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Federico Mayor Zaragoza

Federico Mayor Zaragoza

Federico Mayor Zaragoza was born in Barcelona in 1934. He obtained a doctorate in pharmacy from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid in 1958. In 1963 he became professor of biochemistry at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Granada, and in 1968 was elected Rector of the same university, a post he held until 1972. The following year he was appointed professor in biochemistry at the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid.

Professor Mayor was co-founder in 1974 of the Severo Ochoa Centre of Molecular Biology at the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid and of the High Council for Scientific Research.

His political posts have been: Undersecretary of Education and Science in the Spanish goverment (1974-75), deputy in the Spanish Parliament (1977-78), advisor to the President of the Government (1977-78), Minister of Education and Science (1981-82) and deputy in the European Parliament (1987). In 1978 he became vice-director general of UNESCO. In 1987 was elected director general of UNESCO, and re-elected for a second mandate in 1993. After deciding not to present for a third term, in 1999 he returned to Spain to create the Foundation for a Culture of Peace, serving as its President. In December 2002 he was appointed to the chair (presidency) of the European Research Council Expert Group (ERCEG).

During his 12 years as head of UNESCO (1987-1999) Professor Mayor gave new life to the organization’s mission to "build a bastion of peace in the minds of all people", putting the institution at the service of peace, tolerance, human rights and peaceful coexistence, working within the scope of its powers and remaining faithful to its original goals. Under Professor Mayor’s guidance, UNESCO created the Culture of Peace Programme, whose objectives revolve around four main themes: education for peace; human rights and democracy; the fight against isolation and poverty; the defence of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue; and conflict prevention and the consolidation of peace.

Within the framework of this strategy, numerous international meetings and conferences were held on subjects such as education in non-violence, the eradication of discrimination and the promotion of pluralism and international cooperation. The result of these meetings was some 30 Declarations expressing a will to promote education, science, culture, research and teaching, justice and the “moral and intellectual solidarity” to which the constitution of UNESCO refers.

On 13 September 1999, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of peace, which embodies Professor Mayor’s greatest aspirations from both a conceptual and practical standpoint.

Through the Foundation for a Culture of Peace, created in Madrid in March 2000, under the patronage of the Department of Education of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Professor Mayor continues the task he began as director general of UNESCO: that of promoting the transition from a culture of violence and force, to a culture of peace and tolerance. Each year the Foundation offers an annual Culture of Peace course in collaboration with the Juan Carlos I University of Madrid, with educational content including democracy, human rights, and the origin of conflicts. In December, 2000 the Foundation organised an international conference attended by major figures in the struggle for justice, freedom, and peace. At the end of the conference, the Declaration of Madrid was adopted unanimously.

In addition to numerous scientific publications, Professor Mayor has published four books of poetry; A contraviento (1985), Aguafuertes (1991), El fuego y la esperanza (1996) y Terral (1997) and various collections of essays including: Un mundo nuevo (in English, The World Ahead: Our Future in the Making) (1999), Los nudos gordianos (1999) Mañana siempre es tarde (1987), La nueva página (1994), Memoria del futuro (1994), La paix demain? (1995), Science and Power (1995) and UNESCO: Un idéal en action (1996).

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