United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Director-General visits the Republic of Nauru

From 28 to 29 February, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr KoÔchiro Matsuura, undertook his first official visit to the Republic of Nauru. He is the first Director-General to visit the country since it became a Member of the Organization in 1996.

Up until the 1990s, the Republic of Nauru was amongst the richest countries in the world in terms of per capita income. Since then, however, the country has been facing serious economic problems due to the depletion of its phosphate resources and the mismanagement of its financial assets.

On arrival, the Director-General met with President Marcus Stephen and congratulated him on his election. The President expressed his sincere thanks to Mr Matsuura for visiting his country. He said it demonstrates the Organizationís commitment to the sustainable development of his country. The President then explained that Nauru is going through turbulent times but that the Government has set-up a wide-ranging reform agenda, including a plan for secondary mining of phosphates, which should put the country back on the right path. In that regard, he said, UNESCOís assistance in areas such as education, culture and the sciences was of paramount importance to help the country in its recovery phase. Mr Matsuura gave a comprehensive overview of the scope of bilateral cooperation in place between UNESCO and Nauru. He explained that UNESCO is already helping the countryís statistic capacity-building, particularly with regards to statistic data in education, which is crucial to assess the countryís problems in that field. Mr Matsuura also said that UNESCO would lend its support towards teacher training, which remains a priority area for the Pacific sub-region in general.

In the area of culture, the Director-General underscored the importance of preserving intangible heritage, especially for countries such as Nauru which have a rich diversity of oral traditions. He further explained that many of these forms of oral traditions risk disappearing unless special efforts are made to preserve them. Mr Matsuura explained that the ratification of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage would help the country to preserve such oral cultural heritage. The President agreed with the Director-Generalís assessment and said that he would look further into ratifying the convention.

With regard to the sciences, Mr Matsuura encouraged the President to establish a National Committee for the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) in order to facilitate collaboration on issues relating to ecological research and biosphere reserves. He encouraged the country to join the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to benefit from assistance in addressing ocean and coastal problems, such as tsunamis. The Director-General also explained the work carried-out by UNESCO in the area of freshwater management as lead Agency in the UN System.

Mr Matsuura also met with Mr Mathew Batsiua, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Health, Justice and Sports; Mr Roland Kun, Minister for Education and Nauru Fisheries; and Mr Sprent Dabwido, Minister of Transport and Telecommunications. Discussions with these Ministers focused on how to further strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the country and the Organization. The Director-General also held talks with Mr Riddol Akua, Speaker of Nauruís Parliament.

During the Director-Generalís visit, the President hosted a dinner in his honour which was attended by many Cabinet Ministers and other high Government Officials. Mr Matsuura visited the Nauru Media Bureau and the phosphate fields to observe the primary and secondary mining of phosphates. Visits to the Meneng Infant School as well as the Nauru College were also part of the programme.

Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info Nį 028-2008 -  Publication Date: 29-02-2008

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