UNESCO ready to support Lebanon in reconstruction efforts

During a meeting of the Organization’s Task Force on the Middle East, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura today expressed relief at the adoption of the United Nations Resolution 1701, which brought the cessation of hostilities in Lebanon and stressed the importance of UNESCO continuing to “work as one with the United Nations.”

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He also paid tribute to UNESCO’s international and national staff, “I wholeheartedly appreciate their dedication,” he said.

The Organization’s immediate role in reconstruction efforts will be to send a team of experts to Lebanon to assess the damage to cultural heritage sites and evaluate the post-conflict status of the education system so as to ensure UNESCO’s participation in the United Nation’s efforts to contribute to the early recovery and reconstruction process lead by the Lebanese authorities, who are expected to present their plans at the upcoming Stockholm Conference on 31 August 2006. Shortly thereafter follow-up cultural and intersectoral missions will be sent.

Experts will assess damage to Tyre, Baalbek and Byblos and will explore the means of protecting these cultural heritage sites, including countering – as necessary – the looting of cultural property. Alleged damage to the Old City of Acre in Israel will be subject to another evaluation.

Highlighting the importance of assessing the education system and catalyzing the academic community, the Director-General stressed interagency cooperation and the importance of finding UNESCO’s niche. “As UNICEF works to get children back to school we must begin work with local authorities on an overall assessment of the negative impacts of the conflict on the educational system and clarify UNESCO’s role in Lebanon,” he said. Cultural approaches using the arts and theatre performances will also be explored as alternative ways of alleviating trauma among children. The Organization will furthermore evaluate the possibilities of using community radio as a delivery mechanism for education and culture.

The Director-General noted with satisfaction that UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) was already working with regional partners and UNEP to assess the damage of the oil spill in Byblos.

On the basis of the outcomes of the first mission to Lebanon, UNESCO plans on sending a second more extensive cultural mission to evaluate the global cultural situation, including cultural institutions and the state of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, in order to revive the cultural vibrancy and diversity of Lebanese society.

An intersectoral mission is also planned to assess further needs in the field of education, the sciences and communication.

The Director-General indicated that he would submit to the next session of the Executive Board an information document on the outline of UNESCO’s preliminary strategy for reconstruction in Lebanon.

“These missions are crucial for UNESCO’s reconstruction work in the region,” stated Mr Matsuura. “The first mission must leave as soon as we get security clearance in order to meet the deadline for the Stockholm Conference. The following missions must be ready and planned for the end of August or early September at the latest. These missions will help us draw up our preliminary strategy for post-conflict reconstruction. Concrete proposals for deploying more staff from our post-conflict training programme and for reinforcing our local presence in the region are the priority,” concluded the Director-General.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info n°126-2006
  • 18-08-2006
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