He is the first Director-General to visit the country since it became a Member of the Organization in 1993 (Niue is one of the two Pacific Islands which is a member of UNESCO but not of the UN – the other being the Cook Islands).
Mr Matsuura was unable to meet with the Premier Young Vivian, who was out of the country during the visit. However, full arrangements had been made to ensure an exchange of views on the existing bilateral cooperation with all Cabinet members. These were: Mr Fisa Igilisi Pihigia, Acting Premier (who accompanied the Director-General during his entire visit in the country); Ms Va’aiga Tukuitonga, Minister of Education and Women’s Affairs; and Mr Bill Vakaafi Motufoou, Minister of Social Affairs. The Director-General also met with other high officials representing key sectors and members of the Niue National Commission for UNESCO. All of them expressed their sincere gratitude to the Director-General for undertaking this visit and noted that it is not often that Niue is personally visited by an Executive Head of a UN Agency.
The discussions focused essentially on areas of cooperation between UNESCO and Niue. “This partnership”, Mr Matsuura said “has been growing steadily through the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy”. He affirmed that the Organization would continue to mainstream the Mauritius Strategy into its activities, as illustrated in UNESCO’s new Medium-Term Strategy (C/4), while promoting a holistic approach to development in Small Island Developing States and nurturing intersectoral cooperation.
Moreover, Mr Matsuura highlighted that UNESCO’s cooperation with Niue is also the most visible – it takes place predominantly in the areas of freshwater and media development. In freshwater, UNESCO has provided valuable support for strengthening groundwater monitoring, management and legislation. The overall objective is to establish a groundwater resources assessment and monitoring programme to determine possible and potential contamination of the groundwater from land-based activities, as well as adopt effective measures to address the vulnerability of freshwater supply during the natural disasters to which Niue is prone. The Organization has also lent its support through the Participation Programme and the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which helps digitalize research archives and radio operating facilities.
As concerns cooperation in education, Mr Matsuura noted with satisfaction that Niue is actively engaged in achieving the six Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He underlined, however, that access to quality education remained a challenge. In culture, the Director-General expressed his satisfaction at Niue’s ratification of the World Heritage Convention. He underscored the fact that given the importance of oral cultural heritage in the country, the ratification of the Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage would greatly help preserve Niue’s oral cultural traditions. In that regard, the Director-General was further encouraged by the active participation of Niue in the December 2007 regional workshop on this Convention that was organized by UNESCO in Nadi, Fiji. The Minister of Education, who is also responsible for Culture, explained that Niue is in the process of drafting a bill for the protection of languages that would subsequently help establish the legal framework required for the ratification of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
During his stay, the Director-General made on-site visits to projects funded by UNESCO in order to make a first-hand assessment on their developments. The visits to the Central Monitoring Bore at Paluki (where investigation on the island’s underground freshwater resource is being undertaken in order to determine the geometry of the freshwater lens) and the Broadcasting Corporation for Niue in Alofi (to assess how the radio and TV operations are handled) demonstrate that the Organization’s support to Niue is being used in the most effective and efficient way.
Mr Matsuura also visited the National Museum and Archives and addressed the Congregation in Taopae, in the presence of local people, as well as Members of the Niue National Commission for UNESCO. The Acting Premier hosted a dinner in honour of the Director-General, to which members of the Cabinet and other high ranking officials were invited.
A visit was also undertaken to the Niue Primary School and Niue High School Assembly to meet with teachers and students who staged a cultural performance of traditional dance and music in honour of Mr Matsuura.
Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 025-2008 - Publication Date: 26-02-2008