United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General designates Mrs Chantal Biya, First Lady of Cameroon, as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Education and Social Inclusion

On 14 November 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, designated H.E. Mrs Chantal Biya, First Lady of Cameroon, as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Education and Social Inclusion.

The designation ceremony took place at UNESCO Headquarters in the presence of Mrs Haman Adama, Cameroonian Minister for Basic Education, Ms Rama Yade, the French Foreign Minister’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, and several other dignitaries.

In his address at the ceremony, the Director-General thanked H.E. Mrs Biya for having accepted to become the first female African Goodwill Ambassador of the Organization, and for a subject of such paramount importance to UNESCO’s inclusive education activities. “Through this designation, we wish to underline the fact that [inclusive education] is primarily directed at vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, and that its main objective is to end all types of discrimination and favour social cohesion…so your experience and support will be decisive”, he said.

The Director-General also paid tribute to the First Lady’s active social engagement, as well as her ability to mobilize the support of those whose position and experience have much to offer. “[Y]ou have succeeded in rallying many African countries to your cause, as well as eminent scientists, such as Professor Luc Montaigner, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine”, he said. “Thanks to your engagement, you have succeeded in placing education and health at the heart of development policy and the fight against poverty in Africa.”

At a working meeting with UNESCO’s Education and Natural Sciences sectors, which took place prior to the designation ceremony, the First Lady’s role as Goodwill Ambassador* was defined in the promotion of Education for All (EFA) and the critical role of education in tackling poverty, engagement in capacity-building activities through her Chantal Biya Centre, and advocating social inclusion, notably through the dissemination and application of UNESCO’s inclusion guidelines.

H.E. Mrs Biya is renowned for her activities in favour of women, children and other vulnerable groups, notably through her Foundation “African Synergies against AIDS and Suffering”. The Foundation has a three-fold activity: the provision of basic education and health to abandoned children and other disadvantaged groups through the Chantal Biya Foundation, in operation since 1994; the promotion of the right to basic education through the training of teachers and the construction of schools; and, most notably, the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS through the “Centre international de Référence Chantal Biya” (the Chantal Biya International Reference Centre). The Centre is closely linked to UNESCO’s “Families First Africa” project, which supports activities that address HIV/AIDS in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

“Families First Africa” is a joint project of UNESCO, the Fédération mondiale Recherche et Prévention Sida in Paris (World Federation for AIDS Research and Prevention, the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore (USA) and the Tor Vergata University in Rome (Italy). The project is directed by Professor Luc Montagner and very generously financed by the Italian Government.

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Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 163-2008 -  Publication Date: 18-11-2008

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