The Director-General visits the Solomon Islands

The Director-General visits the Solomon Islands
  • © UNESCO/A. Vohra

On 29 February, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first official visit to the Solomon Islands. He is the first Director-General to visit the country since it became a Member of the Organization in 1993.

The Solomon Islands consist of nearly one thousand volcanic islands and coral atolls. This trip marks the end of Mr Matsuura’s fourth official visit to the Pacific Island Nations.

On arrival the Director-General was greeted in the traditional “Pine Pap” welcome ceremony in the presence of the Minister for Education and Human Resources Development, Mr Job D. Tausinga.

Mr Matsuura held talks with the Prime Minister, Mr Derek Sikua, who thanked the Director-General for having quickly accepted his invitation extended during the 34th session of UNESCO’s General Conference to come and visit his country. For his part, Mr Matsuura congratulated Mr Sikua on his election to the post of Prime Minister and expressed his satisfaction that someone as knowledgeable about UNESCO had become Prime Minister. Their discussions covered the areas of education, culture and the sciences. Mr Matsuura explained that education remains vital to national development and noted with satisfaction that the Ministry of education had incorporated Education for All goals into the country’s new strategic plan. Nevertheless, the principal challenges the country faces are literacy, quality of education, quality of the teaching force, and production of reliable education statistics. In this regard, the Director-General underscored that UNESCO is prepared to strengthen its support in teacher training, which is also a priority area identified by the UNESCO National Education Support Strategy (UNESS), through the mobilization of extrabudgetary funding.

In Culture, noting the rich linguistic diversity of languages of the Solomon Islands, Mr Matsuura highlighted UNESCO’s lead role in the International Year of Languages. Similarly, he said, the country also has a very rich oral cultural heritage that deserves international recognition. “The ratification of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage would greatly benefit the country as well as provide needed visibility to help preserve its oral cultural heritage”, he stated.

In the area of the Sciences, the Prime Minister thanked the Director-General for having reacted swiftly to offer assistance when a tsunami hit the Solomon Islands in April 2007. In that regard, Mr Matsuura stressed the importance for the country to establish its national tsunami warning system as well as to raise public awareness. He said UNESCO would be willing to send experts from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to cooperate with national experts to assist in the development of a national tsunami warning system. The Prime Minister welcomed this proposal.

A business lunch was organized by the Minister of Education for the Director-General, with Permanent Secretaries of key Ministries as well as members of the Solomon Islands National Commission for UNESCO. Their discussions focused on how they could work together on development areas of importance to the country. The Minister said that “the role played by UNESCO in the development of the Solomon Islands – both in the social and productive sectors, and whether through direct involvement or through regional bodies, UNESCO’s involvement and the role it played is very significant indeed”. “This is further illustrated”, he continued, “by the Cabinet’s approval of the overdue establishment of the National Commission for UNESCO within the Ministry of Education, which now has annual funding from the National coffer”.

In his bilateral discussion with the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is also Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr Seth Gukuna, the Director-General recalled that the only World Heritage Site in the Pacific, East Rennell, is located in the Solomon Islands. In this regard, Mr Matsuura stressed the importance of preserving the authenticity and integrity of the World Heritage Site. He also added that UNESCO stands ready to help prepare new candidature files for inscription. In the same context, he encouraged the Government to ratify the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in order to benefit from the Organization’s technical expertise and financial assistance in the preservation of intangible heritage, including oral cultural tradition.

Finally, to conclude the day visit to the Solomon Islands, the Minister of Education organized a cultural show in honour of the Director-General that displayed the country’s rich traditional music and dances.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 029-2008
  • 03-03-2008
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