Director-General outlines UNESCO’s response to Gaza crisis

Director-General outlines UNESCO’s response to Gaza crisis
  • © UNESCO/M. Ravassard

On Friday, 6 February 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, held an information meeting for Member States at UNESCO Headquarters to outline the Organization’s response to the Gaza crisis.

The meeting was held following a UNESCO rapid assessment mission to Gaza on 1st and 2nd February 2009, headed by the UNESCO Chief of the Office for the Palestinian Territories, together with two UNESCO programme specialists, in education and culture.

Mr Matsuura confirmed that six UNESCO projects, amounting to a total value of approximately 3 million US dollars, had been included in the United Nations Gaza Flash Appeal launched in Geneva on February 2nd by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes (see Flash Info N° 014-2009*).

“Of the six projects, five address urgent educational needs. The five projects aim to help restore quality educational services at all levels, in particular in secondary and higher education, which are too often neglected in the humanitarian response. The sixth project focuses on strengthening the safety and protection of journalists and enhancing press freedom in the Gaza Strip. In the present context of a humanitarian emergency, UNESCO’s priority concern is to assess, plan and deliver as “one” in close cooperation with other UN agencies, funds and programmes, as well as with other non governmental humanitarian actors on the ground. But clearly, there are major needs for long-term reconstruction that must be addressed as well”, stated the Director-General.

Mr Matsuura went on to note that the UNESCO rapid assessment mission to Gaza had taken place within the framework of the overall UN-led assessment effort. Its purpose was to contribute to UN efforts and provide data related to the state of the education system and cultural heritage sites in Gaza.

“Based on this assessment mission, UNESCO will refine its projects included in the UN Flash Appeal and start assisting the Palestinian Authority in drafting the Gaza Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan”, Mr Matsuura explained. This Plan, focused on needs and priorities for long-term reconstruction, will be launched during an international donor conference in Cairo, Egypt, on 2nd March 2009.

During the meeting, the Director-General announced his decision to scale up UNESCO’s response capacity in Gaza and to establish a project antenna within the UNDP compound in Gaza City for the duration of the implementation of the projects identified, in order to strengthen UNESCO’s delivery capacity. He also informed Member States that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) had agreed to the rapid deployment of an education specialist to the UNESCO Office in Ramallah. Finally, Mr Matsuura announced the immediate release of a total of US$ 165,000 to commence operations in the affected areas.

“I very much hope Member States and donors will respond positively to this urgent demand for financial support so that we can help the people of Gaza at this time of great distress. Despite the political and operational constraints, this support will be crucial so that we can respond, in our fields of competence, to emergency and early recovery needs”, concluded the Director-General.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 019-2009
  • 09-02-2009
Europe and North America Latin America and the Caribbean Africa Arab States Asia Pacific