United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNESCO Director-General pays first official visit to Cuba

Following an invitation from Mr Felipe Pérez Roque, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first official visit to Cuba on 18 and 19 January 2009.

He was met at the airport by Mr Juan Vela Valdes, Minister of Higher Education, and Ms Maria de Los Angeles Florez Prida, President of the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO, and accompanied throughout his visit by Mr Héctor-Pastor Hernández González-Pardo, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Cuba to UNESCO.

Mr Matsuura had meetings with several Cuban authorities, notably Mr Raúl Castro, President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of Cuba. During the meeting, President Castro expressed his deep satisfaction with the longstanding relationship and fruitful cooperation between his country and UNESCO, reiterating his country’s commitment to UNESCO’s actions in all its fields of competence. Mr Matsuura, for his part, thanked President Castro for his country’s contribution to UNESCO’s work, and for its commitment to UNESCO’s ideals and objectives. In particular, he commended Cuba’s achievements in the field of education, as well as its engagement in the domain of culture, demonstrated by its ratification of most of UNESCO’s standard-setting instruments in this field.

In light of the devastating hurricanes that hit Cuba in late 2008, discussions also focused on UNESCO’s role in disaster prevention, and to considering the ways and means that this could become a new area of collaboration between Cuba and UNESCO. The meeting ended with the Director-General conveying his greetings to the Commander-in-Chief of Cuba, Mr Fidel Castro.

In the meeting the Director-General held with Mr José Ramón Fernández, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, discussions centred around the evolution and contribution of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNESCO Cuba Office) to the work of the Organization since its establishment as the UNESCO Bureau for the Western Hemisphere in 1950.

Mr Matsuura also had a fruitful meeting, with Mr Felipe Pérez Roque, during which they jointly reviewed the collaboration between UNESCO and Cuba, especially within the current global economic context. In particular, they discussed the challenges that the crisis poses for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially the education-related ones, and for the Dakar goals. They also discussed the importance of cultural diversity, with the Director-General having the opportunity to inform the Minister about the soon-to-be-published UNESCO World Report on Culture, which will address issues related to this subject.

Mr Matsuura thanked the Minister for his invitation to visit Cuba, and for his active role in supporting the efforts of the UNESCO Cuba Office to promote cooperation in the region. Congratulating Cuba for its ratification of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, he expressed the hope that this could become another area for regional cooperation in the near future.

Other persons of note with whom the Director-General met include Mr Abel Prieto Jimenez, Minister of Culture, Mr Fernando González Bermúdez, First Vice-Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, as well as Mr Armando Hart Davlos, Director of the ‘Programa Martiano’.

Visits of particular note during the Director-General’s stay in Cuba were those to Old Havana and to the Cuban Underwater Museum, in the company of Professor Eusebio Leal, one of the most eminent historians of the city. Mr Matsuura also enjoyed a cultural performance at the UNESCO Associated School Network school, Angela Landa, in the company of Ms Ana Elsa Velazquez Cobiella, Minister of Education.

Finally, the Director-General had the occasion to meet with the staff of the UNESCO Cuba Office, led by the Office Director, during which he was briefed on the various activities in which they are currently working and given a measure of the positive effects of his efforts to strengthen the office over the past few years.

Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 007-2009 -  Publication Date: 27-01-2009

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