President Benigno Aquino III, son of martyr Ninoy. It addresses poverty through an economic formula utilizing culture as a creative weapon for people empowerment and to discombobulate the culture of corruption that will instill a mindset of good governance and responsible citizenship. A cultural diplomatic approach proposed by the ITI is a music theatrical concert in areas of conflict that can conscienticize and fertilize the ground for dialogue to address grievances with ethics, equity, respect for human rights. At the demilitarized zone, performers can include those from North and South Korea to spur tolerance and international understanding, likewise in the ME and other conflict zones. In the Spratly Islands, a contested place in the Phl, the cultural gathering can include artists with contending claims to prevent armed conflict, destruction of lives and livelihood.

Where politics divides, arts can cement a nation and peoples together. Culture and Arts recharges memory. Without memory, we will never learn from the mistakes of the past and we would not know where to draw our strength as a springboard to realize our dream of sustainable development.

The launching of Mobilizing Cultural Diversity for the UN Goals was held at the 31st ITI Congress and Theatre Olympics of the Nations in May 2006 in the Philippines. The successful event with 80 countries participating has generated impact on policy. Now, the ITI proposes for UNESCO to lead in selecting annually a world culture capital of the Performing Arts as a vehicle for practices of culture for social cohesion, transformation and harmony.

The Philippines, the 1st ASEAN Culture Capital for 2010-2011 to forge regional identity and pride of habitat, heritage, history, language and creative industries, first commemorated Dia Del Galeòn on October 8 connecting continents, in line with UNESCO that recognizes the importance of the Manila-Acapulco trade route as a precursor of globalization and a vital vessel of cross-cultural exchange for 250 years.

We are providing a 21st century reprise to the Dia del Galeòn through an artistic reflection with equal affirmation of Hispanic heritage and indigenous traditions for collaborative new routes of expression from ancestral roots focused on UNESCO concerns: Cultural Rapprochement and Pluralism, biodiversity, Ocean Care and Seafaring, Climate Change mitigation through Sustainable Energy, Re-greening and Waste Management.

Madame Bokova stressed that people must be informed about scientific data popularized through cultural symbols they can relate to, empathize and not be alienated, involved and not disinterested, to understand the complex issues and connect them directly to their daily existence. They must be motivated to be passionate in solving their problems. More than speeches — a painting, a poem, a song, a play, a dance piece, a film, animated legends inspiring stories of love, heroism and courage — CAN BRING THE MESSAGE ACROSS. We must carry the cries of orphans and widows to stop the violence against mankind and Mother Earth.

Together, as a rainbow network of UNESCO, we have faith that the world can triumph over adversity: poverty and devastation. We must act now. Culture is a basic human right of every citizen to secure a better, peaceful, sustainable world for our children up to the 7th generation.  — Cecile Guidote-Alvarez

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