The lunch was presided by Sylvie Fadlallah, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Lebanon to UNESCO, and President of the Arab Group. Davidson Hepburn, President of the General Conference of UNESCO, and Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï, Chairman of the Executive Board, also attended the lunch.
During his speech, the President of the Arab Group paid tribute to the action of the Director-General since 1999: “You have not only been able to lead UNESCO, but above all carry out changes and enabled our Organization to adapt to the changing world. A reform which has made UNESCO more efficient in its action and its working methods and in carrying out its programme”, she especially underlined.
Ms Fadlallah then praised the reinforcement of UNESCO’s links with the Arab world, especially mentioning the relationships of cooperation consolidated by Mr Matsuura with the Arab League, the Arab Maghreb Union, ALECSO and ISESCO.
The President of the Arab Group finally thanked the Director-General for his action in favour of reinforcing the objectives of Education for All (EFA) in the Arab world, before more particularly focusing on the assistance of UNESCO in cultural development and reconstruction. “You have devoted a considerable part of your determination and commitment to giving culture a special and privileged place in the life of our Organization, in order to respect cultural diversity in all its forms (…). You have visited each of our 22 countries at least once, to discover the wealth of our region, its people, its heritage and its nature, and better understand its needs and aspirations. The special interest that you have always shown to each of our countries in situations of crisis or conflict, as for example in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and the city of Jerusalem, has been highly appreciated”, she concluded.
In his reply, the Director-General warmly thanked all the Ministers, Ambassadors of the Arab Group at UNESCO and the representatives of regional organizations. Saluting the “exemplary cooperation” with Arab countries during the decade, Mr Matsuura praised the reinforced presence in the field of UNESCO in the region, symbolized by the action of eight field offices.
Mr Matsuura also praised the fruitful partnerships established with the Arab countries, the dynamism of the national commissions as well as the predominant role played in the promotion of UNESCO programmes by the new category 2 centres that have recently been created in the region.
“Concerning essential issues such as Education for All, water, scientific policies and the protection of cultural heritage, we have been able to build a sustainable dialogue. I am certain that UNESCO will continue to progress in this direction, being first and foremost at the service of the ideals of peace and development”, concluded the Director-General.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 195-2009 - Publication Date: 13-10-2009