PAST takes its powerful messages of tolerance and unity to the UN
October 2016 – The Palaeontological Scientific Trust’s (PAST) clarion call for the promotion of unity and tolerance among humanity based on their shared common origins in Africa is to be heard in the hallowed corridors of the United Nations. Department of International Relations and Cooperation led the call for international participants.
PAST is a non-profit trust dedicated to preserving Africa’s rich fossil heritage and its CEO, Andrea Leenen, was surprised when she received the call recently from Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) lead coordinator of the #TreasuresofSouthAfrica exhibition, for PAST to exhibit at the upcoming General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland in early October.
“I was quite surprised to get the call but since we launched our All from One exhibition in November last year we have had unbelievable feedback. It is wonderful that international audiences are showing real interest and we can now take this message to the next level. We feel this is something we can replicate in different formats, like e-learning and in different scales to suit different venues, so communities across the globe can be enriched,” she says.
The main goal of the project – which was first launched outside Standard Bank’s office in Rosebank in November last year and then moved to Soweto - is to create awareness and emphasise the message contained in the study of the palaeosciences: that all humans have a shared common origin, hence the need to promote unity and tolerance among all people.
“Its core principle is that humans have a shared African origin and 99.9% genetic similarity. The physical differences observed are just a fragment (0.01%) of our genetic make-up,” says Leenen.
PAST’s key partner, the Department of Science and Technology, will be co-ordinating the activities for the Treasures of South Africa Art exhibition and the Indigenous Knowledge Systems in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Professor Robert Blumenschine, PAST’s Chief Scientist for the Palaeontological Scientific Trust, says the opportunity could not have come at a more important time.
“Just read the headlines and every week there are several incidents where perhaps a greater awareness of what “All From One” stands for could have encouraged other ways of doing things rather than all the negative ways we currently see,” he says.
The General Assembly (GA), of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), is a series of meetings attended by member states and governments, indigenous communities, business communities and civil society in Geneva, Switzerland. It strives to lead the development of a balanced and effective international intellectual property system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all.
Leenen says in South Africa, the palaeosciences discipline has played a vital role in providing scientific data which support social cohesion and nation-building initiatives.
For the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) exhibition, the palaeosciences will centre on the notion of our uniqueness as a human species and our common origins, which translates into a shared genetic identity despite the observed minor differences within humanity.
“We will have an exhibition that explores the traits that make up the human species and the processes which separated us from fellow apes and other animals and also an educational theatre play called Walking Tall that tells the story of humanity and ignites an interest in the origin sciences,” she says.
At the end of the exhibition visitors will be invited to commit to one of the four ideals of the campaign: tolerance, unity, collaboration and conservation. People everywhere can commit to All from One at www.past.org.za/allfromone
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