Special session of the UNESCO Middle East Task Force on UNESCO’s further contribution to the early recovery and reconstruction efforts in Lebanon

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koďchiro Matsuura, yesterday convened the Task Force on the Middle East to discuss recent developments in the UN response to the crisis in Lebanon following the Stockholm Donor Conference for Lebanon’s Early Recovery (31 August 2006), as well as UNESCO’s current and future contribution to this response.

In his opening remarks, the Director-General expressed his overall satisfaction on the action taken so far during this difficult period. “I am pleased our first expert mission to Lebanon, conducted with a view to securing agreement with the Lebanese authorities on the overall scope of UNESCO’s assistance to early recovery in post-crisis Lebanon, was a success,” he said. “The mission was able to identify and formulate concrete proposals for assistance falling within the Organization’s fields of competence, with particular attention to education and culture. We must now ensure effective follow-up, while continuing to identify extrabudgetary sources of funding.”

In the field of education the Director-General noted with satisfaction the progress made with the Lebanese Authorities and international partners in determining UNESCO’s role in supporting early recovery. “Our efforts to assist the Lebanese government by providing support for vocational education and psychological-social support to children and youth traumatized by the recent events is an important first step in the field of education,” said Mr Matsuura. In this regard, the Director of the Beirut Office indicated that preparatory meetings would be held in the coming days with other agencies, UNICEF and the World Bank in particular, in order to discuss next steps for the implementation of joint educational projects included in the “National Early Recovery Plan” presented by the Government of Lebanon during the Stockholm conference. The Plan also includes two projects relating to the rehabilitation of cultural heritage in the Souks of Baalbeck and the site of Chamma, South Lebanon.

On this occasion, the Director-General announced that a second cultural mission comprising five persons, lead by Mr Mounir Bouchenaki, Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Monuments (ICCROM), would be fielded from 10 to 16 September 2006 to assist the Ministry of Culture in conducting an in-depth assessment of cultural and historical sites potentially affected by the conflict. The mission will include structural experts to assess the foundations and stone masonry. “This second high-level mission, scheduled to visit in particular the sites of Tyr, Baalbeck, Byblos and Saida, will clarify further what UNESCO can do to help safeguard the country’s cultural heritage,” emphasized Mr Matsuura.

Concerning Israeli cultural heritage sites, the Director-General referred to his previous proposal to assess possible damage to the Old City of Acre in Israel (Flash Info n° 126-2006) and indicated that a full report prepared by Israeli authorities would be shared soon with UNESCO.

Regarding the Organization’s preliminary strategy for reconstruction in Lebanon, the Director-General concluded it was best to send an intersectoral mission at a later date, possibly in October, allowing time to hold further talks with the Lebanese authorities and the Minister of Culture of Lebanon, Mr Tarek Mitri, who is scheduled to address the upcoming session of the Executive Board.

“I look forward to meeting the Minister of Culture,” stated Mr Matsuura. “His visit will give me an opportunity to discuss with him short and long-term needs of the country and it will also permit him to meet with Assistant Directors-General responsible for UNESCO’s fields of competence. After these talks we will be in a better position to draw up a mission with clear objectives to assess further needs in the field of education, culture, natural and human sciences and communication,” added the Director-General.

An information document is under preparation for the next session of the Executive Board and will contain the findings of the missions and an outline of UNESCO’s preliminary strategy for reconstruction in Lebanon. An information meeting for Permanent Delegates and the international press on the outcomes of the second cultural mission will also be held at Headquarters in mid-September, announced the Director-General.

“This first mission was a success. Let us carefully prepare the next missions with the same attention to detail. It is our actions in this period of early recovery and reconstruction in Lebanon that will raise the Organization’s visibility and ensure appropriate funding for our current and future proposals”, concluded Mr Matsuura.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash info n°133-2006
  • 08-09-2006
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