United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Director-General visits the People’s Republic of China

From 4 to 11 August 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura undertook his 7th official visit to the People’s Republic of China on the occasion of the XXIX Olympiad.

The Director-General first visited Shandong Province before proceeding to Beijing for his bilateral meetings.

Mr Matsuura attended the opening ceremony of the XXIX Olympiad on 8 August 2008. During the reception held on this occasion, the Director-General briefly met the Presidents of Mali, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and the Chairman of the Council of Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Mr Jean Ping. The Director-General also attended a reception hosted by Mr Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of the International Francophone Organization where he briefly held talks with the King of Cambodia, the President of Madagascar, the Prime Ministers of Quebec, Chad and Djiboutti, as well as Mr Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee.

During his official visit in Beijing, the Director-General held bilateral talks with State Councillor Ms Liu Yandong, with whom he discussed matters of mutual interest, in particular, education, culture and science and technology. Ms Liu stated that Mr Matsuura was an appreciated friend of China. She thanked him for being among the first to convey to the Chinese Authorities his condolences and to extend assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake which hit the western province of Sichuan in May this year. Ms Liu gave an overview of the economic and social situation in China and underscored that the country was now placing human development at the centre of its development plans in order to achieve “harmony” between the rural/urban, human/natural and social/economic through education, culture and science and technology as the means to achieve those balances. She expressed the hope that China could benefit further from UNESCO’s cooperation to that end. Mr Matsuura thanked China for its generosity in hosting many UNESCO meetings and assured Ms Liu of the Organization’s continued support in all its spheres of competence.

As regards education, Ms Liu informed the Director-General that Education for All (EFA) was becoming increasingly important for China, underscoring that compulsory education had been extended to all rural areas. In this context, Mr Matsuura invited the State Councillor to participate at the UNESCO International Conference on Education which will focus on inclusive education and will be organized next November in Geneva, Switzerland.

The State Councillor underlined the need for China to place more emphasis on Culture as part of its developmental efforts. To this Mr Matsuura noted with satisfaction that China already enjoyed a dynamic cooperation with UNESCO in this sphere, notably through the inscription of 37 properties on the World Heritage List. He went on to say that China had achieved a balanced approach between the preservation of natural, cultural, and intangible heritages, making it a good model for other developing countries.

In the area of Science and Technology, Ms Liu expressed her appreciation of the existing important partnership between UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and China and thanked the Director-General for the Organization’s sustained support in this area.

The Minister of Education, Mr Zhou Ji, noted with appreciation that thanks particularly to the leadership of Mr Matsuura, China had become one of the most active partners of UNESCO in education as well as host to a number of UNESCO meetings. The Director-General paid tribute to China’s active role in promoting south-south cooperation and encouraged the country to integrate further into the international donor community. He also applauded the Government’s initiatives to strengthen the International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education (INRULED). Mr Zhou Ji informed the Director-General of China’s intention to launch a multilingual network to help foster linguistic exchange between countries, and to establish such a network through UNESCO.

In a meeting between the Director-General and the Minister of Culture, Mr Cai Wu, discussions focused on the preservation of cultural heritage in a globalized world. Mr Matsuura congratulated the Chinese authorities through the Minister for the recent inscriptions of two Chinese properties on the World Heritage List and encouraged the Government to take the necessary measures to improve the state of conservation in some World Heritage sites in line with the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session held in Quebec. To this end, Mr Cai Wu referred to the World Heritage Training and Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific region which had recently become a Category II Institute under the auspices of UNESCO, and said that the Institute demonstrated China’s commitment to improved protection of world’s cultural and natural heritage.

During a lunch hosted by Mr Chen Kuiyuan, President of the Chinese Social Science Academy, the Director-General paid tribute to the active participation of Chinese scholars, universities and the Chinese Academy of sciences in various programmes in the field of natural and social sciences. He referred to China’s “scientific concept of development” and “harmonious society” proposed by the Chinese leadership concerning sustainable economic and social development and promised UNESCO’s full assistance in areas of particular concern to the country.

Mr Matsuura held talks with Mr Sun Zhihui, Minister of the State of the Oceanic Administration (SOA), and was given a comprehensive overview of the activities undertaken by the SOA. The Director-General noted with satisfaction China’s active role in IOC and significant contribution to the revitalization of IOC regional operations through the IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC). He encouraged SOA to enhance its cooperation with the IOC secretariat, as well as with WESTPAC, through the contribution of human and financial resources and in initiating and supporting new activities to address the global and regional ocean concerns. Mr Sun Zhihui informed Mr Matsuura of China’s will to associate itself with IOC/UNESCO in marking IOC’s 50th anniversary in 2010.

The Director-General also met Mr Wilfried Lemke, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace. Their discussions focused on how UNESCO and the UN could promote further cooperation in the area of Sports, including on the pushing for further ratification of UNESCO’s International Convention against Doping in Sports. Both recognized the need to mobilize Governments to allocate more time to sports in schools curricula.

From 4 to 7 August, the Director-General visited the Shandong province, home to Confucius. He visited Mount Taishan in Tai’an and the Temple, Cemetery, and family Mansion of Confucius in Qufu, which have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Mr Matsuura also visited the Temple and Mansion of Mencius, located in Zoucheng, and held talks with senior officials of Shandong province, including the Vice-Governor of Shandong, Mr Huang Sheng.

Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 102-2008 -  Publication Date: 14-08-2008

© UNESCO 1995-2010 - ID: 43254