United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Timor-Leste becomes 189th Member State of UNESCO

Paris - The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became the 189th Member State of UNESCO Thursday, when the country’s Chargé d’Affaires to the European Union, José António Amorim Dias, signed, on behalf of the Government, the Organization’s Constitution in London.

“I look forward to working closely with this, our newest Member State,” declared the Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura. He added: “I am particularly heartened to see that Timor-Leste has taken the decision to join our Organization so soon after acceding to independence. I also welcome the fact that with Timor-Leste joining UNESCO, and with the return of the United States, we are strengthening the universality of our Organization

UNESCO has been active in Timor-Leste since the late 1990s. It has been supporting media development and cultural heritage preservation projects with material, training and expertise. It helped establish the two first community radio stations there, Radio Los Palos and Radio Malianas, and the country's first professional journalist organization, the Timor Lorosae Journalist Association.

UNESCO is also helping in the creation of archives, which will house film material documenting Timor-Leste’s path to independence. Material collected and preserved in the new archive, funded mainly by Germany and Finland, is to be used in education and research.

Since late 1999, UNESCO - in cooperation with the World Bank, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), and the government of Portugal - has provided technical assistance for the restoration of Uma Fukun, the oldest Portuguese colonial building in Dili, to house the National Museum and Cultural Centre.

Other UNESCO projects include training to improve local expertise in heritage preservation and management, and the restoration of traditional houses, Uma Luliks, in the Fataluka area of Timor-Leste, with financial support from various partners, and in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, Australia. UNESCO has saved and restored a unique collection of 476 items that includes ancestral wooden statues, fragments of Neolithic pottery and Chinese porcelain.

In cooperation with the new government, UNESCO is also studying other projects to boost Timor-Lestes’s heritage, including the development of cultural and tourism policies, and a blueprint to protect ancient spiritual sites and valuable marine resources, such as Jaco Island and Tutuala Beach, on the northeast tip of the island. There are also plans to preserve the country’s intangible heritage, notably by recording typical examples of local music and oral tradition.

Source Press Release No 2003 - 33
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Editorial Contact: Pierre Gaillard: Bureau of Public Information, Editorial Section. Tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 17 06
- Email p.gaillard@unesco.org
Publication Date 06 Jun 2003
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