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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

The Director-General participates in the Fourteenth (ordinary session) of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) in Nairobi, Kenya (17 May 2007)

The Director-General participates in the Fourteenth (ordinary session) of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) in Nairobi, Kenya (17 May 2007)

At the invitation of the Government of Kenya, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO paid an official visit to the Republic of Kenya from 17 to 19 May 2007 in view of strengthening the links between Kenya and UNESCO.

In the presence of Professor George Saitoti, Minister of Education and Chairman of the Kenyan National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Noah Wekesa, Minister of Science and Technology, and Mrs Nouzha Guessous-Idrissi, Chairperson of the IBC, the Director-General delivered his address to the Fourteenth(ordinary session) of the IBC. He begun by thanking the Government of Kenya for offering to host this meeting – the first IBC session to be held in sub-Saharan Africa. He also noted that following COMEST’s first meeting in Africa – held last December in Dakar, Senegal – the meeting provided an opportunity to enhance Africa’s contribution to the ethics of science and technology. He said that the defining moment for bioethics in Africa came in January this year, at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa. He went on to stress that “In their Declaration on Science, Technology and Scientific Research for Development, African Heads of State explicitly committed to “ensure scrupulous application of scientific ethics in Africa”. He outlined the four challenges facing Africa, namely the integration of social and ethical concerns into development strategies, awareness raising within the scientific community, to promote a transparent ethics debate within African society, and finally taking an active part in shaping ethical reflection at the international level.

Turning now to the IBC’s work in the implementation of the Declaration of the World Medical Association and the International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects of the Council for International Organizations of Medical Services, he noted that the Committee had focused on two principles, namely social responsibility and consent. He encouraged “the Committee to continue its reflection on how to provide guidance that would enable the international community to address the principle of social responsibility in a transparent and collaborative manner”. With regard to consent, he expressed the hope that the draft report prepared by the IBC Working Group would be adopted by the Committee at this session.

During his official visit to Kenya, the Director-General paid a courtesy call on President Mwai Kibaki. Mr Matsuura thanked the Government of Kenya for hosting the IBC meeting. He applauded the President for his efforts to widen access to education through the implementation of free primary education and pledged UNESCO’s continued assistance in the proposed programme to broaden access to secondary and tertiary levels of education. He also congratulated the Government on the successful campaign on HIV/AIDS prevention education. With regard to culture, the Director-General stressed the importance of establishing a credible management plan for the preservation of Lamu Old Town, one of the three World Heritage Sites in Kenya but the only cultural heritage site. In addition, he said that intangible cultural heritage goes hand in hand with tangible heritage. Therefore it would be advisable for Kenya to join the Convention for the protection of intangible cultural heritage. President Kibaki welcomed the decision to accord Kenya the opportunity to host the first International Bioethics Committee meeting in an African country and expressed his satisfaction with the existing cooperation between UNESCO and Kenya in all areas of common interest. He also called for UNESCO’s continued support to the Government's effort to promote education, science, technology, cultural heritage and communication in the country.

Mr Matsuura also held a joint meeting with Prof Saitoti, Minister of Education, Dr Noah Wekesa, Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Maina Kamanda, Minister for Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services, Mr Suleiman Shakombo, Minister of State for Natural Heritage. The meeting took stock of the cooperation between Kenya and UNESCO. The priority areas identified for further cooperation include broadening access to secondary and tertiary education, following up the successful introduction of the free primary education; the preservation of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible; reinforcing UNESCO’s technical support in the implementation of the Nairobi declaration adopted by the first African Union Ministers of Culture Conference held in Nairobi; capacity building in science and technology, the proposed establishment of a UNESCO Category II regional centre for bioethics at Egerton University; and broadening access to information and the use of ICTs in schools through partnerships with the private sector. The Director-General expressed his satisfaction with the bilateral cooperation between Kenya and UNESCO and thanked the Government for the support that it is providing to UNESCO Regional Office for Science in Nairobi.

During his stay in Nairobi, the Director-General paid a courtesy visit to the Mayor of Nairobi with whom he discussed the implementation in East Africa of the Ten-point Plan of Action of African Coalition of Cities against Racism and Discrimination, an initiative led by UNESCO.

Mr Matsuura also held a working session with the United Nations Country Team in Nairobi. In his remarks, the Director-General stressed UNESCO’s active engagement in the UN reform including participation in the pilot countries on “One UN” at the country level. The UN Country Team expressed its commitment to the “Delivering One” strategy and noted that the forthcoming UNDAF exercise would provide an opportunity for the UN agencies to establish a common programme.

Additionally, Mr Matsuura held a joint meeting with PEER partners and the United Nations Country Team for Somalia, which is currently based in Nairobi. The meeting was notably attended by Mr François Fall, Special Representative for Somalia, members of the UNCT (Somalia) and Ambassadors of several donor countries. The Director-General stressed the new impetus he plans to give to the restructured PEER and called on the UN agencies, governmental partners and international NGOs to provide full support to the PEER’s drive for extrabudgetary resources.

Mr Matsuura also visited Lamu, a World Heritage site, where he discussed challenges of conserving this old town with civic leaders as well as senior Government officials responsible for the management of the Site. While in Lamu, the Director-General also visited Mkomani Girls’ Primary School whose potential for addressing gender equality retained his attention. He approved a UNESCO extrabudgetary project in order to enlarge the capacity of this pilot school.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 065-2007
  • 22-05-2007
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