Koïchiro Matsuura pays first official visit of a UNESCO Director-General to Grenada

The Director-General, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first official visit to Grenada from 21 and 23 January 2009. It was the first official visit of a UNESCO Director-General to the country, which has been a UNESCO Member State since February 1975.

Upon his arrival, Mr Matsuura was met by Mrs Franka Alexis-Bernardine, Minister of Education and Human Resources and Chairperson of the Grenada National Commission for UNESCO, Mr Peter David, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, and Mr Patrick Simmons, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Culture and Sport.

The Director-General had a bilateral meeting with the Honourable Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada and with the key ministers in his Cabinet. Mr Matsuura began by expressing his deep satisfaction with the positive attitude of the new Government in Grenada towards UNESCO, and its increased engagement with the United Nations system more generally. The discussions went on to cover a wide range of subjects.

In the area of culture, the Director-General underlined the prestige attached to having a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and offered the Organization’s assistance to Grenada to attain this end. He went on to brief the ministers on the criteria for choosing World Heritage sites and on the process for their presentation as candidates for the World Heritage List. Furthermore, Mr Matsuura stressed the importance of combining tangible and intangible heritage and congratulated Grenada’s recognition of this as evidenced by their rapid ratification of three of UNESCO’s international conventions in this area (2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions). In this regard, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Culture and Sport informed the Director-General of Grenada’s intention to present the Quadrille dance under the 2003 Convention in the near future. He also informed the Director-General about the actions his country had been taking on issues of copyright and anti-piracy.

Mention was made of the Grenada Government’s intention to introduce a Freedom of Information Act. In this regard, the Prime Minister stressed the particular importance he attaches to the independence and freedom of the media, and requested UNESCO’s help for the training of media professionals. Mr Matsuura informed the Prime Minister about the work of the International Programme for the Development of Communications (IPDC) and the assistance provides to Member States for the training of their journalists. He also expressed satisfaction at Grenada’s renewed commitment to the United Nations system, and UNESCO in particular.

Other issues of interest discussed during the meeting related to freshwater and the tsunami warning system. Mr Matsuura gave an overview of UNESCO’s activities in both areas, and provided information on the third edition of the World Water Report, to be launched in March 2009 at the World Water Forum in Turkey. The Director-General also informed the Ministers about UNESCO’s work in science policy review in Africa and said the Organization stands ready to provide help to Grenada in this important area.

In Mr Matsuura’s meeting with Sir Carlyle Glean Sr., Governor-General of Grenada, discussions focused mainly on education issues, given the Governor-General’s background in this area. Mr Matsuura mentioned the active participation of Grenada’s Minister of Education and Human Resources in meetings and conferences organised by UNESCO, including the International Conference on Education held in Geneva in November 2008. He also stressed the importance of inclusive education, life-long education and the need to reach out to children of minorities, the poor and those living in remote communities, and informed him about the six Education for All Goals (EFA) and UNESCO's role in monitoring the progress made in attaining those goals, as well as about important conferences on education that UNESCO is organizing in 2009.

In his meeting with Mrs Franka Alexis-Bernardine, discussions centred around actions taken to improve the efficiency of the Grenada National Commission for UNESCO, including the upgrading of the position of the Secretary-General. The Minister requested training for the new Secretary-General, and UNESCO’s assistance for the reform of school curricula, ICTs for education, and life-long learning, especially for marginalized groups.

Visits of note during the Director-General’s trip included those to sites that Grenada wishes to present as candidates for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, notably the Grand Bay Archaeological Site and the Museum on Carriacou Island* in the company of Mr George Prime, Minister for Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs, and to Forts Frederick and George in Grenada Island.

* Grenada is made up of three islands: Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 009-2009
  • 28-01-2009
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