United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Director-General pays an official visit to Tanzania and launches the International Year of Planet Earth in Africa

From 7 to 8 May 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid an official visit to Tanzania.

Mr Matsuura participated in the opening ceremony of the African Regional Conference for the launch of the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) in Arusha which was organized by Mr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Also addressing the ceremony were: Mr Oscar Fernandez-Teranco, UN Resident Coordinator; Professor Mohammed Sheya, Member of UNESCO Executive Board; Professor Larry Woodfolk, Chairman of IYPE Corporation; Professor Eduardo de Mulder, Executive Director of IYPE Corporation; Professor Felix Toteu, Chairman of the Geological Association of Africa; Mr Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania and one of the IYPE Patrons.

In his address, the Director-General noted that Tanzania was not only instrumental in establishing 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE), but has also taken the lead in championing its objectives across Africa. He expressed the hope that the IYPE would be a landmark in progress in Africa towards a more sustainable use of the continent’s abundant natural resources in the service of more equitable development. “The ultimate aim is to draw global attention to the essential role that the Earth sciences can play in fostering a safer, healthier and more sustainable Planet”, he said.

Mr Matsuura went on to stress the need “to foster closer collaboration between Earth scientists and policy-makers in order to make sure that the geo-scientific knowledge we have is better mobilized for the benefit of society. Strengthening this research-policy nexus is a high priority for UNESCO, in particular within the context of our support to the implementation of Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action”. He concluded by pledging that UNESCO stands ready and willing to support African countries in these efforts.

On the sidelines of the IYPE Conference, the Director-General held discussions on the UN pilot on Delivering as One with Mr Oscar Fernandez-Teranco, UN Resident Coordinator in Tanzania. UNESCO’s active participation in the UN Country Teams (UNCT) through the Dar es Salaam Office was highlighted, not only in the area of education but also across other sectors where the UN system is assisting Government in policy formulation.

Bilateral talks with President Kikwete focused on UNESCO’s programmes in Tanzania. The Director-General welcomed Tanzania’s ambitious programme, with UNESCO’s technical assistance, to reinvigorate national policies for science, technology and innovation which aims at transforming the economy into a strong, resilient and competitive one, buttressed by science and technology. Mr Matsuura congratulated President Kikwete for having already implemented a number of recommendations, including the establishment of the Ministry of Science and Technology, and assured President Kikwete of UNESCO’s cooperation with the University of Dodoma, which is offering courses mainly in information and communication technology (ICT) and science based programmes including molecular biology, genomics, nuclear sciences, and medicine. They also discussed the importance of cultural heritage preservation, both tangible and intangible, including underwater cultural heritage. He also congratulated President Kikwete for the insightful leadership he is giving to the African Union in his capacity as the current chairman of this continental organization.
Following his talks with the Government authorities, the Director-General signed an aide-memoire indicating the priority programmes for the Government of Tanzania, which was represented by Ms Gaudencia Kabaka, Acting Minister of Education and Vocational Training.

During his stay, Mr Matsuura also held bilateral talks with Ambassador Juma Mwapachu, Secretary-General of the East African Community (EAC) and discussed how to strengthen the cooperation between UNESCO and the EAC. The Director-General underlined the importance for countries in the East African Community to ratify the various UNESCO Conventions related to cultural heritage, in particular the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural heritage, in order to initiate a regional approach to these issues. In the field of science, Mr Matsuura pledged UNESCO’s continued support in assisting EAC Member States, including Tanzania, in the area of science and technology policy review, sustainable development, freshwater, and climate change. As concerns education, the Director-General welcomed the EAC’s programme on the evaluation of higher learning institutions with a view to improving quality assurance. They also discussed actions in favour of peace building in post-conflict countries such as Burundi as well as the role of the media in the promotion of a culture of peace in the region.

Mr Matsuura also visited the premises of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where he held a brief meeting with Mr Adama Dieng, Registrar of the Tribunal. Referring to what is known as the media case involving three former top Rwandan media executives who ran the Radio et Television des Mille Collines (RTLM) and were found guilty for public incitement to commit genocide by using their media, Mr Dieng stressed the critical importance of UNESCO’s programmes in journalism training in developing countries and post-conflict countries.

During his stay in Tanzania, Mr Matsuura visited the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a World Heritage Site. He toured the Laitoli Site, which is one of the localities of early hominid footprints, dating back 3.6 million years.

Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 056-2008 -  Publication Date: 16-05-2008

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