United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Director-General visits the Cook Islands

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first official visit to the Cook Islands from 22 to 23 February*.

He is the first Director-General to visit the country since it became a Member of the Organization in 1989 (Cook Islands is one of the two Pacific Island States which is a member of UNESCO but not of the UN).

As with the other Pacific Island Nations he recently visited, Mr Matsuura was received by a traditional “Turou” welcoming ceremony reserved for eminent guests, an expression of the country’s rich oral cultural heritage. He was also warmly greeted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Mr Wlkie Rasmussen.

The Acting Prime Minister, Sir Terepai Maoate (Deputy Prime Minister) hosted a working lunch in honour of the Director-General in the presence of several Heads of Ministries in charge of UNESCO’s areas of expertise, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Mr Wlkie Rasmussen, as well as Secretaries of Education, Culture and Foreign Affairs: John Herman, Makiuti Tongia and Michael Mitchell, respectively.

Deputy Prime Minister Maoate extended his deepest gratitude to the Director-General for taking great efforts to come and visit the Cook Islands in order to give a fresh boost to the relations and the bilateral cooperation, which is extremely modest at the programmatic level, he noted. “In that respect”, he continued, “the Government is taking steps to restructure the National Commission so that it can effectively cooperate with UNESCO through its Office in Apia and further support the ongoing partnership”. The Deputy Prime Minister also sought UNESCO’s support in the development of the country’s science and research capacities.

Mr Matsuura commended the Cook Island’s initiative to strengthen existing cooperation and assured the Deputy Prime Minister that UNESCO stood ready to assist in revitalizing the National Commission, which will help the country enhance access to the Organization and all its spheres of competence, particularly in education, which is crucial for national development.

In the sciences, the Director-General outlined UNESCO’s role in freshwater and the oceans. Referring to UNESCO’s lead role in the preparation of the world water report, he expressed his hopes that the Pacific countries would also be covered in the future editions of the report. Mr Matsuura expressed his satisfaction that Cook Islands cooperates closely within the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) and encouraged the country to set-up a national MAB committee. The Director-General also welcomed the Government’s decision to become a member of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in 2006, adding that the country would now be able to benefit from IOC’s technical expertise and capacity-building activities, including in early tsunami warning. Finally, the Director-General encouraged the Cook Islands to ratify the Convention on Underwater cultural heritage in order to complement the laws of the sea. In this context, he informed that UNESCO would be organizing a regional workshop on this Convention shortly and encouraged the Cook Islands to actively participate in it.

With regards to cooperation in the area of culture, the Director-General pointed out that, like in most Pacific island nations, cultural heritage in the Cook Islands come predominantly in the form of oral traditions and knowledge systems. He underscored that the ratification of the Convention of the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage would greatly help the country preserve its oral cultural heritage.

During his stay, the Director-General visited the Te Puna Korero Cultural Centre where he saw a display of artefacts from the different islands that form the country.


* The dates of this visit coincide with those of the Republic of Vanuatu due to the crossing over of the International Date Line (See Flash Info N°023-2008)

Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 024-2008 -  Publication Date: 25-02-2008

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