The Director-General visits the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (28-30 April 2006)

The Director-General visits the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (28-30 April 2006)

From 28 to 30 April 2006, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

At the end of his three-day visit, Mr Matsuura was received in audience by His Majesty Abdallah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia. Mr Matsuura expressed his high appreciation for the strong support His Majesty has given to promoting cooperation between his country and UNESCO, particularly in the area of education, following the Director-General’s first visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2000. Noting that there was not a UNESCO Chair in any of the higher education institutes of the Kingdom, Mr Matsuura informed His Majesty of his intention to proceed with the creation of a UNESCO Chair, in agreement with the Minister of Education Mr Abdullah Bin Saleh Al Obeid. Referring to discussions with His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud, Mr Matsuura also said that he was very happy to learn of new prospects of bilateral cooperation in the area of culture. He welcomed the intention of the Saudi authorities to establish a new legal framework for the preservation of cultural heritage that would lead to the inscription of sites on the World Heritage list in the near future. In this regard, the Director-General encouraged the Saudi authorities to consider the proposal of such sites as Mada’In Saleh. Referring to his meeting with His Royal Highness Prince Naïef Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Minister of the Interior, the Director-General noted that, in addition to promoting bilateral cooperation, Saudi Arabia and UNESCO were now becoming strong partners for promoting regional cooperation in the area of education. In this context he expressed his thanks to His Majesty for continuing large-scale scholarship programmes for Palestinian students in partnership with the Organization. Finally, the Director-General invited King Abdallah to visit UNESCO Headquarters in the near future.

During his visit, the Director-General met with several ministers and high personalities in charge of UNESCO’s fields of competence. In particular, he was received by His Royal Highness Prince Naïef Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Minister of the Interior, who chairs the Saudi Committee for the Relief of the Palestinian People. Underlining that the aid made available by the Committee had already benefited 20,000 students and 11 universities, Mr Matsuura reaffirmed UNESCO’s readiness to continue this work in favour of Palestinian higher education, in cooperation with the Committee. Prince Naef Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud responded favourably to this request and expressed the hope that UNESCO would continue to implement this project. Mr Matsuura underlined the action of the Organization for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage in the Arab world, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem, and expressed the wish to strengthen cooperation in this domain with Saudi Arabia. Finally, he praised the efforts of Saudi Arabia in the reconstruction of countries hit by natural disasters, particularly Pakistan and Indonesia.

During his talks with His Royal Highness Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, President of the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations (AGFUND), the Director-General thanked His Royal Highness for supporting UNESCO projects in more than 85 countries in the Arab region and in other parts of the world in the areas of education, science and communication over the last 25 years. For his part, His Royal Highness expressed his satisfaction with the strong cooperation AGFUND has established with UNESCO and indicated that he would like to strengthen it further, particularly regarding the Arab Open University.

Mr Matsuura was also received by His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud, Chairperson of the Museum and Heritage Foundation and Secretary-General of the Saudi Arabia Higher Commission for Tourism. His Royal Highness said that, following his meeting with the Director-General in January 2000, he has been working hard to establish a new legal framework for preserving cultural heritage in Saudi Arabia, while proceeding to identify suitable candidates for inscription on the World Heritage list. He mentioned Madah’In Saleh, Old Jeddah and the Old City of Dar’iya as potential candidates for inscription on the list. His Royal Highness also mentioned that the matter had already been discussed at the Council of Ministers and that he intended to pursue it further with utmost priority. In response, the Director-General said that these developments were very positive and that UNESCO would certainly cooperate so that Saudi Arabia would have World Heritage sites in the near future.

During his bilateral talks with Mr Abdullah Bin Saleh Al-Obeid, Minister of Education, Mr Saeed Al-Mullais, Vice-Minister of Education and Mr Ibrahim Abdul Aziz Al Sheddi, Secretary-General of the National Commission for UNESCO, Mr Matsuura called upon the Saudi authorities to continue their staunch support for the reform of the education system in the Arab World. On this occasion, Mr Matsuura called for strong participation of Saudi Arabian higher education institutions and academia in the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme and said UNESCO would continue to develop actions regarding education for sustainable development in cooperation with the other UN agencies.

Mr Matsuura also met with Mr Nizar Madani, Deputy Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Iyad Bin Amin Madani, Minister of Culture and Information, and Mr Faisal, Secretary-General of the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, a new non-governmental organization which promotes dialogue among cultures and civilizations. At these meetings, the Director-General informed them of the unanimous decision taken by the Executive Board of UNESCO at its 174th session to make further efforts to promote dialogue among civilizations and cultures.

Finally, Mr Matsuura visited the Kingdom Schools, a pilot centre of excellence financed by His Royal Highness Prince Walid bin Talal that provides quality education to boys and girls at basic, secondary and higher levels, and the Ryad College of Technology, specialized in technical and vocational education, as well as the National Museum of Ryad.

  • Source:Flash info n°066-2006
  • 05-05-2006
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