The President came together with His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, (see Flash Info N°199-2009*) to address the Plenary of the 35th session of UNESCO’s General Conference. Mr Bernard Shamlaye, Minister of Education of Seychelles, Mr Jean-Paul Adam, Secretary of State, Dr Rolp Payet, Special Advisor to the President, Mr Claude Morel, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Seychelles to UNESCO, and Ms Marie-Reine Hoareau, Secretary-General of the National Commission for UNESCO in Seychelles accompanied the President.
In his welcoming remarks, Mr Matsuura recalled his two previous meetings with President James Michel and paid tribute to him: “As President of Seychelles since 2004, he has shown tremendous leadership and determination to harness the power of dialogue in the emergence of knowledge societies and sustainable development.” The Director-General went on to note that since 2004, the Seychelles has ratified four UNESCO Conventions in the field of culture, meaning it has now ratified 5 of the 6 principal Cultural Conventions. He highlighted the country’s two outstanding natural World Heritage Sites, recalling his visit to one of them in 2004, the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve.
Mr Matsuura also emphasized that President Michel “has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the challenges posed by climate change – perhaps the most serious challenge that his country has to face. As he has rightly stated, there is a pressing need for global solidarity on this issue. I quote: ‘For small islands and least developed countries, the road to Copenhagen is about survival. The progress made so far is unacceptable. Proposed compromises are simply a means of shifting the debate to future generations.’”
The Director-General concluded his remarks by announcing that he had the immense pleasure of awarding the UNESCO “five continents” medal to President Michel, “as a tribute to his unfailing commitment to the values of peace, dialogue and tolerance”.
For his part, President Michel emphasized the important role played by education in international development: “if we are gathered here today it is because this central tenet of UNESCO affords us the opportunity to change the world and, in the process, give humanity a chance”, he said.
Mr Michel highlighted the multiple challenges which are testing the capacity for cooperation and the creativity of policy makers, including the global financial crisis, climate change and the food and energy crises. In his view, “it is important that the international community give increased support to the most vulnerable”. He underscored that “promises made must be kept and the financial crisis should not become an excuse for neglecting them”. Noting that climate change is “one of the most pressing issues today”, President Michel urged the international community to be proactive and called on “UNESCO to strengthen its work related to Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) so that we can address climate change adaptation through better research, capacity and resilience building.”
Turning to culture and development, President Michel cautioned against the tendency to forget the important role of human creativity, and the safeguard and promotion of cultural heritage. For President Michel, “culture is an integral part of development” and “it is therefore inconceivable to separate culture from development, two aspects of the same reality”.
President Michel concluded his remarks by paying tribute to Mr Matsuura for his tireless excellent service to the Organization during his ten-year tenure as Director-General. He particularly appreciated Mr Matsuura’s dedication to the cooperation with Africa, which ensured that the continent remained UNESCO’s programme priority.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 201-2009 - Publication Date: 14-10-2009