Letter: British democracy inspires the world

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From Mr David Wardrop

Sir: It is clear that Andrew Marr got pretty fed up at the "Britain in the World" conference. For good reason it seems, reading Michael Sheridan's sketch report ("Foreign Office makes sure it has the last word", 30 March).

Accepting that the conference's agenda targeted diplomatic and trade matters, Britain's contribution in the fields of science, education, culture, the social sciences and communications were given short shrift. And yet they make up as much of our international image as the targeted matters. Since Britain walked out of Unesco nearly 10 years ago, leaving to our incredulous Commonwealth and European partners the task of reforming the agency, our specialists and professionals in these fields have been travelling second class. All in the name of the long-dead Cold War. Where once they were delegates with votes, now they must plead to be heard. How can the few parliamentarians who support this self-imposed exile deny our brightest minds their proper place in international forums?

The Government has tried to provide alternative services to justify its action. Ten years on, our scientific and academic communities have given that decision a conclusive thumbs down. As the UN has designated 1995 as the International Year for Tolerance and has deputed Unesco to co-ordinate it, the task of planning a UK programme has had to be taken up by a network of concerned voluntary organisations. Simply put, we are being forgotten in so many arenas, and it is all our own fault.

Now, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Unesco's creation here in Britain, let's work to re-empower British scientists, educators, social scientists and communicators among their peers.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID WARDROP

United Nations Association

London, W1

30 March

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