The meeting was attended by Dr Tevita Palefou, Minister of Education from Tonga, and Secretaries-General from the various Pacific National Commissions, as well as representatives from the Pacific Permanent Delegations.
In his opening remarks, Mr Matsuura expressed his satisfaction with the growing partnership between the Organization and the Pacific Member States, particularly in the areas of education and culture, and stressed that further enhancement of this cooperation was required, especially in curriculum development and technical and vocational education, as well as tangible and intangible cultural heritage. He highlighted the important role played by the Apia Office which covers the Pacific countries, and ensuring that the current partnership is constantly further strengthened.
Dr Palefou spoke on behalf of the group and thanked the Director-General the personal attention he has given to the Pacific during his mandate at UNESCO, including the extensive visits made in the region as the first Director-General ever to do so. Dr Palefou also thanked him for his approval for funding of various projects aimed at, inter alia, improving the quality of education in the Pacific and support for the enhancement of statistical capacity in the Pacific Small Islands. While welcoming the proposal to review the current decentralization strategy, the group nevertheless underscored the need to further empower the National Commissions in the Region in order to increase their effectiveness and allow them to play a more integral role within the strategy. Describing the challenges faced by the Pacific countries, the group called for enhanced collaboration in curriculum development, teacher training, the safeguarding of cultural heritage and climate change.
In his response, Mr Matsuura said that UNESCO must carry on enhancing country level action while vigorously pursuing its global action. He also said that the Organization will continue to establish local antennas in the Pacific within the framework to strengthen the decentralization strategy, as already established in Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea. He explained that through such structures, the Organization would be in a better position to respond more fully to the needs of the region. He encouraged the Pacific Member States to ratify the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and explained that it is through ratification of these instruments that UNESCO can offer assistance to Member States, both financially and logistically.
Finally, Mr Matsuura assured the group that UNESCO would continue to provide its assistance to the Pacific region in all its spheres of competence and thanked the group for its excellent collaboration over the years.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 196-2009 - Publication Date: 13-10-2009