Director General, Madam Bukova

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am truly honoured to address UNESCO.


I feel specially privileged to visit this great institution in its 70th anniversary year.

This milestone reminds us of a fundamental achievement of our age: for the first time in human history, we have an organization for the entire world – the United Nations.

And, through the sweeping change of these decades, through many challenges of our times, and the great progress of this era, the organization has endured and grown.

There have been doubts and skepticism. There is need for urgent reforms.

But, for the nations that came together at its birth; and, for three times as many that joined it later, there is one unshakeable belief:

“Our world is and will remain a better place because of the United Nations.”

It is this faith that has given birth to so many of its institutions that deal with every aspect of human challenges.

Our collective goal is to seek a peaceful and prosperous future for our world, in which every nation has a voice;

all peoples have an identity;

all cultures are flowers in a garden;

every human being has a life of dignity;

every child a future of opportunity;

and our planet the chance to preserve its glory.

No organization serves our cause more than this one.

The seeds of our collective destiny are sown in human minds.

It is nurtured by the light of education and the spirit of enquiry.

It makes progress through the marvels of science.


And, it draws strength from the basic character of Nature – the harmony and unity in diversity.

That is why UNESCO was among the first missions of the United Nations.

That is why India values the work of UNESCO so deeply; and, cherishes our partnership so immensely.

I am conscious of the extraordinary legacy of our relationship from the time of UNESCO's birth.

I recall Mahatma Gandhi's message to UNESCO, calling for urgent action to address the needs of education to secure lasting peace;

And, the leadership of Dr. Radhakrishnan, later our first President, in the early years of this institution.

We are grateful for UNESCO's support for education and science, in India and for preservation of our cultural heritage.

Equally, we are privileged to have worked with UNESCO in support of its mission around the world.

For, in the challenges India faces and the dreams that Indians seek, our approach mirrors the ideals of UNESCO.

We have built a modern state in an ancient land, with a timeless tradition of openness and co-existence; and, a society of extraordinary diversity.

The foundation of our Constitution rests on a fundamental principle: the peace and prosperity of all is indivisible from the welfare of the individual;

the strength of the nation is determined by the joined hands of every citizen;

and, real progress is measured through empowerment of the weakest.

This has been our creed since we assumed office nearly a year ago.

And, we shall judge our progress not just by the cold statistics of growth, but by the warm glow of belief and hope on human faces.

For me, it means many things.

We will defend and protect the rights and liberty of every citizen.

We will ensure that every citizen , of every faith, culture and creed has an equal place in our society; belief in her future; and the confidence to pursue it.

Education always had a special place in our tradition.

As our ancient saying goes, it is

व्यये कृते वर्धते एव नित्यं, विद्या धनं सर्व प्रधानं

The wealth that increases by giving, That wealth is knowledge and is supreme of all possessions

We have launched the most ambitious programme to provide skills to our youth; and education for every child in the remotest villages.

Our progress will remain a mirage unless women no longer suffer from daily fear, or barriers to opportunity; and, when they are no longer victims of exclusion and prejudice. And, this change must begin with the girl child.

So, the programme to educate and support the girl child in India is one that is closest to my heart. We will ensure that they can go to school; and, also, that they can attend it in safety and dignity.

Today, the digital age has created opportunities beyond imagination; but, digital divide can expand disparities.

On the other hand, digital connectivity and smart phones have create a revolution of possibilities to educate, deliver services and extend development.

This is the most exciting change in our era.

Our Digital India will create a participative, transparent and a responsive government, connected to the citizens. And, we have launched a digital literacy mission to connect each of our 600,000 villages.

The link between habitat and fulfillment of human potential is deep and strong.

So, the highest priority for my Government is to provide a roof over every head; power in every house; sanitation and clean water within everyone's reach; a hope for every child to survive; and a chance for every new mother to love her child.


It also means clean rivers, air that we can breathe and forests filled with the sound of birds.

To achieve these goals, we need not just policies and resources, but even more the power of science.

For us, science is driven by the larger purpose of human development; and, for a safe, sustainable, prosperous future for India.

Science also unites people across borders in a shared purpose.

And, when we share its fruits with those who don't have it, we connect lives and make our world a better place.

India never forgets the help we have received in our early years; today, we are fulfilling our responsibility to others.

Therefore, science is a key priority of India's international engagement.

Culture is a sublime expression of a people; and, the foundations of a society.

UNESCO's initiatives to preserve the world's cultural heritage, including in India, are inspiring.

We see India's rich and diverse cultural heritage as humanity's wealth.

And, we will do everything to preserve it for future generations.

We have launched ‘Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana – HRIDAY or heart in Hindi – to preserve the cultural heritage of our cities.

We have started a special scheme called “PRASAD” – or offerings) – Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive” for rejuvenation of our pilgrim centres”.

Madam Chairman,

I speak of our vision and initiatives, because in our own aspirations and efforts, we see the value of UNESCO to our world with great clarity.

In the challenges of our times, we see its purpose with a sense of urgency.

The fault lines in our world are shifting from the boundaries of nations into the web of our societies and the streets of our cities.

The threats are changing from domination by states to destruction by groups.

We fight today not only over what we claim, but also for who we are.

And, in many parts of the world, culture remains a source of conflict.

We have access to communication at the click of a mouse.

We live in a world of information.

Yet, we know that familiarity does not always lead to fraternity; or reduce prejudice.

When Ebola threatens an entire region; the fury of unseasonal storms destroys crops and lives; and, diseases still defeat our most courageous fight, we understand how fragile we are.

When we see people living at the edge of existence; children shut out of classrooms; and, nations without the human resources to shoulder the responsibility of progress, we know that we still have a long way to go.

To be sure, our world has made incredible progress over seven decades. So, our progress should inspire us to meet our challenges.

UNESCO can play a vital role in addressing them.

Culture must connect, not divide, our world.

It should be a bridge to greater respect and understanding between people.

It should join nations in peace and harmony. Across India's neighbourhood, Asia and Indian Ocean, we are retracing our cultural connections to form a closer bond of friendship in this dynamic region.

We must turn deep into our cultures; traditions; and religions; to overcome the rising tide of extremism, violence, and divisions across the world.

We must intensify exchanges between the youth of the world to sow the seeds of a more peaceful world.

Cultures also hold great wealth of traditional knowledge. Societies across the world have evolved them through wisdom gathered over the ages.

And, they hold the secrets to economic, efficient, and, environment friendly solutions to many of our problems.


But, today they are at risk of extinction in our globalised world.

So, we must here make more efforts to revive, preserve and nurture traditional knowledge.

This will also redefine a fundamental truth about human civilization: as our cultures are diverse, knowledge has many sources.

In doing so, we will give ourselves a greater chance to meet our challenges.

We must do more to harness science for human welfare in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world – especially for health and food security.

Climate change is a pressing global challenge. And, it calls for a collective human action; and, a comprehensive response.

We must draw upon our entire wealth of wisdom; the strength of every institution; all possibilities of innovation; and, the power of science.

In India, faith and Nature have had a deep link since ancient times.

For us, the only path to prosperity is the sustainable one.

We make this choice with the natural instincts of our culture and tradition. But, we also do this with a commitment to our future.

We have, for example, set a target of adding 175,000 MW of clean and renewable energy in the next seven years.

Too often, our discussion is reduced to an argument about emission cuts. But, we are more likely to succeed if we offer affordable solutions, not simply impose choices.

That is why I have called for global public action to develop clean energy, that is affordable and accessible to all.

And, it is for the same reason that I call for a change in lifestyle. Because, the emission reduction that we seek will be the natural outcome of how we live.

And, it will also mean a different path to economic well being.

It is with this vision that I had called the United Nations General Assembly last September to declare June 21st as the International Day of Yoga.

Yoga awakens a sense of oneness and harmony with self, society and Nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change and create a more balanced world.

Last December, the UNGA adopted it with a record co-sponsorship in a record time.

It was not just an act of friendship for India. It reflected our collective ability to go beyond our familiar boundaries in search for solutions to common challenges.

The campaign to clean our Ganges River is a mission that connects culture, science, traditional knowledge, education, economy, and, environment; but, it is also about attitudes and lifestyles.


Madam Chairperson,

Outside this hall, I paid respect at the statue of a great Indian philosopher and sage, Shri Aurobindo.

There is much that we can learn from his humanism and spiritualism, from his belief in the unity of individual consciousness with the world outside; the enlightened purpose of education; the service of science; and, the unity of world, founded on national freedom, diversity of civilizations and autonomy of culture.

It is a guiding spirit for the purpose of this institution – the defence of peace in the mind of men.

The 70th anniversary is a moment to celebrate our remarkable journey so far. It is also a time to look ahead with wisdom that has come with time and experience.

Whatever we wish to achieve as United Nations, UNESCO will always have a part to play – whether it is sustainable development, our post-2015 agenda, climate change or peace and security.

UNESCO's responsibilities to our future have become bigger; and, so our resolve must be stronger.

Thank you very much for this opportunity.

Thank you.

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Wishing you all a very Happy 7th International Yoga Day!

Today, when the whole world is battling the corona pandemic, Yogahas remained a ray of hope. Even though no major public events have been organized in countries around the world and in India for almost two years, the enthusiasm for Yoga Day has not diminished a bit. Despite Corona, the theme of this year's Yoga Day "Yoga for Wellness" has intensified the enthusiasm for Yoga among crores of people. I pray that every country, society and individual stays healthy, and let's all come together to become each other's strength.


Our sages had termed Yogaas "समत्वम् योग उच्यते"i.e., remaining steadfast in every situation. They had made restraint a parameter of Yoga, being resolute in happiness and sorrow. Today Yoga has proved itin this global tragedy. In these one and a half years, so many countries, including India, have faced a huge crisis.


Yoga Day is not the age-old cultural festival for most of the countries of the world. People could easily forget and ignore it in this difficult time. But on the contrary, the enthusiasm and love for Yoga has increased among the people. In the last one and a half years, there have been lakhs of new Yoga seekers in every part of the world. Everyone is trying to implement the first synonym of Yoga, which is said to be restraint and discipline, in their life.


When the invisible virus of Corona hit the world, no country was prepared for it, from the point of capabilities, resources, or mental toughness. We have seen that Yoga became a great medium of self-confidence in the face of adversity. Yoga helped people to muster confidence to fight this disease.

When I talk to frontline warriors and doctors, they tell me that they also made Yoga their protective shield in the fight against Corona. Doctors also made themselves strong with Yoga, and also used it to help their patients recover quickly. Today, one finds so many stories from hospitals where doctors and nurses are teaching Yoga to patients, and patients sharing their experiences. The experts of the world are also stressing the importance of breathing exercises like ‘Pranayama’ and ‘Anulom-Vilom’ for strengthening our respiratory system.


The great Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar has said: "नोइ नाडी, नोइ मुदल नाडी, हदु तनिक्कुम, वाय नाडी वायपच्चयल" i.e., if there is a disease, diagnose it, go to its root, find out what is the cause of the disease, and then ensure its treatment. Yoga shows this way. Today medical science also lays equal emphasis on healing and Yoga is beneficial in the healing process. I am satisfied that today experts from all over the world are conducting various types of scientific research on this aspect of Yoga.

Many studies are being done on the benefits of Yoga to our body, on the positive effects it has on our immunity. Nowadays we see that in many schools, children are being taught Yoga-Pranayama for 10-15 minutes before the start of the online classes. It is also preparing the children physically to fight against Corona.


The sages of India have taught us-

व्यायामात् लभते स्वास्थ्यम्,

दीर्घ आयुष्यम् बलम् सुखम्।

आरोग्यम् परमम् भाग्यम्,

स्वास्थ्यम् सर्वार्थ साधनम् ॥

That is, by doing Yoga, we get good health, strengthand a long happy life. For us health is the greatest fortune, and good health is the means of all success. Whenever the sages of India have spoken about health, it is not only physical health. That is whythere is so much emphasis on mental health in Yoga along with physical health. When we do ‘Pranayama’, meditate andperform other yogic activities, we experience our inner-consciousness. Through Yoga, we experience our inner strength which is so strong that no problem of the world, no negativity can shatter us. Yoga shows us the path from stress to strength and from negativity to creativity. Yoga takes us from depression to ecstasy and from ecstasy to blessing.


Yoga tells us that so many problems might be out there, but we have infinite solutions within ourselves. We are the biggest source of energy in our universe. We do not realise this energy because of the many divisions that exist. At times, the lives of people exist in silos. These divisions reflect in the overall personality as well. The shift from silos to union is Yoga. A proven way to experience a realisation of oneness is Yoga. I am reminded of the words of the great Gurudev Tagore, who said and I quote:"the meaning of our self is not to be found in its separateness from God and others, but in the ceaseless realization of Yoga, of union."

The mantra of वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्’, which India has followed since ages, is now finding global acceptance. We all are praying for each other's wellbeing, if there are threats to humanity,Yoga often gives us a way of holistic health. Yoga also gives us a happier way of life. I am sure Yoga will continue playing its preventive, as well as positive role in healthcare of masses.


When India proposed the International Day of Yoga in the United Nations, the spirit behind it was to make this Yoga science accessible to the entire world. Today, India has taken another important step in this direction along with the United Nations and WHO.

Now the world is going to get the power of the m-Yoga app. In this app, many videos of Yoga training will be available in different languages of the world based on the common Yogaprotocol. It is also a great example of the fusion of modern technology and ancient science. I am sure the m-Yoga app will play a big role in expanding Yoga across the globe and making the efforts of One World, One Health a success.


It is said in the Gita:

तं विद्याद् दुःख संयोग-

वियोगं योग संज्ञितम्।

That is, Yoga is liberation from suffering. We have to carry forward this journey of humanity, which is Yoga, by taking everyone along. No matter what the place, situation, age, Yoga definitely has some solutionfor everyone. Today the number of people who are curious about Yoga is increasing very much in the world. The number of Yoga establishments in the country and abroad is also increasing. In such a situation, it is necessary that the basic philosophy of Yoga should reach every person while keeping intact its foundation and core.And this work should be done by the people associated with Yoga, the masters of Yoga andYoga preachers together. We ourselves have to take the pledge of Yoga, and we have to connect our loved ones also with this resolution. This mantra of 'Yoga to Cooperation' will show us the way to a new future and will empower humanity.

I wish you and the entire human race the very best on International Yoga Day.

Many thanks!