Koïchiro Matsuura pays first official visit of a UNESCO Director-General to Antigua and Barbuda

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first official visit to Antigua and Barbuda on 20 and 21 January 2009. It was the first official visit of a UNESCO Director-General to the country, which has been a UNESCO Member State since July 1982.

He was met at the airport by Mr Bertrand Joseph, Minister of Education, Sports and Youth Affairs and Chairperson of the Antigua and Barbuda National Commission for UNESCO, and Mr Eleston Adams, Minister of State with responsibility for Culture. Mr Matsuura was accompanied throughout his visit by Mr Reginald Murphy, Secretary-General of the Antigua and Barbuda National Commission for UNESCO.

Mr Matsuura met with Mr Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, whom he congratulated on the speech he gave on behalf of the G-77 and China at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2008. He expressed satisfaction at Antigua and Barbuda’s growing interaction with the United Nations system, including the renewed engagement with UNESCO in all its areas of competence. In particular, Mr Matsuura and the Prime Minister discussed the state of the cooperation between UNESCO and Antigua and Barbuda, and the ways and means the profile of UNESCO could be further enhanced in the country.

In the area of culture, the Director-General encouraged the country’s aspiration to have one of its cultural sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, highlighting the advantages of this for the country’s prestige and for tourism. He assured the Prime Minister that the UNESCO Secretariat and the Kingston Office stood ready to help them in this direction. Mr Matsuura also stressed the necessity of ratifying UNESCO’s other culture-related conventions. He laid particular emphasis on the importance of the 2003 Convention on Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for the preservation of Antigua and Barbuda’s unique identity, and of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage given the numerous shipwrecks that lie in the country’s territorial waters.

In the area of education, Mr Matsuura underlined UNESCO’s willingness to provide enhanced support in two of Antigua and Barbuda’s education priority areas – that is, capacity-building for education statistics and ICTs for education.

During his visit with Mrs Louise Lake-Tack, Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda, during which discussions centred around the reforms that the Director-General has brought to UNESCO, especially as concerns the strengthening of country-level action in the Caribbean region through the reinforcement of the UNESCO Kingston Office, and on Antigua and Barbuda’s aspirations in regard to the World Heritage List.

Mr Matsuura’s meeting with Mr Bertrand Joseph, Minister of Education, Sports and Youth, was particularly fruitful. The Minister expressed his profound gratitude to UNESCO for its contribution in terms of the number of projects the Organization supports in his country, especially for early childhood education and including in partnership with UNICEF. For his part, the Director-General paid tribute to the achievements of Antigua and Barbuda in the area of education over recent years, and took note of the needs expressed by the Minister in respect of the quality of education - through improved collection and analysis of educational statistics, and greater emphasis on the use of ICTs for education. He informed the Minister about the ongoing capacity-building project in the area of educational statistics for the English-speaking Caribbean countries, which enjoys the support of Japanese Funds-in-Trust, assuring him that UNESCO stands ready to provide support to his country either in this area, or in some other area that his Government might identify as priority. Thanking the Director-General for this proposal, Minister Joseph reiterated his satisfaction for the increasingly fruitful relations that exist between UNESCO and his country.

The Director-General’s meeting with Mr Eleston Adams, Minister of State responsible for Culture, focused on the various sites that Antigua and Barbuda is considering submitting to the World Heritage Committee for inclusion on the World Heritage List, and the related process. The Minister of State underlined his country’s intention to engage more in UNESCO’s culture programmes and asked that consideration be given to organizing a regional culture meeting in his country. He assured the Director-General that once the Tentative List is submitted, every effort will be made to present a first candidature for inclusion on the World Heritage List as soon as possible.

Other visits of remark during the Director-General’s stay were those to the Nelson Dockyard and National Park, Shirley’s Height and Betty’s Hope Sugar Plantation, some of the candidates that Antigua and Barbuda hopes to present for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The Director-General also visited the Industrial School for the Blind in St John’s, which trains some of the Island’s blind at a professional activity and helps them integrate the productive society.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 008-2009
  • 28-01-2009
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