Speech by Dr. Katherine Muller-Marin, UNESCO Representative to Viet Nam at The 11th Anniversary Celebration and International Buddhist Conference of the United Nations

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Event:Day of Vesak
Date: 08 May 2014
Venue: Ninh Binh Province

Buddhist perspective towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals

On behalf of UNESCO, I would like to express my sincere congratulations to you all on the celebration of the 11th Anniversary of the United Nations Day of Vesak and to wish the International Buddhist Conference successful and concrete results.

I also congratulate Viet Nam on your second hosting of the United Nations Day of Vesak. Bái Đính Pagoda provides the ideal setting for this meeting. Its surroundings contribute to building the scenario to inspire your discussions and your further spiritual sharing.

Living in Viet Nam I have learned that Buddhism is one of the very foundations of national culture, tradition and moral belief, and a source of people’s governing principles of compassion, equality, peace and tolerance.
 
Today we honor the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha by reflecting upon his teachings of kindness, understanding, patience and balance, emphasizing that each human being exists within the context of an interconnectedness that includes not only other human beings, but all living beings within the natural world.

This brings me to highlight, from among the important themes that you have chosen for this year’s gathering, environmental sustainability as a matter in need of urgent attention among the current Millennium Development Goals and in the post-2015 development agenda.

UNESCO promotes the partnership between mankind and nature. We strive to propose innovative approaches to living and working in harmony with nature. Buddhist values have always pointed to an empathic, a sensitive coexistence with nature.

Studies have shown that Buddhist monastic life aspires to a restorative, regenerative relationship with nature. You are contributing, for example, to reforestation while still allowing for sustainable harvesting of forest products. You are acting as sacred protectors of nature, preventing poaching of animals and plants.
 
Studies have also shown that the richness of species is significantly higher inside Buddhist monasteries as compared to outside, with variation of bird and butterfly species declining exponentially as distance from forest monasteries increases.

How then can we expand this spirit of conservation and reverence of nature to the rest of the world? I imagine this will be part of your intense discussion in the next days.

An innovative mindset and approach to the growing environmental challenges will be needed to ensure that our planet can renew its life and resources naturally and peacefully. We would like all people to be bioliterate, to strive for the fortitude of life.

Bioliteracy is the ability to understand the language of life. A bioliterate citizen seeks a continuum of understanding, enabling individuals to develop their knowledge and innovative potential in order to coexist fully with their surrounding community and natural environment.

I wish that the International Buddhist Conference can join UNESCO in promoting the notion of bioliteracy, with the goal of advancing toward a sustainable future for all living things.
 
We want to ensure that every person protects life and understands that having a resilient biodiversity is the way to create capacity to mitigate climate change and reduce natural disaster risks, thereby achieving a better quality of life.

I express my best wishes to everyone joining the celebration of Vesak Day, and hope that we may build upon these spiritual ideals of solidarity, love of nature, non-violence and common well-being.

Let us strengthen our determination to create a peaceful, sustainable world for us and generations to come, contributing to development and to international peace and understanding.

Thank you.