Mr Matsuura reiterated his great distress at the civilian death tolls witnessed during the crisis, and emphasized the need to secure rapid access to basic goods and educational services for all children and youth in Gaza.
Mr Matsuura also strongly welcomed the proposal made by H.H. Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, First Lady of Qatar and UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education, to turn a certain number of schools and educational institutions into safety zones. “I have repeatedly pledged that schools should in no way be involved in military conflicts. This initiative gives us an opportunity to work on ways to protect students, educational personnel and places of learning in times of conflicts, now and in future. As requested by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO will work with UNRWA to explore the operationalization of this important initiative”.
The Director-General also emphasized UNESCO’s full and active engagement in the recovery process led by the United Nations, saying that “UNESCO, through its Ramallah Office, is participating both in the Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) and the Early Recovery Rapid Assessment (ERRA) process. We are making very concrete proposals in order to make education, culture and communication an integral part of the UN response to the Gaza crisis. These are crucial areas for promoting sustainable development, alleviating poverty and building social cohesion and peace. In this regard, I am confident that donors will support the Special Flash Appeal to be launched in Geneva on 2 February next, especially those projects aimed at the provision of emergency educational services. Indeed, children and youth represent more than half of the population of Gaza. Getting them back into school can help them recover and bring back a sense of normalcy”, said Mr Matsuura.
The Director-General also announced that he would send a UNESCO high-level representative to the donors’ Conference, now foreseen in Cairo, Egypt, on 28 February 2009. “This will be the opportunity for UNESCO to present projects within the Early Recovery Strategic Framework (ERSF), covering a diverse range of the Organization’s fields of activity”, he added.
On 28 January, it was confirmed that a UNESCO Education Specialist would travel to Gaza on Sunday 1 February as part of the Early Recovery Rapid Assessment (ERRA), in order to collect further data on the situation of secondary and higher education institutions. A UNESCO Culture specialist is also expected to be able to assess very soon the state of conservation of the cultural heritage in the Gaza strip.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 012-2009 - Publication Date: 28-01-2009