The eleventh and second woman Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay paid a first official visit to Nigeria from September 11 to 13, 2021, at the invitation of the Nigerian government to participate in the 33rd session of the International Coordinating Council. of Man and the Biosphere (MAB-ICC). This was a much anticipated visit as it was the first time Nigeria and the African continent had hosted MAB-ICC, which had previously been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Oban Reserve in Cross River State, which was adopted as a biosphere reserve in 2020, hosted the Director-General on September 12, during her visit with the Cross River Environmental Commissioner , the Honorable Mfon Bassey who welcomed it on behalf of the Governor of Cross River State.
At the opening ceremony of the 33rd session of MAB-ICC on September 13, 2021, UNESCO Director-General Ms Audrey Azoulay expressed optimism that there was still time to make peace with the planet.
“The erosion of biodiversity is no longer a hypothesis, but a fact, already visible and felt in our everyday life. Biodiversity is collapsing at an unprecedented speed. But this collapse is not inevitable: there is still time to make peace with the planet, ”she declared. She called on all stakeholders to harness the power of education to rebuild our relationship with nature – and said that UNESCO is fully mobilized to ensure that the environment becomes a key part of the curriculum here. 2025, in accordance with the commitment made by the 80 governments that UNESCO has brought together. at the Berlin conference …
In declaring open the 33rd session of MAB-ICC, HE President Muhammadu Buhari represented by the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha reaffirmed that a healthy planet is a prerequisite for healthy people and that, he noted, was the foundation of a healthy economy.
“Changing our behavior, respecting the natural habitat and living in peace and harmony with nature are essential for a future resilient generation where biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and used in a sustainable manner while maintaining ecosystem services and providing essential benefits to the population. »He stressed.
United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Edward Kallon attended the opening ceremony, which called on everyone to stand up and take responsibility for restoring a safe space for people and nature in taking responsible action to conserve biodiversity and restore lost resources.
This, according to him, “recalls the current ‘United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration’ which aims to prevent, stop and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean and in accordance with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. . “
A bilateral meeting took place between the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria HE President Muhammadu Buhari and Ms Audrey Azoulay in the company of the Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO, Dr Hajo Sani, the Director and Head of the Regional Office of the ‘UNESCO. Abuja, Dimitri Sanga and the President of MAB-ICC and Director General of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Professor Adeshola Adepoju, during which issues of mutual interest were discussed. The team also paid a courtesy visit to the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari.
The Director-General’s visit ended at the National Center for Women’s Development in Abuja. Host, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen noted that Nigerian women are resilient and tough and can be found in all walks of life. She concluded by calling on UNESCO to help Nigerian women through political empowerment and the education of the girl child.
Ms. Audrey Azoulay congratulated the Minister of Women’s Affairs for her good work and reminded her that gender equity and equality were one of UNESCO’s priority areas: “We must support the education of women, women in science and women’s development. Teenage girls are taken for exploitation and for a different agenda that we don’t know about. Women need to help each other, ”she said.