The Director-General pays his first official visit to Belize

The Director-General pays his first official visit to Belize
  • © UNESCO/J. Baker

From 17-19 September 2007, Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, paid his first official visit to Belize. It was the first official visit of a UNESCO Director-General to the country.

On 18 September, the Director-General held bilateral talks with Mr Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize, who was accompanied by Mr Francis Fonseca, Attorney General and Minister of Labour, Education and Culture. He also met with Mr Colville Young, Governor-General of Belize, and Ms Lisa Showman, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belize.
The Director-General thanked the Prime Minister for his invitation to visit Belize and expressed his satisfaction for the nomination in December 2005 on a full time basis of Senator Roy Cayetano as Secretary-General of the Belize National Commission to UNESCO. He paid tribute to the Prime Minister for the increasingly fruitful collaboration between UNESCO and Belize, particularly in the areas of education, science and culture.

The Director-General congratulated Belize for the inclusion of the Belize Barrier Reef on the World Heritage site list and encouraged the Prime Minister to make additional proposals of sites for inclusion on the World Heritage list, making reference to the multiple Mayan ruins in Belize that could be considered as cultural World Heritage sites. The Director-General also congratulated Belize on the inclusion of the Garifuna language, dance and music on UNESCO’s list of masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

The Director-General underlined the importance for countries in the Caribbean region to ratify the various UNESCO Conventions related to cultural heritage, in particular the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural heritage, in order to undertake a regional approach to these issues. The Prime Minister informed Mr Matsuura that Belize was favourable to ratifying these conventions.

While in Belize, the Director-General visited the Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education of Belize, and was given a tour by its coordinator, Mrs. Eleanor Castillo. The unit was established in 1991 to ensure that all children with special education needs throughout the country have access to special education. It operates on the principle of inclusive education and provides training to teachers and parents, support to three schools and four special education centres in the country and facilitates the development of parent associations for children with special needs. The Director-General praised the work of the unit and reiterated UNESCO’s support for inclusive education in Belize, and in particular for the centre.

Mr Matsuura also visited the University of Belize, where he met with the University’s president, Mr Santos Mahung, and members of its faculty, and discussed the important role the university was playing in developing quality tertiary-level education in Belize, in particular through its International Education for Development Programme and its Natural Resources Management Programme.

On 19 September, the Director-General visited the Museum of Belize, and was given a tour by its director, Ms Lita Krohn. The Museum is located in a refurbished British colonial prison built in
1857, and houses a permanent museum collection on Maya Masterpieces that spans the ancient Maya civilization from 600 B.C. to A.D. 1500.

During his stay in Belize, the Director-General also visited the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, which coordinates the Caribbean region’s response to climate change and is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change in the Caribbean. Mr Matsuura congratulated the centre for its work on climate change, and for its fruitful collaboration with UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme. The Director-General encouraged the centre to also collaborate with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and informed the centre of IOC’s many activities related to climate change.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 119-2007
  • 26-09-2007
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