The Director-General visits Tuvalu

The Director-General visits Tuvalu
  • © UNESCO/A. Vohra

From 27 to 28 February, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first official visit to Tuvalu. He is the first Director-General to visit the country since it became a Member of the Organization in 1991.

The Director-General met with the Prime Minister Mr Apisai Lelemia, whom he had previously met in December 2007 at the First Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Beppu, Japan. It was on this occasion that the Prime Minister invited Mr Matsuura to visit his country. Their bilateral discussions focused on freshwater and the oceans. Recalling the speech that the Prime Minister gave in Beppu, Japan, in which he talked about Tuvalu’s water problems, the Director-General underscored the work carried-out by UNESCO in the area of freshwater management as lead Agency in the UN System. Mr Matsuura added that Tuvalu was an active member of, and contributor to, the Pacific International Hydrological Programme (IHP) network. Noting also that initial discussions have already taken place between the Tuvalu authorities and UNESCO on the potential for the development of a Biosphere Reserve, the Director-General encouraged Tuvalu to establish a National Committee for the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) to facilitate collaboration on issues pertaining to environmental conservation. He then explained, in light of Tuvalu’s extreme vulnerability to rising sea-levels, the work of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), particularly with regard to the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS).

With regard to culture, the Director-General highlighted the fact that the Pacific Small Island States are blessed with a rich oral heritage that merited international recognition. As such, he stressed, the ratification of the convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage would greatly assist the country in attaining international recognition and assistance for the preservation of its oral traditions. The Prime Minister acknowledged the need to preserve some of Tuvalu’s traditions and said he would examine the Convention.

Mr Matsuura also held bilateral discussions with the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Dr Falesa Pitoi. The Minister expressed his gratitude for UNESCO’s ongoing support through its Office in Apia. As a result, activities to promote Education for All have achieved tangible results. Furthermore, high level policy dialogue has been promoted and the partnership network has been strengthened, mainly with Pacific Education Support Group and donors. He also indicated that one of Tuvalu’s key priority areas is teacher training. In response, Mr Matsuura said that UNESCO stands ready to assist Tuvalu in this area in line with the findings of the UNESCO National Education Support Strategy (UNESS) through the mobilization of extrabudgetary funds.

The Acting Secretary to the Government, Mr Solofa Uota, hosted a dinner in honour of the Director-General. The Governor-General, Reverend Filoimea Telito, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Kamuta Latasi, as well as other high ranking Government Officials and members of the Diplomatic corps also attended this event.

During his visit, Mr Matsuura met with the members of the Tuvalu National Commission for UNESCO to exchange views on how to enhance the development cooperation between UNESCO and Tuvalu. He also visited the Nauti Primary School and the Fetuvalu Secondary School. The children at both of these schools provided a display of the country’s traditional dances and songs.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 027-2008
  • 29-02-2008
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