The Director-General participates in the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly

The Director-General participates in the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly
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From 21 to 25 September 2008, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, participated in the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly and in a number of side events organized on this occasion in New York.

Upon his arrival, the Director-General met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss issues of mutual concern, in particular UNESCO’s action in the Old City of Jerusalem and the 8th High-level Group meeting on Education for All (EFA), which UNESCO will organize in Oslo, Norway, from 16 to 18 December 2008. With regard to the latter, the Secretary-General highlighted the progress made towards achieving the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially in Africa. Mr Matsuura expressed his satisfaction at UN efforts to ‘deliver as one’ and paid tribute to UNDP Administrator Derviş’s role in promoting more coherent UN action at the country level. Mr Matsuura also told the Secretary-General how much he appreciated the Secretary-General’s initiative to focus one of the General Assembly side-events on the important issues of education and health.

Following his meeting with the Secretary-General, Mr Matsuura held talks with Mr Kemal Derviş, Administrator of UNDP and Chair of UN Development Group (UNDG), who was accompanied by Ms Deborah Landey, the new Director of the Development Operations Coordination Office (DOCO). The focus during this conversation was on UN reform efforts at the country level, in particular in ‘Delivering as One’ pilot countries. Both the Director-General and the Administrator felt that there had been a culture shift within the UN system towards increased coherence. The Director-General told Administrator Derviş that he was happy to be part of the 13-member Advisory Group to UNDG and confirmed his participation in the next meeting to be held in New York on 23 October on the margins of the next meeting of the Chief Executives Board (CEB). With regard to the EFA process, the Director-General sought the Administrator’s support for UNESCO’s efforts to reinforce multilateral coordination by sending a letter to Resident Coordinators and UNCTs encouraging them to promote education in common country programming in line with the EFA Global Action Plan.

When meeting Ms Chan, Director-General of WHO, on 24 September, the Director-General discussed the possibility of organizing a side-event on education, health and employment on the occasion of the next session of ECOSOC in July 2009.

In the morning of 24 September, the Director-General addressed a Ministerial meeting of the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations, in the presence of UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon and the UN High Representative for the Alliance, Mr Jorge Sampaio. He informed participants of how UNESCO was moving forward with implementing the Memorandum of Understanding that UNESCO had signed with the Alliance in Madrid in January 2008, focusing in particular on the role of education and the media in promoting intercultural dialogue and understanding. Mr Matsuura also insisted on the need for broad-based partnerships, which he said were critical to reaching out to the excluded and the unconvinced.

Later the same day, the Director-General addressed a high-level event on the water and sanitation MDGs on behalf of UN-Water. The meeting was presided by President Emomali Rahmon of the Republic of Tajikistan, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, vice-Chancellor Franz-Walter Steinmeier of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Ms Yoriko Kawaguchi, Special Envoy of the Government of Japan. Also addressing the meeting were UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon and the Minister for Health and Social Welfare of the United Republic of Tanzania, representing the Chair of the African Union.

In a session on the global status of water and sanitation, chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Mr Matsuura introduced the main messages of the forthcoming 3rd World Water Development Report. “The real value of the Report is that it puts drinking water supply and sanitation within the broader context of freshwater issues”, he stated, arguing that it was imperative to adopt an integrated approach to freshwater management. “Urgent action is needed to meet the MDGs on water and sanitation. But stronger political and financial support to water and sanitation alone is not enough. There must be greater investment in the whole water resources development and management system. This means, first and foremost, strengthening the institutional and human capacity of developing countries to better manage, use and monitor their freshwater resources”, the Director-General said.

In the afternoon of 24 September, the Director-General participated in the UNDP-Spain side event on the MDG Achievement Fund: Lessons Learned and Way Forward. In his speech, Mr Matsuura expressed his gratitude to the Government of Spain “for the generous, visionary and practical initiative that the MDG-Achievement Fund represents” and paid special tribute to “the wisdom of including culture as one of the eight” thematic windows of the Fund. “Although not explicitly included among the MDGs, culture plays a pivotal role in economic and social development and contributes to the achievement of all MDGs, in particular MDG 1 on poverty eradication”, explained the Director-General, sharing UNESCO’s positive experience in participating in the elaboration of joint project proposals within the UN County Teams framework.

During his stay in New York, the Director-General held bilateral talks with President Rahmon of Tajikistan, President Biya of Cameroon and Ms Zhili, Vice Chairperson of the 11th People’s Standing Committee of the People’s Republic of China, to discuss the countries’ bilateral cooperation with UNESCO. Mr Matsuura also met Presidents of Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Madagascar and Panama, as well as Prime Ministers of Bulgaria, Japan, Mongolia, The Netherlands and Tonga.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 123-2008
  • 30-09-2008
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