President Denis Sassou Nguesso pleads for reinforcing the role of UNESCO in AfricaAddressing UNESCO’s Executive Board this morning, the President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, currently President of the African Union, highlighted the twin roles of the Organization in Africa, as an agency for intellectual cooperation and technical assistance.
“At a time when the polarization of the world is no longer rooted in doctrinal or ideological differences, but, more tragically and ruthlessly, in the danger of confrontation between rich and poor countries, peace appears, in the long term as the sole and sine qua non condition for the development of our continent,” declared President Sassou Nguesso.
“Therefore UNESCO is, to our mind, the best placed institution to support Africa in this multidimensional struggle, particularly in creating propitious conditions for the implementation of programmes that favour the interaction between education and culture as well as the promotion of dialogue among civilizations,” he added.
The President further stressed the key role that UNESCO played in Africa right after independence, particularly in establishing the network of teacher training colleges: “The great success of this programme was largely due to the fact it was financed by the United Nations system […] at the time when the different funds of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions fully fulfilled their essential mission to provide resources to specialized institutions and oversee their proper utilization.”
President Sassou Nguesso added: “It is highly desirable that the funds and programmes of the United Nations be re-established in their capacity as raisers and purveyors of resources for specialized organizations. This requires the far-reaching restructuring of the United Nations system which we ardently wish for.”
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura reaffirmed the priority the Organization gives to Africa and to supporting regional cooperation in the continent.
Mr Matsuura welcomed the positive outcome of the last Summit of the African Union, in Khartoum, which refocused “culture at the heart of the development process.” He added: “Indeed, it is on the basis of fundamental values, links with the environment, the wealth of its beliefs and identities, and it is by reclaiming ownership of its history, that a society can meet the challenge of the present, build a durable future and play its part in the concert of nations.”
In the presence of the members of the Executive Board, and Ambassadors and Permanent Delegates to UNESCO, the President of the General conference of UNESCO, Musa bin Jaafar Bin Hassan, and the Chairman of its Executive Board, Xinsheng Zhang welcomed President Sassou Nguesso. Both spoke of the cooperation between the Organization and the Republic of Congo, particularly in education, science and technology policy development, and the promotion of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.