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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

Director-General meets with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries

Director-General meets with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries
  • © UNESCO/A. Wheeler

On 9 October 2009, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, met with ministers and delegates from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries attending the 35th session of UNESCO’s General Conference. The group was led by Mr Ronald Jones, the Barbados Minister of Education and Human Resources Development.

The group began by expressing satisfaction at the recent appointment of a St Lucian into a director position in the education sector. They highlighted successful programmes that had been run in some CARICOM countries regarding science education, namely Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), saying they would like to see such programmes replicated in other countries in the sub-region. The group also spoke about inclusive education and the importance it could have in their sub-region, noting the potential for it to address the problem of underachievement among boys. In this regard, Mrs Omayra E. V. Leeflang, Minister of Traffic and Transport and Chairperson of the Netherlands Antilles National Commission for UNESCO, thanked the Director-General for the study on underachievement in boys that had been carried out in the sub-region thanks to funding from UNESCO’s Participation Programme, the report of which will be available from November 2009. The Minister underlined the fact that the study had already demonstrated that the education systems in CARICOM countries seemed to be designed in favour of girls. She called on UNESCO to consider including boys education in the Education for All (EFA) programme.

Discussions went on to cover the importance of cultural and natural heritage, particularly the tangible and intangible heritage of the CARICOM sub-region. In this context, Ms Alissandra Cummins, Chairperson of Barbados National Commission for UNESCO, informed the Director-General that while they have already benefited from UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme, few of the CARICOM countries have sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List even though most of them have ratified the UNESCO’s 1972 World Heritage Convention. She proposed that UNESCO might wish to consider establishing a world heritage fund – similar to the one the Organization has for Africa, which could be used to help countries of the CARICOM preserve and promote their heritage.

Discussions also centred on the relationship between the CARICOM group and UNESCO at the country level. The group spoke of its positive experience with regards to capacity-building in their National Commissions for UNESCO. Ms Olivia Grange, Jamaican Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, felt this was another activity that could be replicated in other countries of the group. She also underscored the importance of successful country level implementation, notably through the representation of UNESCO’s Kingston Office. Minister Grange also suggested reinforcing the relationship between UNESCO and the CARICOM countries by signing a new cooperation agreement that better reflects the provision of the Organization’s new Programme and Budget for 2010–2011 (35 C/5). The group expressed concern over the low representation of their region in the Secretariat, especially at the management level, requesting that more efforts be made in this regard.

Mr Matsuura began his response by congratulating the group for the election of one of its members (The Bahamas), for the first time, to preside the 35th session of UNESCO’s General Conference. He went on to express the pleasure he had felt in visiting the CARICOM countries being, in many cases, the first UNESCO Director-General to do so. He agreed with the emphasis the group had put on education and on the reinforcement of country-level action. In these regards, he underlined the importance for the CARICOM countries to implement the recommendations that had emanated from the various education conferences UNESCO held in 2008/2009. The Director-General argued that the implementation should be done with the support of the Education sector, and the UNESCO Kingston Office, as well as within the framework of the delivering as One initiative so that the recommendations can be an integral part of UNDAFs.

The Director-General also mentioned the Teacher Training Initiative for sub-Saharan Africa (TTISSA). He expressed the view that many of the tools developed under this initiative could be adapted for use by the CARICOM countries. Mr Matsuura noted that UNESCO would give increased priority to teachers in the 35 C/5, referring in particular to the event of a new International Task Force on Teachers for EFA, whose Secretariat UNESCO hosts.

Mr Matsuura went on to acknowledge the views expressed regarding the under representation of Caribbean countries on the World Heritage List, especially in terms of cultural heritage properties. He nevertheless underscored the importance of intangible heritage for the region and encouraged further ratifications of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

In conclusion, the Director-General thanked the CARICOM countries for their support, at the 182nd session of UNESCO’s Executive Board last September, for the Organization’s proposed initiative to prepare a declaration on the ethical implications of climate change, as recommended by the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). He expressed the hope that the proposal would be approved by the current session of the General Conference so that a draft declaration could be presented to the Conference at its 36th session in 2011.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 204-2009
  • 17-10-2009
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