In his opening remarks, Mr Matsuura congratulated SIDS on the election of Mr Davidson Hepburn from the Bahamas as the new President of the General Conference, the first from a SIDS country. He then noted that UNESCO would continue to place an emphasis on its work with SIDS. In particular, the Director-General highlighted the important work being done by UNESCO in SIDS in the areas of education, climate change, and tangible and intangible heritage. He emphasized the important role played by field offices in Kingston, Apia, Dar-es-Salaam, and other offices which cover the SIDS countries, and underscored that their work with SIDS would continue to be strengthened.
Four speakers addressed the meeting on behalf of SIDS, welcoming this opportunity to discuss their collective cooperation with UNESCO:
Mr Mathew Wale, Minister of Education from the Solomon Islands, underlined the importance for SIDS of education for sustainable development, especially in view of the fragility of island ecosystems and the perennial threat of natural disasters. He also spoke about the importance of vernacular languages and the need to blend the cultural dimension into formal and non-formal education.
Mr Carl Bethel, Minister of Education from the Bahamas, emphasized the needs for SIDS to go back to basics and invest in human capital. He pointed in particular to the need to enhance technical and vocational education in order to ensure that the working hands are guided by a trained mind.
Mr Bernard Chamlaye, Minister of Education from the Seychelles, raised the issue of climate change and gave voice to the collective support of SIDS for the elaboration of a draft Declaration of Ethical Principles in relation to climate change. Recognizing that SIDS have the most to lose from climate change, he urged UNESCO to work alongside the Alliance of Small Island States to ensure that their concerns are profiled strongly at UNFCCC COP 15 in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Mr David Doyle, Permanent Delegate of St Kitts and Nevis to UNESCO, spoke on behalf of the SIDS Committee of Representatives and welcomed Ambassador Morel of the Seychelles as the new co-chair, replacing the departing Ambassador Thacoor-Sidaya of Mauritius. He underlined the important collaboration that had been set into place between the SIDS Committee and the Secretariat, and vouched for it as a progressive model for addressing SIDS concerns.
Furthermore, the speakers expressed their thanks to the Director-General for his continued support to SIDS throughout his mandate. In particular, they thanked Mr Matsuura for his support in having properties recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites*, and in encouraging the preservation of intangible heritage in SIDS.
The Director-General assured the SIDS Member States that their concerns would be taken into account by UNESCO, notably through the intersectoral platform on SIDS, whose actions during the current 2008-09 biennium are highlighted in a recently-released brochure entitled “Islands in a Sea of Change” that was distributed at the meeting. He made clear that SIDS would continue to be a priority area for the Organization and underlined the conventions relating to World Heritage, Intangible Heritage, the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Underwater Cultural Heritage, all of which are of key importance to SIDS. He encouraged more SIDS Member States to ratify these important standard-setting tools.
In closing, Mr Matsuura thanked the SIDS Member States for their warm welcome throughout the years to their countries, where for many he had been the first Director-General of UNESCO to undertake an official visit.
* The number of SIDS properties inscribed on the World Heritage list continues to increase, with four new sites admitted in 2008 – Historic Centre of Camaguey (Cuba), Le Morne Cultural Landscape (Mauritius), Kuk Early Agricultural Site (Papua New Guinea), and Chief Roi Mata’s Domain (Vanuatu), and one in 2009: Cidade Velha (Cape Verde).
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 191-2009 - Publication Date: 13-10-2009