United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Damaged_school_Bint_Jbeil.jpg UNESCO to assist Lebanese early recovery in culture and education

UNESCO will assist the Lebanese government by providing support for vocational education, children and youth traumatized by recent events, and helping to preserve the country’s rich cultural heritage. These areas of immediate assistance, which will be part of the government’s early recovery efforts, were identified during a UNESCO mission to Lebanon last week led by the Director of the Organization’s Beirut Office, Abdel Moneim Osman. The mission met with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Culture Minister Tarek Mitri and Education Minister Khaled Kabbani.

“UNESCO will spare no effort in extending its expertise to Lebanon,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “Sadly,” he added, “events over recent decades have provided the Organization with all too many occasions to work on post-conflict reconstruction. But this means Lebanon can draw on this experience – not only in the first early recovery phase, but also in later full-scale reconstruction.”

Assistance for children and young people will be oriented towards psychological-social support using culture as a medium. It will train trainers in stress relief and recovery from conflict trauma. The support will also focus on civic education and citizenship as well as artistic and creative activities to help Lebanon’s diverse communities overcome possible divisions created by the conflict and to live harmoniously together. UNESCO has considerable experience in reconciliation work, having contributed to such projects in Lebanon in the early 1980s in the aftermath of the civil war.

UNESCO will also support the repair and refurbishment of 18 vocational schools that were used as shelters for people displaced in the recent conflict. The aim is to have the schools ready for the start of the new school year on 9 October. This date has been also been declared “National Education Solidarity Day”.

Last week’s mission ascertained that the Lebanese sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List have sustained no visible damage. However, a comprehensive survey of cultural and historical sites, including all World Heritage sites in Lebanon, is required. “For example, further study will be needed to find out if the ancient vestiges of Baalbek have been weakened structurally by the impact of bombs that exploded nearby,” said Mr Osman.

The impact of the oil spill from a nearby power plant on the old port of Byblos, which is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, will also need to be assessed. This will be done in September by a mission of experts, led by Mounir Bouchenaki - the Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), an advisory organization of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre.

Moreover the Lebanese government has requested UNESCO’s assistance to repair damage to other affected Lebanese cultural heritage, in particular:

  • the historical town centre of Baalbek whose souk and traditional houses, all dating back to the Ottoman period, have been badly damaged. The souk remains important for the socio-economic life of the historical city to this day.
  • the damaged heritage in the southern Lebanese fortified village of Chamaa, whose vestiges span the Crusader period (12th century), the Mamelouk period (13th century) and the 18th century Ottoman period. Important features of the site include: fortification walls, an oil press, the mausoleum of the Prophet Chamaa, and the traditional homes of numerous families that have been left without shelter because of the bombing.

    The Organization is also preparing to assist the Lebanese authorities in the longer-term reconstruction phase, which will be launched next January. To this end, another mission of experts from all of UNESCO’s areas of expertise, will visit Lebanon in the coming weeks to determine how the Organization may meet the government’s subsequent requests for such assistance.

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    Print and broadcast media wishing to obtain still pictures or video footage concerning UNESCO’s assistance to Lebanon should contact UNESCO’s Audiovisual Sector:

    c.van-engeland@unesco.org

    Tel: +33 1 45 68 16 85

    Journalists wishing to contact the Director of UNESCO’s office in Beirut for more information should write to: Beirut@unesco.org

    Photo 1: © As-Safir/UNESCO
    Damaged school in the Southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil

    Photo 2: © Studionada/UNESCO
    Oil slick in Byblos

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    Author(s) UNESCOPRESS
    Source Press Release No.2006-106
    Publication Date 30 Aug 2006
    © UNESCO 1995-2007 - ID: 34456