Director-General visits the Kingdom of Bahrain

Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, paid his second official visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain from 25 to 27 February 2009.

On 26 February, the Director-General was received in audience by His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain. During their meeting, held in the presence of Mr Majed Al Noaimi, Minister of Education, and Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Culture and Information, they discussed the fruitful cooperation that exists between Bahrain and the Organization.

Mr Matsuura expressed his deep appreciation about the progress made in the fields of education and culture in recent years, in particular since his first visit in April 2002. He thanked His Majesty for his longstanding support for UNESCO, mentioning in particular the generous donation that led to the establishment, in 2005, of the King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Education, as well as His Majesty’s proposal to establish a Regional Centre for such technology in Manama as a Category II Centre placed under the auspices of UNESCO. “I am confident this centre could contribute to the development of the Gulf region by harnessing the power of information and communication technology for knowledge creation and sharing”, stated the Director-General. Mr Matsuura also congratulated the Kingdom of Bahrain for the inscription of its first site on the World heritage List, in 2005. “I visited the Qal’at al’Bahrain site on my first visit to the country. It is a source of satisfaction to note that the inscription of this site has stimulated awareness of the country’s cultural heritage and the need to safeguard it for future generations”, he declared.

The same day, Mr Matsuura was received by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain. The Director-General praised the Government of Bahrain for the considerable progress made in achieving the Education for All (EFA) goals, especially as regards universal primary education, adult literacy and gender parity. Highlighting the different challenges and approaches to meeting the EFA goals faced in Africa, Mr Matsuura encouraged the Kingdom of Bahrain to consider strengthening its multilateral assistance to the African continent in its drive to achieve quality basic education for all.

The Director-General also met with the Crown Prince HH Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. Mr Matsuura congratulated the Crown Prince for his advocacy work related to putting knowledge and innovation policies at the top of the development agenda. “By boosting science and technology, the Kingdom of Bahrain is now setting an example which is helping to promote economic growth and transform the region into a leader of innovation”, stated Mr Matsuura.

During his stay, the Director-General, together with the Minister of Education, Mr Majed Al Noaimi, also visited the University of Bahrain campus, as well as the Sheikh Khalifa Ben Salman Institute of Technology, a centre of excellence on technical and vocational education.

At the invitation of Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Culture and Information, the Director-General gave a lecture on “Culture and Development” at the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Muhammad Al-Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research on the evening of 26 February. “UNESCO’s interdisciplinary mandate - covering education, the social and natural sciences, and communication, as well as culture - puts it in a unique position to give substance to a broadened approach to culture”, argued the Director-General in his address. “UNESCO maintains that culture is indispensable to sustainable development – partly because it underpins economic development, but also because it provides meaning and a sense of identity and continuity to the life of all societies. This is particularly important in the current era of rapid change, globalization and mass migration. That is why I advocate the protection and promotion of cultural diversity both as a fundamental source of social renewal, and as a resource for national development strategies”, he emphasized.

Taking examples drawn from the 1972 World Heritage Convention, 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, the Director-General highlighted the vast range of activities implemented – from cultural heritage to cultural industries, cultural tourism and intercultural dialogue – which are a testimony to the importance of culture in development. “Today, development can no longer be defined or measured in terms of economic and technical advances. I therefore maintain that cultural policy must be a key component of development strategies”, concluded Mr Matsuura.

On the final day of his visit, Mr Matsuura met bilaterally with Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Culture and Information, at the Bahrain National Museum. The Director-General praised the Government of Bahrain for proposing the creation of an Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage as another Category II Centre under the auspices of UNESCO. During their discussion, the Director-General encouraged the Bahraini authorities to ratify the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the 2005 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural heritage. He then proceeded to visit the World Heritage site of Qal’at al’Bahrain -Ancient Harbour and Capital of Dilmun- as well as the archaeological museum built on the site.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 032-2009
  • 05-03-2009
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